Establishing a new firm is a complex process which comprises many tasks. A common assumption in the theoretical literature on entrepreneurship is therefore that interdisciplinarity is important for successfully running a new firm. Empirically it is still an open question whether interdisciplinarity is a success factor of new firms. In this paper, I analyse whether interdisciplinarity of the founders of academic spinoffs is important for the employment growth of these firms. Academic spinoffs are spinoffs from universities and other research institutes. For these firms interdisciplinarity may be especially important as it is not only relevant for running the firm but also as a basis for the business idea itself. In detail, the following groups of academic spinoffs are compared with respect to employment growth: a) team foundations versus single entrepreneurs, b) single entrepreneurs who studied several subjects versus single entrepreneurs who studied only one subject, c) team foundations whose members studied different subjects versus team foundations whose members all studied the same subject, and d) team foundations whose members all come from the same type of research institution versus team foundations whose members come from different types of research institutions. These comparisons are made using a data set on academic spinoffs in Germany. The results of this paper show that employment growth of academic spinoffs is higher when the firm is founded by a team than when it is founded by a single entrepreneur. Team foundations of engineers have higher employment growth when they have a business scientist among them. However, heterogeneity with respect to the subjects studied per se and with respect to the institution of academic origin is irrelevant for the employment growth of academic spinoffs. Thus, interdisciplinarity appears not to be an important success factor of new firms.
Müller, Bettina (2009), Does Interdisciplinarity Lead to Higher Employment Growth of Academic Spinoffs?, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 09-087, Mannheim. Download