Academic entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial universities

In the present knowledge economy, the basis of wealth generation has changed from acquiring tangible assets in the form of land, buildings or factories to that of possessing new knowledge. New knowledge translates into new technologies that lead to new kinds of products and services that make life easier and that people want to buy, which brings fortune to business owners. 

Colleges and universities, being higher educational institutions are expected to be the source of new knowledge, innovation, and technologies. Recognizing this, many HEIs have added the development of technologies to their teaching and research missions, which eventually led to the rise to entrepreneurial universities. Entrepreneurial universities execute their function when they provide incubator hubs that assist professors and fellows in commercializing the technologies they develop. These incubators provide assistance in applying for and maintaining patents, and in transferring knowledge/technology to industry. It is not surprising that governments, especially in developing countries, have become more dependent on educational institutions in sustaining the knowledge economy.

To be a successful entrepreneurial university, however, an HEI must have the following characteristics, according to the experts: (a) it must possess the capacity to generate intellectual property (IP) (b) it should have a technology transfer office or a unit that facilitates the technology transfer process (c) it should have at least one entrepreneurship expert to offer functional business knowledge (d) it should create an entrepreneurial culture (EC) and (e) its  academic entrepreneurs should have access to financial capital.

It is easy to see the important role of the academic entrepreneur in entrepreneurial universities. The academic entrepreneur is the faculty or research scientist who, as a result of his research, generates the intellectual property with promising market potential. However, the university must encourage academic entrepreneurship by providing the necessary supporting infrastructure (i.e. technology transfer office, incubator hubs). More importantly, it should foster an entrepreneurial research culture in the university.

In the Philippines, there are 1,460 HEIs but about 89 percent of them are private universities and colleges which are dependent on tuition for their support. Only a few have the capacity to conduct research and development (R&D). Philippine universities that are usually in the World University Rankings are the University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University and the University of Santo Tomas. They are the most equipped of the HEIs in terms of faculty profile, laboratory facilities and library resources. But given our top universities, we rank lower than the best in our region in terms of research publications and intellectual property applications. The status of R&D in our universities reflects our ranking of 56 (5th among the members of the Asean in the 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Index) behind Singapore (3), Malaysia (25), Thailand (34) and Indonesia (36) in a field of 137 countries of the world. The index considers technological readiness, innovation, and the quality and quantity of higher education and training in the ranking. For the Philippines to improve its global competitiveness, we must also engender innovativeness, technological readiness and entrepreneurship in our universities.

But this is not a job that can be independently done by the academe, government and the private sector. It is a job for the three of them working together. As it has been said, “the transition of a university to an entrepreneurial university is part of a broader shift to a knowledge-based economy, which requires an institutional framework of university–industry–government (triple-helix model), each ‘taking the role of the other’ while fulfilling traditional missions.” 

Cognizant of the status of our universities, the government, through the Philippine Intellectual Property Office is addressing this issue by implementing programs that promote intellectual property consciousness and an entrepreneurial mindset in the academe. The IPOPHL, with the assistance of the WIPO, is in the forefront of formulating the National Innovation Strategy, which recognizes the importance of a strong public-private partnership for innovation to take root, thrive and flourish. 

IPOPHL’s efforts to nurture intellectual property consciousness and, as consequence, to  encourage entrepreneurship in the university is paying off with a number of colleges and universities are putting up their Innovation Technology Support Office (ITSO), filling patents and transferring technology to industry. 

On the other hand, two private sector initiatives can be cited as being supportive of  this framework: The Ayala TBI Network, a partnership of Ayala Corp., the University of the Philippines and the Asian Institute of Management; and the IBM Innovation Center. 

The Ayala TBI Network creates an ecosystem that enables entrepreneurs to build successful science and technology businesses with global potentials. Among the services provided by the network are a business center, technology boot camps, technology forums, networking sessions where science, technology and business meet (Ayala-TBI, 2008).

The IBM Innovation Center, launched in 2009, helps local business and academic communities build skills and develop new technologies that support demand for digital infrastructure projects in building, energy, telecommunications, transportation, retail and government industries. The center provides entrepreneurs, business partners, venture capitalists and academics with access to training workshops, consulting services, broad technical infrastructure and hands-on assistance that help to bring new technologies to the market.

We have a lot to do to improve our global competitiveness and to make it at par with our neighbors in the region. One way for us to catch up is to promote entrepreneurship in our universities, support our academic entrepreneurs and implement the national innovation strategy.

Bienvenido Balotro is a Doctor of Business Administration student at the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University, and is a faculty member of the University of the Philippines in Manila. He welcomes comments at [email protected]  The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.

Topics: Gree Light , Academic entrepreneurs , entrepreneurial universities
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