Knowledge conversion capability and the performance of corporate and university spin-offs

Shaker A. Zahra, Els Van de Velde, Bárbara Larrañeta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Corporate and university spin-offs are often created to commercialize new technologies. Yet, it is not clear how these spin-offs transform their inventions into new products, goods and services that create value. In this article, we use the knowledge-based theory to argue that this transformation requires a "knowledge conversion capability" (KCC) that has three components: conceptualization and visioning of applications of that knowledge; configuration and design of potential products and other applications; and the embodiment and integration of knowledge into products. Using data from 91 corporate and 78 university spin-offs, we find that these two sets of firms differ in their emphasis on the three KCC components, benefit differentially from these three components in terms of their performance, and vary significantly in their performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-608
Number of pages40
JournalIndustrial and Corporate Change
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge with gratitude the helpful comments of the special issue editors, anonymous reviewers, seminar participants at the University of Minnesota and University of Twente (Netherlands), James C. Hayton, and Patricia H. Zahra. We are also grateful for the comments and insights of several entrepreneurs and university technology transfer officers. We appreciate the financial support of the Gary Holmes Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Robert E. Buuck Chair at University of Minnesota, Ramsey Chair for Free Enterprise at Georgia State University, and Glavin Center for Global Management at Babson College.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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