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Mapping the motivations and intentions of technology orientated entrepreneurs

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The role of entrepreneurs in stimulating growth in the small business economy has received significant interest in the last three decades. This growing interest is prompted, in part, by the government’s assumption that the establishment and expansion of existing small firms could be greatly enhanced by the promotion of entrepreneurial education programmes in colleges and universities. Whilst there has been significant interest in the role, type and effect of entrepreneurs in the economy, few studies have examined the effect of entrepreneurial programmes on the progression of an idea through to commercialisation. This is because such research, whilst seemingly desirable, is problematic. Evidence can be gleaned through the development of suitable conceptual frameworks and methods, to assess the role and impact of entrepreneurial programmes on the commercialisation of products or processes, and the enhancement of entrepreneurial capabilities. To address this problem, the research will examine different approaches and frameworks that have been developed and applied hitherto. The objective of this will be to highlight the difficulties in assessing the motivations, cognitive and behavioural changes of entrepreneurs. Also, the research will demonstrate the need to undertake adequate controls, which illustrate possible improvement in entrepreneurial capabilities, networks, and credibility in comparison to students that embarked on courses without entrepreneurial elements. The process will confine itself to business development within the higher education (HEI) context. The MSEC has as its remit to provide opportunity, education, awareness and training to foster entrepreneurship within science and engineering departments across four universities in Greater Manchester. This setting will provide a unique situation in which to investigate the development of germinal technology businesses from the inception of an idea to the point of incubation, prototype development and investment. There is a requirement to understand the needs of the virgin entrepreneur, possible obstacles to commercialisation and the process of new venture creation. The methodology to be adopted has been identified, and forges new ground on combining positivist and phenomenological paradigms. The multi–paradigm approach supports the use of critical incident technique to reveal greater insights in to the personal and cognitive development of virginal entrepreneurs, the suitability of enterprise programmes to act as catalysts for venture creation, and their role in supporting technology transfer. The research will not only confine itself to examining undergraduate and postgraduate projects within MSEC’s business creation unit, but will also continue to assess the experience of entrepreneurs’ when they leave the programme. The research also documents the economic contribution of the programme, in terms of generation of new technology–based firms and the impact of entrepreneurs joining established small firms. Ultimately the aim is to build a long–term picture of the role of enterprise programmes in HEIs that will inform policy and practice.
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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: The Manchester Science Enterprise Centre

Publication date: 2003-03-01

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