Towards cooperation between European start ups : the position of the French, Dutch, and German entrepreneurial and innovative engineer

J.M. Ulijn, A. Fayolle

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People who want to start their own business often try to survive or to die again on their own. The very fact that "others", apart from family, friends and fools who invest in their venture, are quickly seen as probable competitors, who want the steal the idea, prevent start ups from cooperation with partners. Setting up a personal network might even cause more risk, since one has to share ideas for technological development of the idea or look for a market for it. The consequence is that within 5 years most new start ups are already out of business (OECD, 1998). The key would be cooperation with others, but with whom and to what extent? Since most of the engineers know that they to develop an innovation, they might need up to a whole R&D lab to help, they might be less reluctant to cooperate than others. On the other hand, they might forget to look for a market or cooperate with a potential customer to design the product, for instance in the ICT-sector (see Van Luxemburg et al.), because of a technology push syndrome? Authors, such as Birley (Several publications from 1985 on) have not failed during the last ten years to develop the idea of and study the effect of networking and strategic alliancing between start ups, entrepreneurship as team work and at least a shared concept for starters who have the same objective in mind. University incubators, such as the one of the Imperial College in London are very successful in promoting the idea (see Theunissen, 2002), but is this the case only in the UK or the US, where the culture of free enterprise is more strongly developed? What about countries, such as France, The Netherlands, and Germany? What is the position, for instance of the entrepreneurial and innovative engineer who wants to start his/her own business? May a lack or a fear to cooperate with others be a result of how engineers traditionally educated in those countries? In 1998 Albert Rubinstein identified "technical entrepreneurship in the firm" as the focus of the future of our intellectual discourse on technology and innovation management. How entrepreneurial are French, German and Dutch engineers and what is their innovation culture and that of the firms they work for? Are those who are leaving those firms to start their own business, willing to cooperate with others, not to fade away in splendid isolation? This chapter certainly cannot answer all those questions, but it can try to develop a model of the entrepreneurial and innovative European engineer and his/her interaction with the environment through networks and cooperation illustrated with examples from the selected countries. This is backed up with some answers to 8 research questions related to data about the general economic environment the entrepreneur works in, the rate and difficulty of self-employment, such as the costs, satisfaction levels, and the possible effect of national culture on willingness to start and the profile traits of the successful innovator and entrepreneur from different empirical sources for France, The Netherlands and Germany. Cooperation between start ups in Europe is certainly not a question of only national culture, a merge or a clash between professional and corporate cultures might foster or hamper as well. Entrepreneurial and innovative engineers build up their experiences of such kind through life time. This chapter is based upon data from 3 different European countries which includes a survey among French engineers (questionnaires and interviews from entrepreneur and non entrepreneur engineers) and a case comparison of 12 innovative German and Dutch firms. How does this transition take place in different parts of Europe? How may engineers become successful entrepreneurs through a happy reconciliation of technological and marketing orientations within a given historical context. Finally this chapter addresses the question how to foster cooperation between European start ups for a better enterprising and innovative culture. Research projects aiming at this issue, might start as comparing national entrepreneurship phenomena, such as suggested partly by Lichtenberger and Naullean (1993) and Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1999), followed by studying cooperation, networks and alliances (Aliouat, 2000) including globalisation (Birley and Stockley, 1998) and the heterogeneity of teams, for instance by mixing marketers and engineers (Bantel and Jackson, 1989, Geletkanycz and Hambrick, 1997, and Shaw and Shaw, 1998). Cooperation requires more mobility. Within the European Union, the individual member states face rather an influx of economic refugees (who might create excellent start ups, by the way) than that they can welcome an invasion of entrepreneurial and innovative engineers from another member state. Which French engineer would like to start a business with a German colleague who could implement his idea perfectly? Which German engineer seeks a market-oriented partner in Britain or The Netherlands to fulfill his dream of a successful start up? Which Dutch engineer looks for technology entrepreneurship in France and vice versa? It seems as if new virtual borders prevent start ups also to cooperate. That why this chapter presents a summarizing model of a new cultural identity of Europe based upon Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Mobility using the onion culture metaphor by Hofstede and Schein (both 1991) to increase the mobility of the European engineer (Ulijn and Gould, 2002). A new culture is needed to foster the cooperation between high, low and other tech start ups to facilitate a truly European technology entrepreneurship.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEindhoven
PublisherTechnische Universiteit Eindhoven
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Publication series

NameECIS working paper series


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