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Understanding academic entrepreneurship: A signalling theory perspective


Objective: The objective of the article is to apply signalling theory to explain researchers’ engagement with the industry and the barriers to collaboration.

Research Design & Methods: A mixed-mode study was carried out among scholars to explain the role of signalling on academic entrepreneurial engagement. The links between signalling and entrepreneurial engagement were assessed in the quantitative part using a sample of researchers from Poland. Moreover, qualitative research helped identify additional forms and barriers of signalling, which were not considered in the quantitative part. The IBM SPSS Statistics and Atlas.ti software was used in the data analysis.

Findings: In line with signalling theory, scientists’ signals were divided into three groups: individual and organizational characteristics, researchers’ actions, and third-party endorsements. Results show that the third-party endorsements expressed by researchers’ active involvement in professional organizations enhance entrepreneurial engagement. In the qualitative part the role of signalling through graduates and the problem of the signalling cost were identified.

Implications & Recommendations: Signalling sheds light on university-industry relationships through a new lens, explaining the matching process and cooperation barriers. Stimulating collaboration requires understanding the specific language of signals used by both scientists and business partners. Therefore, this research calls for action to strengthen scientists’ communication skills, more frequent interpersonal contacts with business representatives, and communication of scientific and non-scientific competencies.

Contribution & Value Added: The theoretical focus on signalling theory can advance the extensive research on academic entrepreneurship. This theory explains how actors are selected for cooperation and describes the mechanism of partner selection. It also enables the reinterpretation of previous research related to the characteristics and activities of researchers and their relevance for undertaking collaborations.


signalling, university-industry relationships, academic entrepreneurship, knowledge market, academia

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Author Biography

Marcin Olszewski

Marcin Olszewski PhD in Economics (2011, Poznan University of Economics and Business); Assistant Professor at the Department of International Economics in Poznan University of Economics and Business (Poland). His research interests include entrepreneurship, competitiveness and the tourism industry.


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