Panel Paper: Entrepreneurial Identity, Immigration Status, and Academic Entrepreneurship: Empirical Evidence from University Scientists

Saturday, November 10, 2018
8209 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Donald Siegel, Haneul Choi, David Waldman and Joohyung Kim, Arizona State University

In recent years, university scientists have been strongly encouraged by university administrators
to engage in academic entrepreneurship, or the commercialization of university-based research
via patenting, licensing, and startup formation (Link, Siegel, and Wright 2015). In this paper, we
explore the relationship between the immigration status of university scientists and their
propensity to engage in academic entrepreneurship. Previous studies have shown that foreign-
born scientists contribute disproportionately to research productivity via publications and
citations (Stephan and Levin, 2001) and one dimension of academic entrepreneurship: patenting
(Hunt, 2011; Kerr, 2008). However, there have been few studies of the role of immigration
status on other aspects of academic entrepreneurship.

We seek to fill this gap. First, we outline a theoretical model linking foreign-born status
to the likelihood that an academic will commercialize their research. Our model starts with the
realization that all academics who are contemplating such activity struggle with multiple
identities as scientists and entrepreneurs and different roles, both professionally and personally.
We conjecture that foreign-born scientists are more adept at both developing an entrepreneurial
identity and managing multiple identities. A lack of ability to exploit domestic social networks
also makes it more likely that foreign-born scientists will be more entrepreneurial than their
domestic counterparts. To test our theory, we analyze data from 1,980 university scientists at 30
major research universities.

Our preliminary empirical findings provide support for the conjecture that academic
entrepreneurship can be stimulated by facilitating the mobility of scientists across countries. The
results suggest that foreign-born scientists are more likely to patent, license, and form startup
companies on campus. Their greater propensity to engage in commercialization appears to be
due, in part, to the fact that foreign-born scientists have a stronger entrepreneurial identity than
their domestic counterparts and are better at managing multiple roles. In sum, our findings imply
that a more open immigration policy will result in higher levels of academic entrepreneurship.

Full Paper: