Becoming an academic entrepreneur: how scientists develop an entrepreneurial identity

Christopher S. Hayter, Bruno Fischer, Einar Rasmussen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


While academic entrepreneurship depends on the entrepreneurial behavior of university scientists, management studies show that identity development precedes behavioral enactment. This paper extends our understanding of why and how individuals who define themselves as a scientist develop or fail to develop a new commercialization-focused entrepreneurial identity. We develop an explanatory process model by drawing from the concept of liminality, a transitional state during which individuals construct or reconstruct an identity, as well as the entrepreneurship literature. The model not only provides a stylized illustration of identity development and its associated behavioral outcomes, but it also includes several factors such as agency and passion, liminal competence, social support, organizational and institutional support, and temporal factors that moderate the process. We contribute to the literature on entrepreneurial identity by providing a dynamic conceptualization of identity construction and incorporation, among other outcomes, as well as to the academic entrepreneurship literature by elucidating the origin and development of entrepreneurial identities among scientists. A conceptual focus on identity-related micro-processes may help explain why some scientists are more successful at commercializing technologies derived from their research than others. Implications for theory and future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1469-1487
Number of pages19
JournalSmall Business Economics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Academic entrepreneurship
  • Entrepreneurial identity
  • Entrepreneurship ecosystems
  • Identity development
  • Liminality
  • Technology commercialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Economics and Econometrics


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