Academic entrepreneurship is believed to contribute to the rapid movement of scientific ideas into the commercial arena and to provide a critical contribution to the national economy. Therefore, most governments of highly industrialized countries like Switzerland and Germany, encourage academic scientists to become more entrepreneurial: their research activities should be more readily applicable, they should seek closer cooperation with industrial partners, there should be an increase in commercialization (patenting or licensing), and researchers should create spin-offs. The transfer of academic knowledge and technology is seen as the third “new” assignment to researchers - besides the traditional creation and transmission of knowledge (research and teaching). Instead, academic scientists, very often act “non-entrepreneurially”.

Whether academic entrepreneurship is considered good or bad, it is clearly not evenly distributed. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of research investigating why some scientists in academia act entrepreneurially and others do not. We consider – following the principal-agent theory - that institutional incentives from governments and universities as principals (i.e. subsidies, advantages in career paths) affect the entrepreneurial activities of academic scientists (agents).