Sub-theme 14: Exploring Start-up Programs as New Organizational Forms

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Israel (Issy) Drori
VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Jochen Koch
European University Viadrina, Germany
Mike Wright
Imperial College Business School, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

In the last ten years, one can witness on an almost global level the emergence of new forms of organizing innovation and innovative environmental settings (Autio et al., 2014). Incubators, science parks, startup campuses, co-working spaces, hatcheries, accelerators or whatever these new forms are called, arose and still arise around the globe (Dempwolf et al., 2014). This emergence is not only observable in bigger and highly technology oriented urban regions such as the Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Berlin or London, but also in smaller countries and decentralize regions, and it is driven by both the private and the public sector. Almost every bigger company is now running at least one of those programs and the same applies to the most part of the universities and other private or public organizations worldwide such as municipalities, NGOs, and other academic institutions. Whereas this phenomenon has attracted sustainable resonance in some fields of research, especially in entrepreneurship (Wright & Drori, 2017), organization scholars have remained relatively silent so far. This sub-theme is dedicated to overcome this reservation and to put forward an organizational perspective and an organizational understanding of these phenomena.
There are at least four different levels of analysis, where an organizational perspective could provide much to a more comprehensive and also a more critical understanding of such programs. First, such programs could be analyzed on the participant level, e.g. with regard to the inner-organizational structures of the participating teams, the homo- or heterogeneity of competences, power, knowledge, and all further relationally relevant factors and their impact on the innovation process. Second, the programs include different participant teams at the same time (usually called a “batch”) and hence could be analyzed on an inter-participant level, e.g. with regard to mutual learning, communication, cooperation and competition and its impact for innovation. The third perspective concerns the program level, e.g. what kind of ideas are supported, how and why they are selected (and what ideas are excluded), what kind of support is provided, and how the participants and the programs mutually relate to each other in terms of enabling and constraining innovation and creating or undermining a supportive learning climate. The fourth level of analysis finally focuses on the inter-program level with regard to differences and similarities between different types of programs, their purposes, and their isomorphic or idiosyncratic forms of shaping innovative ecosystems.
On the four different levels, the analysis of the phenomenon could refer to a broad variety of organization theoretical lenses, methodological approaches and research foci. From a general perspective, studies may focus on understanding the organizational form of the programs with regard to organizations, networks and markets (Pauwels et al., 2016). From a more critical perspective, such programs could be understood as a new fashion or hype, which is basically driven by institutional forces. Such a critical perspective could also refer to the underlying power structures inherent in such programs and how ideas get transformed and forced into market terms. It further addresses questions such as how creativity is economized in “creativity regimes” (Kupferberg, 2006) and how an assumingly underlying creativity dispositif (Reckwitz, 2017) may be realized in such programs. Research could also refer to more intrinsic perspectives by focusing, for instance, on the observable complex of practices performed in such programs, how they relate to each other and create or do not create an organized space for innovation. Adopting a practice perspective could also be helpful for better grasping the underlying mechanisms of selection and promotion or disdain of certain ideas. A further important lens could be adopted by understanding startup programs as temporary organizations. Research can focus on either the accelerator itself (for example, as part of permanent organizations), or on the participants and the role of temporality in their inter- and intra- collaboration and competition. With regard to evaluation processes and knowledge creation and transfer, research on the phenomenon could benefit much from a (critical) organizational learning perspective and how and what kind of implicit and explicit knowledge and capabilities are produced and re-produced in such programs. It could also benefit from perspectives focusing on the communicative analysis of the programs, the use of language and the way how and what kind of communicative processes in the programs constitute successful or un-successful ideas. In this vein, narrative and storytelling approaches might focus on the dominant forms and genres of presentation and pitching ideas. Furthermore, a critical discursive perspective may provide fruitful insights into the inherent and immanent governance mechanisms of the programs.
In line with our aim to engage scholars with different theoretical and methodological lenses in fruitful conversations to enrich our understanding of these new organizational forms, this sub-theme could cover a broad range of topics. Some of the issues this sub-theme could address include:

  • How do startup programs differ from other organizational forms with similar purposes?

  • How do startup programs foster creativity, innovation and the development of new business ideas?

  • What are the underlying coordination mechanisms in such programs with regard to cooperation and competition?

  • What kind of learning and knowledge transfer and development occur in such programs?

  • What kind of entrepreneurial teams are included and how do they work or do not work together?

  • Are there strong intercultural differences between programs from different parts of the world or is a new global startup program culture emerging?

  • How do programs select ideas and startups to be included?

  • What kind of ideas and business models are included and which are excluded?

  • What differences and similarities exist between private and public programs?

  • How are programs validated and how do they validate themselves?



  • Autio, E., Kenney, M., Mustar, P., Siegel, D., & Wright, M. (2014): “Entrepreneurial innovation: The importance of context.” Research Policy, 43 (7), 1097–1108.
  • Dempwolf, C.S., Auer, J., & D’Ippolito, M. (2014): “Innovation Accelerators: Defining Characteristics Among Startup Assistance Organizations.” Published online at Small Business Administration.
  • Kupferberg, F. (2006): “Creativity regimes: Innovation norms and struggles for recognition in the early U.S. car and film industries.” International Studies of Management & Organization, 36 (1), 81–103.
  • Pauwels, C., Clarysse, B., Wright, M., & Van Hove, J. (2016): “Understanding a new generation incubation model: The accelerator.” Technovation, 50/51, 13–24
  • Reckwitz, A. (2017): The Invention of Creativity: Modern Society and the Culture of the New. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Wright, M., & Drori, I. (eds.) (2017): Accelerators. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishers.


Israel (Issy) Drori is Head of the Department of Organization Sciences and a Chaired Professor of Organization and Globalization at the Faculty of Social Science, VU – Free University Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He held visiting professorship at the Faculty of Management, Tel Aviv University; Ross School of Business, University of Michigan; Simon Fraser University, Florida Atlantic University; Oxford University, Tisnghua University, Beijing; and Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo. He published ten books and numerous articles in journal such as ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘American Sociological Review’, ‘Organization Science’, ‘Public Administration Review’, and ‘Organization Studies’, among others. Issy is member of the editorial board of ‘Organization Studies’.
Jochen Koch  Chaired Professor of Management and Organization, Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Research (CfER) at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany. His research interests include organizational creativity, organizational routines and practices, and the theory of strategic and organizational path dependence. He is co-editor of the leading German journal ‘Managementforschung (MF)’ and has published several books and articles in journals such as the ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Organization Studies’, and ‘European Journal of Information Systems’.
Mike Wright is Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Department at Imperial College Business School, London, UK, and a Visiting Professor at ETH Zurich, Switzerland He is Chair of the Society for the Advancement of Management Studies and an editor of ‘Academy of Management Perspectives’. He has published over 50 books and over 400 articles on academic entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial ownership mobility, entrepreneurial finance, etc. in leading academic journals such as ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Strategic Management Journal’, ‘Review of Economics and Statistics’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Journal of Management’, among others.
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