Professors Take Entrepreneurship Expertise to Emerging Economies

Posted: December 7, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

“We have the world covered,” says Zoltan Acs of his worldwide work on entrepreneurship with Roger Stough. The two School of Public Policy (SPP) professors travel the globe each year to work with technology accelerators, advise policy makers and share their expertise.

Research is a key component of SPP activities at Mason. The school attracts millions of dollars in grants from the federal government, private foundations and major corporations, which allow distinguished faculty, such as Stough and Acs, as well as students, to travel the globe to gather information, conduct research and present papers on a wide range of topics, including global entrepreneurship.

“Both Zoltan and I have spent a lot of time with entrepreneurs in emerging economies, such as China, India and Europe,” says Stough, who is associate dean for research, development, and external relations at SPP and the Northern Virginia Chair in Local Government.

Last year, Stough visited South Africa on behalf of the U.S. State Department and lectured on entrepreneurship and enterprise development processes, as well as transport policy and regional development strategy. He also met with students at the Pacific Regional Science Summer Institute in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; was the keynote presenter at a conference in Kolkata, India, on developing technological entrepreneurship; and lectured at Jonkoping University in Sweden, where he holds an honorary doctorate.

Stough has been to nearly every part of China, having made about 40 trips to that country in the past 12 years, lecturing and conducting research at various universities and working closely with technology incubators and development policy formulation as part of his role as director of the Mason Enterprise Center.

Stough and his team have also provided training to groups from China that come to Washington, D.C., to learn about the U.S. system of business incubation and entrepreneurial development. Participants in these groups come from a range of fields, including agriculture, science- and technology-led development, economic development, industrial and technology incubation, consumer protection, human resources management, business finance, government finance, management information systems, local government, intergovernmental relations and international trade.

During the past year, Acs, University Professor and director of SPP’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Public Policy at Mason, traveled to Germany, France, Spain, Egypt and Australia, to name just a few destinations. Acs makes regular trips to the University of Pecs in Hungary, where he helped develop an entrepreneurship program in economics and business and was awarded an honorary degree. He also was the keynote speaker at a seminar at Linkoping University in Sweden and presented a paper at the Max Planck Summer Institute on Entrepreneurship Research in Berlin.

The two have known each other many years, and it was at Stough’s urging that Acs joined Mason in 2005. Stough remembers meeting Acs, who had been one of the gurus of the Internet boom era of the mid-1990s, about 10 years ago at a conference in Maryland.

“He was giving a paper on small business, and I was giving a paper on [information technology] growth,” recalls Stough. “So we got to talking. I invited him to some conferences and got to know him better. We started working on a book.”

“We had this interesting overlap between our fields, and I was already working with some people at Mason,” says Acs, who is also a research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Economics in Germany and scholar-in-residence at the Kauffman Foundation.

Stough and Acs continue to collaborate and frequently write chapters for each other’s books. Recently, Acs and Stough coedited “Public Policy in an Entrepreneurial Society,” with Mason doctoral students.

For Acs, the real draw for joining the faculty at Mason was the way SPP merges entrepreneurship and public policy. Acs says there are four main factors in that merge: finance, innovation, why people become entrepreneurs and how they organize their business. He would like to see research and the teaching of entrepreneurship continue to grow at Mason.

Acs also sees an opportunity at the intersection of entrepreneurship and the developing world markets of South America, Africa, China and India. “Mason can play a pivotal role in that development,” he says.

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