Despite efforts to embrace their ‘third mission’, universities still demonstrate great heterogeneity in terms of their involvement in academic entrepreneurship. This papers adopts an institutional perspective to understand how organizational characteristics affect research scientists’ entrepreneurial intentions. Using a sample of 437 research scientists from Swedish and German universities, our results reveal that the extent to which universities articulate entrepreneurship as a fundamental element of their mission fosters research scientists’ intentions to engage in spin-off creation and intellectual property rights, but not industry-science interaction. Furthermore, the presence of university role models positively affects research scientists’ propensity to engage in entrepreneurial activities, both directly and indirectly through entrepreneurial self-efficacy. Finally, research scientists working at universities which explicitly reward people for ‘third mission’ related output show higher levels of entrepreneurial intentions. Implications are discussed for both academics and practitioners.