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Regular version of the site

Article

Returnee academic entrepreneurship in China

Lai Y., Vonortas N.

Purpose

Universities have become both increasingly entrepreneurial and international over the past few decades. We still, however, know little about the relationship between the two trends. This paper investigates the effect of international exposure of university faculty members on university entrepreneurial culture.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a specially constructed dataset of the entrepreneurial activities of 507 computer science faculty members—among whom 138 are returnees—from 21 research-intensive universities in China during 2007–2017, the study empirically investigates the relationship between foreign experience and academic entrepreneurial activity back home. We control for characteristics of the faculty member and the location of the university.

Findings

Academic tenure overseas is found to positively affect academic entrepreneurship. The length of stay abroad also affects the relationship: returnee academics with foreign Ph.D. degrees are more likely to start new businesses than returnee academics with shorter postdoc experience overseas. The economic gap between the host (foreign) and home country (China) does not have a statistically significant effect on returnee academic entrepreneurial activity.

Originality/value

To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to empirically investigate returnee academic entrepreneurship. It provides indications on how foreign educational background affects academics entrepreneurial activities.