Sub-theme 25: Energizing entrepreneurship: The role of industry knowledge structures in creating, assessing, and embedding new business ventures

Michel L. Ehrenhard
University of Twente, The Netherlands
Shaker Zahra
University of Minnesota, USA
Jeroen Kraaijenbrink
University of Twente, The Netherlands

Call for Papers

Entrepreneurship has gained high prominence in the field of organization studies. It is also on top of the economic agenda of many regional and national governments as well as the European Union. Yet, our knowledge of the early stages of knowledge intensive entrepreneurship is still rather limited. Our aim for this sub-theme is to shed more light on these early stages by inviting scholars to submit papers that theorize and research the creating, assessing and embedding of new business opportunities.

Business opportunities emerge in the interaction between entrepreneurs and their industry environment. Whether these opportunities are primarily shaped by entrepreneurs or by the industry in which they operate is a key question currently open to debate. This sub-theme will consider an intermediate position in which entrepreneurs create new business opportunities by comprehending, interpreting, and reframing existing industry knowledge structures.

Industry knowledge structures refer to the different types and qualities of knowledge – and their linkages– that underlie an industry's products and technologies. This definition assumes that multiple and sometimes competing knowledge bases exist in an industry. This diversity sets the stage for competitive rivalry among companies that capitalize on different types of knowledge. It also creates opportunities for new firm creation to capitalize on convergence and divergence in the industry. Industry knowledge structures, as such, both enable and constrain entrepreneurs in their possibilities for creating new ventures. More specifically, industry knowledge structures influence the mobility, migration, and diffusion of knowledge; capability development; patterns of resource or skill accumulation; innovation regimes; the efficacy of different modes of exploitation; and the like.

Entrepreneurs and internal and external stakeholders (venture capitalists, boards of directors, and the like) assess the chances of survival in the market and make use of the knowledge in their industry environment to improve these chances. Where new opportunities are created by diverting from threaded paths, entrepreneurs will also find a need to embed their businesses into their respective industries. This will lead entrepreneurs to attempt to transform industries’ knowledge structures. This, in turn, will provide a basis for the development of other new business opportunities. Hence, our definition also underscores and reinforces the role of institutional entrepreneurship in creating new market areas, new organizational forms and business streams.

We invite papers that discuss the way ventures are created, assessed, and embedded as entrepreneurs comprehend, interpret and reframe industry knowledge structures. Questions in this domain include, but are not limited to:

  • How are industry knowledge structures created, maintained and changed?
  • How do entrepreneurs recognize industry knowledge structures?

  • How do they interpret disconnectedness of, and linkages between industry knowledge structures?

  • How do entrepreneurs convert this knowledge into a clear definition of opportunities?

  • How do they convert these definitions of opportunities into prototypes for different types of firms?

  • How do these different processes – comprehending, interpreting, and reframing – develop over time as knowledge structures change?

  • What are the strategic implications of entrepreneurs' learning for changing well-established knowledge structures?

  • How do these processes influence the various stages of new venture creation and opportunity recognition?

  • How can industry knowledge structures be measured or observed qualitatively and quantitatively?

We are interested in papers that provide a strong theoretical contribution to the field of new business venturing and opportunity development. We welcome conceptual as well as qualitative or quantitative empirical papers. Specifically, we are interested in papers that further develop or apply the notion of industry knowledge structures.

Useful readings

Díez-Vial, I. (2007): "Explaining vertical integration strategies: Market power, transactional attributes and capabilities." Journal of Management Studies, 44 (6), 1017–1040.

Galunic, D.C. and S. Rodan (1998): "Resource recombinations in the firm: Knowledge structures and the potential for Schumpeterian innovation." Strategic Management Journal, 19 (12), 1193–1201.

Hargadon, A.B. (2002): "Brokering knowledge: Linking learning and innovation." Research in Organizational Behavior, 24, 41–85.

Johnson, V. (2007): What is organizational imprinting? Cultural entrepreneurship in the founding of the Paris opera." American Journal of Sociology, 113 (1), 97–127.

Ordanini, A., G. Rubera and M. Sala (2008): "Integrating functional knowledge and embedding learning in new product launches: How project forms helped EMI Music." Long Range Planning, 41 (1), 17–132.

Saka-Helmhout, A. (2007): "Unraveling learning within multinational corporations." British Journal of Management, 18 (3), 294–310.

Soubeyran, A. and H. Stahn (2007): "Do investments in specialized knowledge lead to composite good industries?" Small Business Economics, 29 (1/2), 119–135.

Zahra, S., E. van de Velde and B. Larrenta (2007): "Knowledge conversion capability and the performance of corporate and university spin-offs." Industrial and Corporate Change, 16 (4), 569–608.

Michel L. Ehrenhard 
Shaker Zahra 
Jeroen Kraaijenbrink