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Changes in academic entrepreneurship among Japanese university bioscientists, 1980-2012.


The dissertation examines how Japanese university scientists in the biosciences responded to legal and institutional changes in academic entrepreneurship. Beginning in the 1990s, the Japanese government initiated a series of policy initiatives that attempted to imitate the U.S. academic environment's approach to promoting entrepreneurship. Using archival resources, interviews with prominent scientists, and quantitative methods, the study shows how Japanese university bioscientists responded to these policy and institutional changes.

The changes created a new environment. University patenting was encouraged, and collaborations with firms were presumed to have clear, formal contracts through university administration. Japanese university bioscientists, however, did not simply follow the new rules for academic entrepreneurship. Instead, they created a set of practices that were only loosely coupled with the new rules. The study identifies two sets of conditions for the emergence and development of such practices: the scientists' previous practices, which fostered gift-exchange-like trust relationships with collaborating firms, and the scientists' transnational experience, which made them aware of the different possibilities and methods for commercializing their inventions around the globe.

The dissertation draws several conclusions. As I show quantitatively, the policy and institutional changes in Japanese academic entrepreneurship increased the number of university-firm interactions. However, as the interview-materials show, Japanese university scientists also maintained entrepreneurial practices that were not the intended consequences of the policy interventions, including collaborating informally and creating startups in the United States. The resulting structure of academic entrepreneurship in Japan, therefore, was a juxtaposition of its own old practices, new procedures, and opportunities abroad. In some respects, this new structure resembled the old structure more than the American one that policy makers had sought to imitate. By identifying ways that local actors can shape how policy is enacted at the local level, the dissertation complicates the current picture of the global diffusion of academic entrepreneurship.

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