Espacios. Vol. 33 (1) 2012. Pág. 50

Technology Development in Spin-off Company Theme is going toward a Discussion of Organizational Structure? Academic Research Trend Analysis

Desarrollo de tecnología en el tema spin-off se va hacia una discusión de la estructura organizacional? La investigación académica Análisis de Tendencias

Tomoe Daniela Hamanaka Gusberti 1, Liane Werner2, and Márcia Elisa Soares Echeveste 3

Recibido: 25-02-2011. Aprobado: 29-07-2011


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The Academic Spin-off theme presents different and complementary approaches. This work evaluates academic discussions related to technology development inside the spin-off companies, comparing with the broader technology development management knowledge area. The documents were evaluated, using cluster analysis and other auxiliary methods. The resultant clusters were described for their temporal distribution. The obtained data indicates the possibility to expect as future works, more practical consideration, with managerial and internal organization structure focused discussions. The internal organizational structure is presented as a recent and growing discussion, and the evolutionary approach is one contributor for this discussions.
Keywords: Academic spin-off; Technology Transfer; Technology Based Enterprises; Content Analysis; Binary Cluster Analysis


El spin-off académico tema presenta enfoques diferentes y complementarios. Este trabajo evalúa las discusiones académicas relacionadas con el desarrollo de la tecnología dentro de las empresas spin-off, en comparación con el área de tecnología de desarrollo más amplio de gestión del conocimiento. Los documentos fueron evaluados mediante análisis de conglomerados y otros métodos auxiliares. Los grupos resultantes fueron descritos para su distribución temporal. Los datos obtenidos indican la posibilidad de esperar a medida que los trabajos futuros, la consideración más práctica, con discusiones estructura de gestión y organización interna enfocada. La estructura de organización interna se presenta como una discusión reciente y creciente, y el enfoque evolutivo es uno de los participantes de este debate.
Palabras clave: spin-off académico, transferencia de tecnología; Empresas de Base Tecnológica, análisis de contenido, clusters análisis binario

1. Introduction

Technology development process and new product development process have been studied by different knowledge areas, and comprised by strategy, organization theory, operations and economics, psychology, and anthropology. The new vision presents the evolutionary theory as a candidate for such a theory (Loch & Kavadias, 2008; Atuahene-Gima, 2005; Burgelman, Christensen, & Wheelwright, 2004). This view enables a discussion related to internal organizational structure, focused in the resources, routines and capabilities development.

This work analyses a specific environment for technology development, the academic spin-off company. Several knowledge domains have been contributed for this knowledge area, as Public Policy, Economy, Entrepreneurship, and diverse Social, Management and Geography areas. Because the different and complementary approach of the theme Spin-off, there are macro, meso and micro level discussion of technology development process trough this kind of companies (Djokovic & Souitaris, 2008).

Specifically, this work investigates if this specific spin-off theme presents similar discussion of the technology development area, and analyzes the potentiality for the evolutionary view for contributing to the start-of-the art. It is evaluated the academic discussions related to the theme technology development inside the spin-off companies, comparing with the broader technology development management knowledge area. Specifically, it develops a description of the domain evolution pattern and evaluates if is also evolving to the internal structure focused discussions.

2. Research Method

This work conducts a theoretical, descriptive and qualitative research, using some quantitative techniques. The method was developed to description of the evolution of academic discussion about spin-offs, using a database originated from a literature review and conducting a content analysis (Krippendorff, 1980). For comparison purposes, two evidence sources were used in this investigation. The literature review papers comprising the secondary data source were analyzed for tendencies identification. Alternatively, several research papers were used as primary source.

In the aim to develop the temporal evolution pattern of spin-off-related researches, the following steps were conducted: (i) From the literature review, a relational analysis was performed to indentify the main academic spin-off academic discussion themes; (ii) From this list, the codification instructions for content analysis were defined; (iii) Using document (paper, thesis, dissertation or book) as codification unit, the database was elaborated, evaluating the documents according to the presence or absence of the themes, and the publication date (year); and (v) boxplot to enable data exploration, and to describe the temporal evolution of the themes.

3. Literature review

The theme innovation and technology development comprises a broad theme discussed by different knowledge areas, comprised by macro, meso and micro level discussions (Fagenberger, 2009). It occurs because this technological development and innovation process is a complex process that must be considered not just by an institution, or a company (meso and micro level), but by all aspects comprising the innovation system of the nation (macro level).

It is possible to identify at least two main focus regarding technology development environment in the micro level discussion: the technology development inside an established and structured company and the technology development through a new technology venture creation. In both cases, although discussing the organization, it commonly goes beyond the unique structure of a company to a net of companies and institutions (Hansen & Birkinshaw, 2007; Bessant & Tidd, 2007; Howells, James, & Malik, 2003; Chesbrough & Rosenbloon, 2002). For this reason, the theme networking comprises one of the well discussed themes of the research related to both kinds of companies.

In this topic, it is presented initially, for comparison purposes, a short literature review regarding the broader technology development area. After, it is presented some considerations about the evolution of the discussions about the academic spin-off theme. Literature reviews concerning spin-off theme (Mustar, 2001; Shane, 2004; Rothaermel, Agung, & Jiang, 2007; Helm & Mauroner, 2007; Djokovic & Souitaris, 2008) are analyzed for evolving patter description and hypothesis identification.

3.1. The broader technology development area

This work supposes some differences between the two microenvironments: new technology venture and established company. The new technology venture-related research appears to be started from public policy debates, and, hence, is essentially a macro discussion. The technology development in established companies, otherwise, has been discussed in management area with focus in technical, strategy, organizational and psychological aspects, among others (Loch et al., 2008). These discussions evolved from more technical issues and decision-taking tools definition to: more strategic vision of the process; multidisciplinary team, although with social and psychological difficulties; broader and more environment aligned organizational discussions; and alliances with other companies, for example. In this context, a new vision appears the Evolutionary Approach (Loch & Kavadias, 2008; Burgelman, Christensen & Wheelwright, 2004). The works inspired in this view describes that generation variety, selection, elaboration and inheritance occur in the industry, firm and process level (Loch & Kavadias, 2008). Another analysis focus is the resource, activity, routine and capabilities focused view that enables the long-term analysis of company’s efficiency and configuration adequacy (Coombs, 1996; Atuahene-Gima, 2005).

In some management journals, some more practical tools considering this routines and capabilities focused theme can be identified (Rush, Bessant e Hobday, 2007; Guimarães et al., 2001; Helfat & Raubitschek, 2000; Chiesa, Giglioli & Manzini, 1999; Klein, Gee, Jones, 1998). Nevertheless it was not identified a specific tool for technology development process, even reference books indicate the need for practical tools (Burgelman et al. 2004; Loch et al., 2008).

Within the spin-off related works, similar approaches can be seen. New studies regarding spin-offs are discussed by the RBV (Resource-based view) approach to identify factors that promote the company’s competitive advantage (Powers and Mcdouglall, 2005) or heterogeneity. One approach of this discussion is related to the structure and support offered by the original Research Institute (Degroof and Roberts, 2004; Gübeli and Doloreux, 2005; Yenken and Gillin, 2006), to the venture capital (Hellmann and Puri, 2000; Lockett, Wright, and Franklin, 2003), to the starting social capital (Shane and Stuart, 2002), or to the networking capability (Gübeli and Doloreux, 2005; Walter, Auer, and Ritter, 2006). This approach is evidenced in the Djokovic and Souitaris (2008) work, the last literature review published.

Another approach enabled by the Evolutionary Approach is the discussion about the company growth and its dynamism (Penrose, 1958; Barney, 2001; Mathews, 2006; Aldrich and Ruef, 2006; Stoelhorst, 2008). The spin-off growth and survival are dependent on the adjustment development of the required resources (mainly human, financial and technological). This adjustment must be conducted aligned to the strategies and business model (Mustar, et al., 2006). From this, the following statement is possible:

Hypotesis 1: The evolutionary approach discussion is a new and emerging approach inside the academic spin-off related academic discussion papers

3.2 Academic Spin-off

The sequence of discussions of main literature reviews of this theme is presented in summarized manner in the Figure 1 .

Figure 1 : Academic spin-off related discussion focus, from past literature review papers

As presented, there are different foci related to the academic spin-off theme. From the sequential line obtained from the review papers analysis, it is possible to assume some reflections. The first work analyzed, the STI Review, present a policy view, so we state that:

The following document analyzed, the book of Shane (2004), presented a broader view, focused in the company, and some difficulties concerned to it. And the detachment of the entrepreneurial team role. For this reason, it is observed in the same time a work from the entrepreneurial area (Rothaermel, Agung, & Jiang, 2007).

In more recent reviews, it is included micro level studies that discuss not just the entrepreneurial team or the networking theme, but also some consideration about internal structure of the company.

Hypotesis 3. Academic spin-off related discussion is evolving toward an internal structure focus

A possible question after academic discussion evolving pattern identification is: if it is already a growing theme and if presents maturing aspects. In search of tendencies for future works, this work enables a confrontation with the technology development management area.

[inicio] [siguiente]

1. Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. Email:
2. Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. Email:
3. Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. Email:

Vol. 33 (1) 2012