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Foster School symposium inspires novel entrepreneurship research

Researchers from 50 major universities across the United States and from as far away as Singapore and France met in September at the University of Washington Foster School of Business for the annual West Coast Research Symposium.

The symposium is one of the most influential meetings of scholars and entrepreneurs doing research in the emerging area of technology entrepreneurship.

This year the top papers were weighted toward the emergence of new markets and the role of cognition—how markets are formed and how perceptions get framed of those markets. Other areas of research included venture investing, management teams and innovation, generating legitimacy and creating identity, tracking technology patterns, technology shocks on existing industries, and longitudinal perspectives on new technologies. Of the 50 papers submitted to the symposium, only 19 were chosen for presentation.

An intimate meeting

The West Coast Research Symposium is designed to improve research projects, stimulate novel ideas, and foster new relationships and research collaborations.

“Most academic conferences have as many as 10,000 attendees, but the WCRS is an intimate meeting,” said Suresh Kotha, the Olesen/Battelle Excellence Chair in Entrepreneurship at the Foster School and co-founder of the symposium. “We had 92 attendees this year. In that environment, people get to know each other, and their conversations revolve around what they’re researching in technology and entrepreneurship, and how they might be able to collaborate going forward.”

This year also marked a first for WCRS. Eleven of the papers presented at the symposium will go into a special issue of the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal (SEJ), slated for publication in 2012. SEJ is a sister publication of the prestigious Strategic Management Journal, and is designed to expand and develop the natural relationship that exists between strategic management and entrepreneurship’s focus on innovation and opportunity recognition.

Fostering new scholars

A key element of the WCRS is a one-day doctoral student consortium designed to educate the next generation of technology entrepreneurship researchers and keep the field vital for the future.

The symposium, funded with financial support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, provides an opportunity for PhD candidates who haven’t yet defended their dissertation proposal to discuss their interests with senior scholars in the field.  The students use the day to explore their own emerging interests or find new ones, and meet peers who may become lifelong colleagues.

Professor Nandini Rajagopalan, a member of the WCRS organizing committee from USC’s Marshall School, remarked that the doctoral students and research faculty alike benefit from the interaction: “Our attendees note how open and constructive the meeting is. The tone is nurturing and critical at the same time—a difficult combination to pull off.”

The WCRS began in 2003, when faculty from three universities—the UW, Stanford University, and University of Oregon—held the first symposium at the UW. This year’s event was sponsored by the UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship at Oregon, the Lloyd Greif Center of Entrepreneurial Studies at USC, and the Don Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UC Irvine.