With respect to understanding academics, it is central to know that many academics are not keen to work with business and exploit the full value of the knowledge they have generated, nor are many universities fostering them to engage more with external parties.

According to Lam (2010), four types of academics can be differentiated:

  • Type I (“Traditionalists”)
  • Type II (“Traditional Hybrids”)
  • Type III (“Entrepreneurial Hybrids”)
  • Type IV (“Entrepreneurial”)

Type I academics (‘Traditionalists) aim to keep the university and business sector separate while Type IV academics (‘Entrepreneurial’) recognise a high relevance of entrepreneurial activity to exploit the value generated in academia. Compared to the extremes, Type II academics (‘Traditional Hybrids’) believe in the separation whilst acknowledging the benefits of entrepreneurial activity for science. Type III academics (“Entrepreneurial Hybrids”) on the contrary think that entrepreneurial activity should be fostered whilst at the same time protecting academics values as best as possible.

The presentation of the four types shows that a conflict of interest exists between academic values and goals, and what the business sector is looking for. Every business person willing to engage with academics needs to understand this conflict of interest and actively manage it. This includes open discussions on each party’s values and goals and an active management of the expectations arising from this. The four-type classification can be a valuable starting point to better understand an academic’s position.