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According to Schumpeter, innovation is about entrepreneurship: the implementation of new ideas that change established procedures and alter organizational practices (1934). While the idea of creative destruction is compelling, there are few opportunities to observe the characteristics of change agents in situations where new practices emerge. University technology transfer – the realization of commercial value from university research – presents such an opportunity. While universities are an important source of invention and new knowledge, there is great variation across universities in the commercial realization of academic discoveries (Nelson, 2001). This result is understandable when we consider that university technology transfer has only become a formal activity for most universities in the United States in the last twenty-five years. In this regard, a series of changes marked by the passage of the 1980 Patent and Trademark Law Amendment Act (P1 96–517), commonly known as the Bayh–Dole Act, represent gales of change as universities embrace new objectives that value active technology commercialization over older routines that promoted passive knowledge diffusion. However, the commercial realization of academic discoveries is ultimately dependent on the personal decisions and actions of the faculty, as faculty invention disclosures form the basis for university patents and subsequent licenses. Though the Bayh–Dole Act specifies that faculty members are to disclose their inventions to the university technology-transfer office, enforcement of this requirement has proven difficult. When individual faculty members choose to disclose their discoveries to the university's technology-transfer office, they signal that they are entrepreneurial in adopting the new initiative that aids in the transfer of knowledge out of the university to established companies or to use in the formation of new companies.
There is no reason to suppose that large firms are any less (or more) innovative than small or new organizations. What may be true is that the type of entrepreneurship differs. The best entrepreneurial opportunities for large organizations may be those based on the redeployment of the firm's resources and the extension of its competitive positions. Those most attractive to individuals and small firms may be based on new opportunity and the creation of new markets
Schumpeter's evolutionary theory of innovation suggests that the “gales of creative destruction” brought about by radical innovation will allow some organizations to gain competitive advantage and result in “… old concerns and established industries … perish[ing] that nevertheless would be able to live on vigorously and usefully if they could weather a particular storm [of this creative destruction]” (Schumpeter, 1942, 90). Although Schumpeter's argument does not specifically identify the organizational locus of the innovation, it does note that “new concerns or industries that introduce new commodities or processes” are likely to displace older industries (Schumpeter, 89).
Radical innovation and its organizational foundations became an important area of study in subsequent academic inquiry on innovation. Many commentators have highlighted the advantage small and de novo firms have over incumbent firms in generating and incubating radical innovations (Foster, 1986; Jewkes et al, 1958; Tilton, 1971; Abernathy & Utterback, 1978; Mitchell, 1989; Henderson & Clark, 1990). This suggests two key research questions.
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