Commercialising university inventions for sustainability—a case study of (non-)intermediating ‘cleantech’ at Aalto University

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Kivimaa, Paula ; Boon, Wouter ; Antikainen, Riina (2017)

The challenge to transform towards more sustainable societies requires action on multiple levels, including commercialisation of inventions created in universities. We examine intermediation in the pre-commercialisation phase of cleantech inventions developed at Aalto University, Finland, focusing on the activities of a university innovation intermediary, Aalto Centre for Entrepreneurship (ACE), and how it operationalises the sustainability aims of the university. The roles of ACE are discussed in the context of the university innovation ecosystem and through three cases of cleantech inventions. Surprisingly, we find that ACE does not include any ways to operationally integrate sustainability. The consideration of sustainability in commercialisation projects is case specific and fully dependent on other actors. As a result we propose people- and process-oriented alternatives of how sustainability could be integrated into university innovation support functions. We also propose that innovation ecosystems should be broadened to include public actors for the benefits of co-creating for sustainability.
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