Determinants of the economic performance of Portuguese Academic Spin-offs: do Science & Technology infrastructures and support matter?
Academic and political interest in Academic Spin-offs (ASOs) has increased significantly in Portugal in the last few years. Although these firms, created to exploit the results of scientific research, are considered important contributors to employment and wealth creation, in the Portuguese case, their impact has been modest, at best. Based on a sample of 101 ASOs associated to the members of the University Technology Enterprise Network (UTEN), we found that ASOs are quite small (employing on average 9 full time equivalent individuals and a turnover of 300 thousand euros). Besides being highly R&D intensive, Portuguese ASOs are internationally-led with almost half of the respondent firms involved in exporting. An econometric analysis revealed the relevant role of certain types of S&T infrastructures and support mechanisms for the economic performance of ASOs In particular, access to incubators, access to skilled labour, and support in terms of business mentoring and counselling emerged as significantly and positively related with ASOs’ sales per worker. Moreover, their economic performance is extremely dependent on internationalization dynamics, with firms that export outperforming their domestically-based counterparts. The lack of economic return on R&D performed and patents registered by firms indicates that the steady investment in science, technology and innovation in Portugal in the last decade, although undoubtedly necessary, has not yet materialized sufficiently to push the system towards solid, productive and value added firms. Therefore, policies aimed at accelerating ideas and knowledge into internationally competitive ideas and products are required.
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