Groundbreaking Ideas Abound at Darden Entrepreneurship and Innovation Research Conference


By Amy Halliday 

"Your work is as important as the work of scientists' at the turn of the 20th century," said S. Venkataraman, senior associate dean for faculty and research at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Known as Venkat to students and faculty, he praised the nearly 80 scholars assembled for the fourth annual Darden Entrepreneurship and Innovation Research Conference.

"In enabling the scientific method to take hold, they created a public good, a teachable and learnable method," remarked Venkat. "The hallmark of the 21st century could be the codification of the entrepreneurial method, which is devoted to shaping a better future from a messy present." This method, Venkat noted, can be taught - and can transform society.

The theme of this year's conference, held at the Darden School on 9 and 10 May 2013, was the crossing of boundaries. In keeping with this theme, the conference's sponsors crossed boundaries posed by geography; Darden's Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the University of Cambridge's Judge Business School organized the event with an ocean between them. Their partnership builds cohesion within the global community of entrepreneurship and innovation researchers. Plans are under way to hold next year's conference in Cambridge.

The conference also transcended disciplinary boundaries. As Christoph Loch, director of the Judge Business School, noted, the conference was an opportunity for academics from the many fields that engage in entrepreneurship and innovation research to bridge "the methodological gulfs that separate disciplines."

From more than 85 submissions, the event featured 25 papers by both new and established scholars. A sampling illustrates the breadth of disciplines and approaches represented: 

  • A linguistic analysis of written evaluations of inventions in a large university (Phil Kim, University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Reddi Kotha, Singapore Management University)
  • A study of the characteristics that drive individuals preparing to become realtors to choose different entrepreneurial levels (Amy Nguyen-Chyung, University of California, Berkeley)
  • An exploration of differences in outcomes and approaches among spinoffs from corporations, universities and government labs (Jennifer Woolley, Santa Clara University)
  • An economic model that captures knowledge spillovers in entrepreneurial endeavors (Zoltan Acs, George Mason University, and Mark Sanders, Utrecht School of Economics)
  • A study of the role of constraints in new-product development (Niyazi Taneri, Singapore University of Technology and Design)
  • The private costs to individuals for participating in open source software projects (Mazhar Islam and Jacob Miller, Drexel University)

In addition to connecting the perspectives from diverse fields such as economics, operations, strategy, finance, sociology and psychology, the mix of papers also demonstrated the development of the field of entrepreneurship research. Aaron Chatterji of Duke University commented that he was intrigued to see scholars reaching back to the classic literature exploring the individual characteristics of entrepreneurs and combining that with the newer practice of studying entrepreneurs as products of various organizational contexts.

Venkat expressed a more expansive view. "Your individual papers will eventually be forgotten," he told the researchers, "but you will have left a real legacy."

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About the Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business is one of the world's leading business schools, offering MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. The unique Darden experience combines the case study method; the highest-ranked faculty, whose research advances global managerial practice and business education; and a tight-knit learning environment to develop responsible and complete leaders who are ready to make an impact.  

About the Batten Institute at the Darden School of Business

The Batten Institute at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business improves the world through entrepreneurship and innovation. Its academic research center advances knowledge that addresses real-world challenges and shapes Darden's curriculum, and its Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership offers one of the world's top entrepreneurship programs. The Batten Institute was established with gifts now totaling over $100 million from the late Frank Batten Sr., a U.Va. alumnus, media pioneer, visionary and founder of The Weather Channel.

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