The Role of Organizational Sponsorship in Pioneering New Technology

Jacqueline Kirtley, Management, The Wharton School

Abstract: Organizational sponsors foster young entrepreneurial firms by providing resources to increase survival rates. Sponsorship can be financial, as with tax incentive structures, public and private grant programs, or early stage private investment. Incubators, science parks, accelerators, and private or corporate investors offer another type of sponsorship providing work space, technologies, industry and business expertise, network connections, and other non-capital resources and services. While entrepreneurial firms are theorized to benefit from this support, the process by which organizational sponsors affect technology firms’ ability to develop new technologies and create value is not well understood. Organizational sponsors provide resources and support but can also introduce expectations and constraints that may or may not be aligned with entrepreneurs. Prior research has focused primarily on the configurations of sponsorship programs and their relationship to firm survival but cannot explain how sponsors improve or inhibit young firms. This longitudinal field study follows firms participating in federally funded, onsite sponsorship programs focused on entrepreneurial firms developing hard science and engineering based products and processes. Through observation and interviews, I will capture how these entrepreneurial firms develop novel technology and commercialization strategies over the course of their two-year tenure in these technology focused sponsorship programs.