Impact of the 2T Innovatech Challenge in the Universidad Politéctica de Madrid

Natalia Dévora Quintero
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

Gonzalo León Serrano
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

Becoming an entrepreneurial university has emerged as a response to several drivers and evolving factors affecting universities such as the demands of the knowledge-economy. Theoretical models have tried to explain the phenomenon and identified the factors affecting the development of an entrepreneurial university (Clark 1998, Sporn 2001, Etzkowitz 2003, Kirby 2006, Guerrero, Kirby et al. 2006, Guerrero, Urbano 2012).

Among the factors, developing an entrepreneurial culture at all levels at the university has been identified as critical (Clark 1998, Röpke 2000, Sporn 2001, Kirby, Guerrero et al. 2011, Guerrero, Urbano 2012). Indeed, the university, the members and the interaction with the environment should follow an entrepreneurial pattern as a necessary condition to make a university “entrepreneurial“ (Röpke 2000)

In this regard, several authors have undertaken empirical studies (Huyghe, Knockaert 2015, Kalar, Antoncic 2015, Chang, Yang et al. 2016) to identify factors affecting behaviour of researchers related to their entrepreneurial attitude. The presence of role models has an important effect on research scientists’ entrepreneurial intentions (Huyghe, Knockaert 2015) and departments with high or low entrepreneurial orientation influence the participation on entrepreneurial activities (Kalar, Antoncic 2015). Moreover, the department is critical in stimulating commercialization performance (Chang, Yang et al. 2016) and when the chair of the department is active in technology transfer, other members of the department are also likely to participate (Bercovitz, Feldman 2008).

Entrepreneurial education and training are identified as a driver of change (Etzkowitz 2013, OECD. Publishing 2014) and as a recommendation to universities interested to evolve to entrepreneurial university (Philpott, Dooley et al. 2011). This training “can address the fears of certain academic disciplines and open academics’ minds to the full spectrum of activities that can be undertaken to contribute to the third academic mission” (Philpott, Dooley et al. 2011). Moreover, (Sideri, Panagopoulos 2018) show the key importance of addressing the lack of trust and cultural gaps via education and training tailored to the needs of individual research teams in a non-entrepreneurial university.
This training should cover all entrepreneurial activities, but more especially hard entrepreneurial activities, such as patenting, licensing and spin-off firm formation, which are generally perceived as being more entrepreneurial in nature as they tend to be less compatible with the traditional academic’s role (Philpott, Dooley et al. 2011). Indeed, commercialization is less practiced than academic engagement (collaborative research, contract research and consulting) which is practiced by a far larger proportion of academics (Perkmann, Tartari et al. 2013).

Following this approach, from 2012 to 2015, the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) organised annually a “Course of Technologies Commercialization” target specifically to UPM researchers with the objective of producing a mentality change in faculties and to give them some clues to move their research to the market. In 2016, based on the previous experience, UPM evolved the initiative and launched a new program called 2T (Technology Transfer) Innovatech Challenge.

2T Challenge awards the best three UPM technologies of the year based on their innovative and market potential. Researchers should attend a “Course of Technologies Commercialization” that is designed to create awareness of key topics (patent, negotiations, market needs, spin off formation, etc.) and to introduce researchers to the different concepts involved in the commercialization of technologies. Then, researchers prepare a pitch and expound it in front of a panel made up of industry people and investors. The panel awards the best three UPM technologies. The first technology is awarded with 10.000 euros to continue the development of the technology (proof of concept).

The purpose of the research is to provide deeper insight into the views of the academic community and to explore the impact of the 2T (Technology Transfer) Innovatech Challenge. The main aim is to analyse to what extend participants are more involved in hard entrepreneurial activities after completing the program. Moreover, the study tries to identify the motivations to be part in this initiative and the existence of role models in their researchers’ groups or departments as a driver to participate on it.

The methodology to follow is the case study. Case studies are done because these particular methods allow systematic yet flexible analysis and interpretation. The application of the case study is the preferred methodology, as we focus on a contemporary event whose main sources of evidence are the direct observation of the objects under study and interviews to the people involved (Yin 2003).

A single research site is being selected to analyse the attitudes of academics. This particular site was selected due to several reasons. Firstly, one of the historical UPM distinctive elements has been the cooperation with the business sector in applied research and progressively on technology innovation activities. Secondly, UPM is one of the first Spanish universities in raising funds from the European framework programme for research and innovation Horizon 2020. Third, in spite the steady growth in the number of scientific publications, the active participation in international R&D projects and the strong connection with industry, the commercialization of R&D results is a pending issue and only very recently, it became an institutional goal for the UPM. Since 2012, UPM has a “Course of Technologies Commercialization” in place target to improve commercialization capabilities among researchers and to improve the commercialization of research results. After several years of training, it is time to analyse its impact at the university, benefits and improvement points.

The approach that will be taken is the following:

- Phase I. A structured online questionnaire will be sent to all academics that have participated in the 2T (Technology Transfer) Innovatech Challenge. During the four editions 85 UPM technologies have participated in the challenge (21 technologies in 2016; 25 technologies in 2017; 23 technologies in 2017; 16 technologies in 2017)
- Phase II. Semi-structured interviews will be planned with the three winners of each edition.

Results, implications and conclusions will be summaries after completing the study.