The role of university linkages in the performance of Innovation Ecosystems’ actors: the case of Italy


  • Michele Modina University of Molise
  • Francesco Capalbo
  • Marco Sorrentino
  • Gabriele Ianiro
  • Muhammad Fayaz Khan



innovation ecosystem, university spin-off, innovative startup, ecosystem dynamics, panel data


Framing of the research. In the last 15 years the EU has set the development of innovation ecosystems as a pillar for its development plans. Nevertheless, some countries have still not improved their innovation performance over time, as in the case of Italy.
Purpose of the paper. The study analyzes this issue by exploring the relational dynamics of the Italian innovation ecosystem and whether the university can enable the growth of early-stage innovative firms.
Methodology. We use panel data methodology to compare the performance in terms of sales growth of 244 Italian university spin-offs (USO) and 1487 Italian innovative start-ups (IIS) from 2014 to 2016.
Results. Our results show that in Italy universities are not enabling the growth of early-stage innovative firms, on average. Indeed, companies which are not related to the university show a better performance, and most of all the ecosystem-level variables related to the academia are not correlated to sales growth in most cases.
Research limitations. The sampling criteria reduced our sample size by more than 50%. Also, our study is a quantitative one, and it lacks many qualitative insights that could enrich our analysis. Finally, since the study is carried out in Italy, this may hinder easy generalizability in other contexts.
Managerial implications. The study provides interesting insights for policymakers and start-up and university administrators with data on the effectiveness of the linkages between universities and innovative firms.
Originality of the paper. Previous literature both focused on the creation and performance of spin-off firms and the comparison between different types of spin-off firms. Nevertheless, today the comparison between IISs and USOs in Italy remains unexplored, as does the comparison between these two types of firms and USOs that are classified as IISs.


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