socio-academic entrepreneurship (V/VII)

// Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs

Socio-academic entrepreneurs are not social entrepreneurs who use academic knowledge. Academic knowledge is more than just enabling socially motivated entrepreneurs. They are also not academic entrepreneurs who are encouraged by social motivation. Socio-academic entrepreneurs are hence neither only based on an academic ability linked to a social motivation, nor are they only built on social motivation which is channeled through academic knowledge. Both ability and motivation are embedded in a new symbiotic nature.

Rather than a social entrepreneur trained in academic knowledge or an academic entrepreneur commercializing research through a technology transfer with some social attributes, the socio-academic entrepreneur employs consciously academic research to become a social entrepreneur. Academic knowledge does not just enable, and the social motivation does not just encourage; the symbiotic creation leads to a shift in the academic and social practice itself.

As many scholars (inter alia Woolgar, 1988) emphasized science and technology are not neutral entities following Mertonian (1942) norms of universalism, communism, disinterestedness and organized skepticism. Socio-academic entrepreneurs may move science and more generally research and more generally knowledge and more generally conduct in the social direction. Rather than acting as if disinterested, which research in general is not, socio-academic entrepreneurs act with specific social interests and using entrepreneurial means. Socio-academic entrepreneurs will work alongside other academics.

They will be criticized for doing improper research. Others will be grateful that a part of academia moves into a specific, socially defined, direction, which many academics have done before, as well as employing it entrepreneurially, which in this symbiosis only few have done. Importantly, socio-academic entrepreneurs will have to define this direction and criteria for socio-academic research. Disinterestedness, albeit not true, appears to be universally, i.e. commonly, accepted. Social, in its normative character, may not gain the same universality in its outlook, yet possibly universality as a basic intent.

Research may move along various basic foundations, i.e. for example on a research stream based on social interestedness and the other on (attempted) disinterestedness. Finally, this socially encouraged academic research leads to entrepreneurial endeavours, it does not wait for but creates opportunities for change. Whereas many academics are researchers, teachers, consultants and a few entrepreneurs, some will become socio-academic entrepreneurs after and alongside being an academic.

In Winning through Innovation, Tushman and O’Reilly (2004) assert that organizations need to balance continuity and change – so called ambidextrous organizations which celebrate simultaneously stability and incremental change on the one hand and discontinuous change on the other hand. Socio-academic entrepreneurs have to be ambidextrous, too. They will not only be changemakers but equally conscious preservers. They will have to balance themselves internally and balance themselves with respect to the academic community externally. They may form a group, possibly what could be referred to as networks (cf. e.g. Granovetter, 1973 and Freeman, 1991), and communities of practice (CoP, cf. Lave, & Wenger, 1993 or Wenger & Snyder, 2000) building clusters (cf. Porter, 1990) with the wider community.

What is so special about socio-academic entrepreneurs? It is not that they employ their research socially nor that they do research keeping a social conscious – both is already done. Rather the social in academia becomes an end and entrepreneurship a means leading to socio-academic entrepreneurs as agents of change. They will have to keep a fine balance between the social and the political and whilst they will increase in scale, they will not form a majority – neither in the academic nor in the entrepreneurial community. Yet, socio-academic entrepreneurs will form a potent synergy of knowledge and motivation leading to creative (academic and social) entrepreneurial construction.

Edit – links to further parts on socio-academic entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs – Agents of Change: Summary I/VII
Introduction II/VII
Academic Entrepreneurs III/VII
Social Entrepreneurs IV/VII
Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs V/VII
Conclusion VI/VII
Bibliography VII/VII