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Society/business UGCE Research Center

NWO Program Intrapreneurship

NWO Program Intrapreneurship

This research project is part of the INSCOPE NWO funded research program “Intrapreneurship – Enabling Talent for Innovation”. Besides University of Groningen, three other Universities (University of Utrecht, University Maastricht, Rotterdam School of Management) and TNO participate in this research program. In addition, several external partners (DSM, Randstad, Port Authority Rotterdam, Ofichem, Alliander, NPAL, Brightlands, MVO NL, Latexfalt, Forbo Flooring, Energy Academy, Vision Dynamic Group) participate in the project.

This research program on intrapreneurship focuses on how human capital can be acquired and developed to stimulate bottom-up innovation and improve the performance of firms, regions, and top sectors. The term intrapreneurship comes from a combination of “intra” internal (to the organisation), and “entrepreneurship”: intrapreneurship involves the entrepreneurial activities of individuals within organisations. Intrapreneurial activities aim at creating new businesses in established organisations through innovation (Zahra, 1991).

In Groningen, we focus on how organisations can stimulate intrapreneurship by investigating and analysing the entrepreneurial mindset of employees. We specifically analyse how networks, organisational structures and the context of the organisation influence employees'mindset for intrapreneurship. The empirical research consists of a mixed-method approach. The quantitative research partially concerns the Intrapreneurship Index, as developed by the academic partners of the NWO consortium and distributed amongst all participating partners, complemented with comparative case studies and a diary study within the participating companies: namely Ofichem, DSM, Port of Rotterdam Authorithy, and Randstad Netherlands.

Project supervision at the RUG will be provided by Prof. Aard Groen and dr. Olga Belousova.


Human capital and managerial and organisational antecedents are considered important sources of competitive advantage (Volberda et al., 2013; Unger et al., 2011; Birkinshaw et al., 2008), but implementing intrapreneurship can be a difficult process (Hornsby, Kuratko, & Zahra, 2002) . It requires aligning top management behaviours, organisational conditions and processes, and employee behaviour (Belousova & Gailly, 2013; Birkinshaw, 1997). Previous efforts have focused on understanding fruitful organisational conditions or individual employee initiatives, rather than the fit between the conditions and employees’ entrepreneurial initiative (Hornsby et al., 2002) .

In this research project, we examine the entrepreneurial mindset of individual employees. The entrepreneurial mindset concerns the ability and willingness of individuals to rapidly sense, act and mobilize, in response to a judgmental decision under uncertainty about a possible opportunity for gain (Shepherd et al., 2010, p. 62) .

Our theoretical reasoning starts with the dispersed corporate entrepreneurship perspective where every individual in an organisation has a simultaneous capacity for both entrepreneurial (exploration) and managerial (exploitation) behaviour (Belousova & Gailly, 2013; Jansen et al., 2008; Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004). This research project deals with (1) the practices companies should adopt to develop human capital, and how human capital can be developed (Hayton, 2005; Hornsby et al., 2002; Zahra & Covin, 1995), with specific attention for the entrepreneurial mindset (Robinson et al., 2016; McMullen & Kier, 2016). The second question is (2) How does human capital development influence decisions of the management to engage in intrapreneurship and their choice of strategies? Answers to these research questions contribute to provide new insights on how and to what extent established medium-sized and large corporations can renew themselves with intrapreneurship.

We believe it is key to understand the fit between organisational facilitating conditions and employees’ entrepreneurial initiatives as an output of intrapreneurship, because understanding it and finding a mechanism bridging the conditions and employees’ entrepreneurial initiatives may explain and provide a solution to the difficulty of the intrapreneurship implementation process. Furthermore, we focus on the social network as a condition of an organisation context, since intrapreneurship is a process that cannot occur without a social environment (Shepherd et al., 2010; Birkinshaw, 1997; Granovetter, 1985; Burgelman, 1983) . We believe that an intrapreneurship process utilising a mechanism such as EMS requires relationships between key components attributed in the process. These linkages are built on communication, information or knowledge transfer, and expectations or use of resources (for instance skills) of others.

The research questions we deal with in our research are: (1) How and when does the entrepreneurial mindset develop? What are the organisational conditions in which the configurations of the dimensions of the entrepreneurial mindset are stimulated, and how do intra-organisational networks stimulate the pervasiveness of the entrepreneurial mindset of employees? We will elaborate on the work of Shepherd et al. (2010) by taking into account different approaches companies may choose to implement intrapreneurship. In order to take into account firm specific characteristics we will also include characteristics like firm age, structure, size and industry.

Last modified:15 May 2018 4.29 p.m.