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​Biotechnology is considered as a key technology of the 21st century with the potential to offer technological solutions for global health and resource-based problems. Oliver Uecke analyses how early stages of the innovation process in biotechnology can be effectively managed, with the aim to transfer an innovation from academia to industry. A mixed method approach is applied with a multiple case study approach to identify characteristics for effective management and with the method of discrete choice experiments/best-worst scaling to estimate the importance of these characteristics. This study adds to existing research by identifying a group of five important characteristics that should be considered in the early stages of the innovation process, compared to a group of four characteristics that are less important. The results have implications for policy, directors and the management of research institutes and universities, entrepreneurs, TTO manager and other stakeholders involved in technology transfer.



1. Introduction

Biotechnology is considered one of the key technologies of the 21


century (European Commission 2007a). The society as a whole faces the impact of the biotechnology sector (Patzelt 2005). Biotechnology influences patients’ life by providing innovative drugs, which address previously unmet medical needs and increase life expectancy (e.g. the monoclonal antibody Herceptin for the treatment of breast cancer). This has positive impact on a nation’s welfare because people are healthier and can work longer, but also costs impact on the health care system, due to the increased prices of innovative drugs (Neyt et al. 2006). Biotechnology could also provide solutions for the wider society to challenges such as an increase of the global population, higher demand for natural resources (food, animal feed, clean water, energy) and for health services (OECD 2009a).

Oliver Uecke

2. Research gap and contribution

To identify the research gap and guide the analysis, the present study draws upon two literature streams that inform understanding of effectiveness of early stages of the innovation process for radical innovations from academia, with a sectorial focus on biotechnology. The analysis of existing research was done in a structured literature review.7 Firstly, this chapter focuses on literature relating to management of radical innovations in the early stage of the innovation process within the domain of innovation management research. Secondly, the focus is on literature in technology transfer, which describes the effective transfer of technologies and innovations from academia to other organisations through spin-off creation, licensing, or other forms. The research gap is summarised after discussing each literature stream. At the end of the chapter, the expected contribution to current research and practice is summarised.

Oliver Uecke

3. Definition of key concepts

In this chapter, important key concepts are defined for the present study. As described in the introduction section, the study has a focus on innovations with a high level of novelty (radical innovations). Thus, at the beginning, the key concept of innovation and specifically radical innovation will be introduced and key terms are defined. Furthermore, the study focuses on early stages of the innovation process. Hence, the key concept of innovation process is discussed and early stages of the innovation process are defined for the present study. Additionally, the study focuses on innovation projects within academia, which are eventually transferred from academia to industry. Therefore, in the second part of this chapter the key concept of technology transfer is discussed and defined, in addition to the terms technology and technology transfer process. At the end the entrepreneurship term is delineated from previous key concepts.

Oliver Uecke

4. The biotechnology sector as conceptual framework

The present research is conducted with a sectorial focus on biotechnology. Thus, at the beginning of this chapter, the profile of the biotechnology sector is elaborated with definition and applications of biotechnology, a brief historical background, and specific characteristics of the biotechnology sector. Afterwards, the terms technology and innovation are applied for an example within biotechnology (the example of RNAi). This is followed by the application of the term radical innovations for biotechnology. Eventually, innovation processes with a specific focus on early stages and technology transfer are applied for biotechnology.

Oliver Uecke

5. Data and methodology

A two-phase, sequential mixed methods study is applied for the purpose of this dissertation, which is to analyse for radical innovation projects in pharmaceutical biotechnology how early stages of the innovation process can be effectively managed with the aim to enter the late stage of the innovation process and to transfer the innovation from academia to industry. Creswell et al. (2003, p.212) defined a mixed methods study as “the collection or analysis of both quantitative and/or qualitative data in a single study in which the data are collected concurrently or sequentially, are given a priority, and involve the integration of the data at one or more stages in the process of research.” There have been intensive debates in research between two “schools of thought” with different research paradigms, scholars pursuing quantitative research (“positivists/post-positivists”) versus those conducting qualitative studies (“constructivists and interpretivists”) (Johnson and Onwuegbuzie 2004).

Oliver Uecke

6. Results

In Chapter 6 are the results of the qualitative and quantitative part of the present research presented. Firstly, qualitative results are described.

Oliver Uecke

7. Discussion

To answer the first research question, preliminary propositions have been derived from a theoretical model and verified in the qualitative part of this study. Results showed that the theoretical model by Klink (2008) was a suitable theoretical framework to answer the first research question because out of 11 preliminary propositions only two propositions were rejected, six were supported, and three were supported after revision. A rejected proposition is “P5: An alignment of project strategy and objectives with the overall organisational strategy and objectives contributes positively to effectiveness.” In each case there was a difference between the strategy/objectives of the academic organisation and the innovation project.

Oliver Uecke

8. Practical implications

The results of the present study have various practical implications, which address different target groups. These practical implications are described below. This chapter finishes with a description of a best-case scenario and what to avoid when aiming to commercialise research in biotechnology.

Oliver Uecke

9. Contribution to research, limitations, and future research

In addition to practical implications, the present study also contributed to existing literature. This study contributed to the current understanding of how early stages of the innovation process for radical innovations in academia can be effectively managed. The holistic analysis of this study added to existing research by identifying a group of five important characteristics that should be considered in early stages of the innovation process, compared to a group of four characteristics that are less important. To holistically analyse the priorities of these characteristics, has not been done before. The study confirmed results of existing studies that also emphasized the importance of certain characteristics like availability of financial resources (e.g. O’Shea et al. 2005, Link and Siegel 2005, Decter et al. 2007, Powers and McDougall 2005, Dibner et al. 2003, Hall and Bagchi-Sen 2007). However, the present study also identified characteristics like drug development expertise that were not emphasised in existing innovation management and technology transfer literature, and only partly in biotechnology-focused studies (e.g. Albani and Prakken 2009).

Oliver Uecke


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