IGL Projects

IGL is undertaking and supporting a number of randomised trials globally.

How do different types of proximity impact collaboration and knowledge generation? How should we design research campuses to maximize the probability of breakthrough innovation taking place?

Although information and communication technology has substantially lowered the cost of remote interactions, physical space and geographic proximity still play a major role in inventive activity. This project will explore how a research-intensive academic campus should be designed to increase the probability of breakthrough innovations taking place.

Using experimental evidence, the randomised trial will pinpoint how different types of proximity (colocation, temporary co-location and virtual co-location via software) ultimately impact collaboration and knowledge generation. Scientists across different scientific fields, including biomedical, space, nuclear, energy and IT science, will be reallocated to workspaces in a new campus. Their exact location will be randomised and data on collaborations and interactions will be collected.

What is the impact of different types of entrepreneurial training programmes?

Training programmes are one of the policy responses to overcome the barriers that preclude entrepreneurship. This experimental trial plans to unbundle the effect of such programmes by testing two separate entrepreneurship training modules. The first one is focused on non-cognitive skills or successful entrepreneurial traits such as attitudes, personalities and aspirations. The second module will concentrate on business practices such as building a business plan and hiring employees. 

The intervention is made up of three treatment groups and a control group so that the effect of the two components can be studied individually and jointly. In particular, the effect of the training on the selection into entrepreneurship and potential business expansion will be studied. The trial will additionally explore the channels behind these effects in order to derive relevant policy recommendations.

What is the impact of different types of knowledge transfer activities on the number and quality of business-science interactions?

Motivated by the “European Paradox” (top-notch academic research but much weaker business-science links), this trial will test the impact of two interventions to raise awareness of academic research and connect it to businesses.

300 researchers will be allocated into 3 groups, one group which gets promoted through an online platform that showcases their business-relevant academic research and a second that gets promoted through an online platform and active offline promotions in businesses, such as meetings, presentations and business R&D management. The third group serves as a control group. The RCT will test if researchers receiving passive or active support increase the number and the quality of their business-science interactions (such as contract research, joint research, consultancy, etc.).

Can a more focused, mini-accelerator programme be an effective and low-cost approach to increase startups’ growth?

This trial sets out test a novel “low-cost” accelerator programme with 30-40 post-launch startups earning revenues under £1million. The programme will be solely focused on sales and business growth, including a corporate match making component.

It will thereby aim to address a key challenge facing many startups: not being able to sustain business growth after an initial market launch, often due to lack of sales skills and access to clients. The programme will consist of three two day modules (rather than the standard 10 weeks accelerator model). The aim is to identify if a structured mini-accelerator programme significantly improves sales revenues for randomly selected attendees in contrast to non-attendees from the same applicant pool.

Is there an effect of incubator spaces on the survival of startups and their economic performance? And if so, why?

Working with one of the largest tech incubators in the UK, this trial will deploy a multi-site RCT in two different cities. After pre-selection, entry into the incubator will be randomised for 100 firms per site.  The experiment will then explore post-treatment outcomes including survival, recombination, and changes in post-treatment revenue, employment and level of external finance raised.

Using interviews and surveys we will also explore whether different parts of the treatment vary in their effectiveness (e.g. mentoring versus peer to peer interactions). 

Why does growth stall in high-growth potential, second-stage companies, and can we intervene to overcome this?

This research seeks to address why growth rates so often peter out in adolescent firms, and why so few make it to “grownup” status.

The experimental trial will also seek to identify and test specific policy interventions to reinvigorate growth in these situations.

The project will have three phases. In the first phase, a new theory on why growth stalls in high-growth potential, second-stage companies will be developed through inductive investigation in a series of interviews and ethnography.

In the second phase the robustness of the ideas developed in phase one will be tested empirically. The last phase will consist of a RCT, based on the robust evidence from the first two research phases, designed to test an approach to overcome the growth barriers.

What is the effectiveness goal setting and accountability to promote business growth and learning outcomes?

When starting a business, entrepreneurs must navigate many unknown demands and obstacles, for which networks and support systems are helpful but research suggests planning and focused efforts are necessary as well.  In order to better understand this, the trial will evaluate weekly peer-led problem solving groups.

The study will measure the effectiveness of goal setting and accountability interventions, such as producing a Mission, Objectives and Key Results document, to promote business growth and learning outcomes when compared to only the use of group problem-solving and networking initiatives.  

What are the most effective methods to match entrepreneurs with mentors within the context of (online) entrepreneurship education?

This trial seeks to understand the causal effects of mentorship as an aspect of (online) entrepreneurship education. Do mentors with a more diverse network from the mentee/student have a different impact in entrepreneurship education compared with those with a relatively similar network, and do these impacts depend on the type of strategic approaches the founder chooses? Specifically, the trial will test whether mentees using non-predictive logic and flexibility have positive outcomes compared to those with predictive logic and persistence. 

The trial will then test how a networked mentor can complement or substitute these strategic approaches. The trial should also show how these different factors affect the result in terms of class engagement, satisfaction and even real world outcomes such as raising funding and product releases. 

Will increased exposure to the principles of effectuation accelerate novice entrepreneurs’ development of entrepreneurial expertise? What kind of pedagogical tools and methods can provide that exposure and opportunities for deliberate practice?

The principles of effectuation [www.effectuation.org], a set of heuristics underlying how expert entrepreneurs make decisions during new venture creation, are increasingly being used by entrepreneurship educators, consultants and practitioners. A series of RCTs will test the effectiveness of different pedagogical tools and methods – specifically, how much such tools and methods help aspiring and novice entrepreneurs to engage in deliberate practice of effectuation principles. The findings of this research will inform the design and development of an entrepreneurship training programme at a later stage.

Is collective bootstrapping with peer selection an effective and scalable model to promote grassroots entrepreneurship? How does it compare with traditional low-cost approaches such as self-learning MOOCs, group commitment devices and participation in startup meetups?

This RCT will pilot Self-Accelerated Startups (SAS), a new peer-selection based entrepreneurship support model for idea-stage companies and student startups that uses collective bootstrapping on the lines of self-help groups in the social sector. In this model, prospective entrepreneurs meet regularly in groups for a pre-defined mentorship period and make small monthly contributions to a “seed fund”.

At the end of this phase, the self-mobilized corpus is awarded as startup capital to one or two members by the rest of the peer group in return for equity in these startups. The effectiveness of SAS groups in stimulating entrepreneurship will be evaluated with an RCT that compares it with other popular treatments such as enrolment in self-paced MOOCs, goal setting through commitment contracts and increased startup networking opportunities.

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