Drivers, enablers and barriers of developing commercialisation in an oil-dependent economy: the case of Saudi Arabia
Alakeel, Abdullah Abdulaziz A
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Faced with depleted oil stocks from 2035 onwards, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a strategy of becoming a more knowledge-based economy by indigenously exploiting transferred technologies. However, despite significant investment in university-based technology transfer and incubation facilities, there is little progress in establishing high-growth advanced technology companies outside of the oil sector. The thesis explores the commercialisation of university knowledge in university-based incubators in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and contrasting with arrangements in the UK, to identify the cause of low spinout rates and what can be done. Beginning with a systematic review of literature on innovation and entrepreneurship as it applies to commercialisation, the thesis identifies gaps and areas of controversy in the literature. From previous research an initial conceptual framework is developed to guide data gathering, its presentation and analysis. Using a qualitative method a sample of twenty-four Saudi interviews and eight UK interviews is justified. Significant new data on Saudi incubator policy, processes and outcomes is presented alongside new data from the UK. This is then analysed from an in-case and cross-case perspective and then re-integrated with literature. A revised conceptual framework is presented and conclusions for theory and practice drawn. The thesis adds to the multidisciplinary bodies of knowledge for example by updating Gerschenkron’s (1966) theory of catch-up, challenging the validity of Etzkowitz’s (1983) triple helix theory, and arguing that North’s (1990) neo-institutional theory is ethnocentric. I argue that culture is a major influence on commercialisation in developing countries and consciously changing cultures necessary for Saudi Arabia’s transition from a rentier state. I find little empirical evidence in either the UK or Saudi Arabia for theories (Shane 2004) of academic entrepreneurship. I conclude that major reforms of Saudi universities and commercialisation processes are necessary if the strategy is to contribute significantly towards diversification of the economy.