The emergence of entrepreneurship as an academic field: A personal essay on institutional entrepreneurship

  • Aldrich H
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The academic field of entrepreneurship research has grown from groups of isolated scholars doing research on small businesses to an international community of departments, institutes, and foundations promoting research on new and high-growth firms. Growth has produced increasingly systematic and interconnected knowledge and growing numbers of knowledge producers and knowledge users share core concepts, principles, and research methods, and a handful of highly cited scholars have emerged as thought leaders within research subfields. The field is increasingly formalized and anchored in a small set of intellectual bases, although there are also some signs of differentiation and fragmentation. Using an institutional theory perspective and drawing upon my experience in the field, I explore six forces creating the institutional infrastructure. First, social networking mechanisms have created a social structure facilitating connections between researchers. Second, publication opportunities have increased dramatically. Third, training and mentoring has moved to a collective rather than individual apprenticeship model. Fourth, major foundations and many other smaller funding sources have changed the scale and scope of entrepreneurship research. Fifth, new mechanisms have emerged that recognize and reward individual scholarship, reinforcing the identity of entrepreneurship research as a field and attracting new scholars into it. Sixth, globalizing forces have affected all of these trends. I conclude with some thoughts about the consequences of these developments with regard to the giving of practical and timely advice to entrepreneurs, the effects of American hegemony on choices of research topics and methods, and the possible loss of theoretical eclecticism. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Globalization
  • Institutional entrepreneurship
  • Professionalization
  • Scientific community
  • Social networks

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  • Howard E. Aldrich

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