Business Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal


entrepreneurship; engineers


Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations


A cross-sectional longitudinal study of Canadian graduate engineers yielded unexpected percentages of engineers gravitating towards entrepreneurial opportunities. The aggregate of the classes of 1954, 1959, and 1964 demonstrate entrepreneurial / intrapreneurial outcomes at a rate that is many times higher than the general population. The rate is well over double the rate cited previously for engineers intending to pursue entrepreneurial outlets (Tremblay et al. 1998; Tremblay et al. 2007). This paper explores possible reasons for those findings. Existing literature is combined with a crosssectional, longitudinal study of graduate engineers. Interpretive insight is offered from a separate exploratory study investigating the value of knowledge. Seeking to understand the high incidence of engineers gravitating to entrepreneurial opportunities, we refer to a separate study exploring potential knowledge; how knowledge is valued, and how the value of knowledge is shared between the organization and the employee. We present a framework for knowledge to be applied, or potential. Firms that saw potential knowledge in some employees recognized and captured its economic value. Instead of sharing the value generated by the knowledge with the individual, the firms indicated increasing the work load and adding responsibilities to the individual. We advance a proposition that the selection and training of engineers emphasizes potential knowledge, which is a form of intellectual property; a resource with economic value. As a valuable resource, one can expect the individual to seek a reasonable return on this asset. If the firm appropriates all of the returns, it is reasonable to expect the individual to seek a higher personal return from his or her intellectual property. Those with potential knowledge may seek alternative opportunities to capture some of the value of their intellectual property for themselves, and thereby pursue entrepreneurial outlets even if they had not initially intended or desired to do so.