To explain what drives entrepreneurial action, a fundamental question of the entrepreneurship research field, the study of individual’s cognition has emerged as a promising perspective, as it describes the mental processes through which individuals identify and take decisions about entrepreneurial opportunities. Most of this research has emphasized the consequences of cognition on entrepreneurial action, highlighting that individuals need the proper knowledge and motivation to identify and act upon entrepreneurial opportunities. However, less is known about the mechanisms through which these cognitive dimensions can be developed through individuals’ exposure to their social context. This is surprising as entrepreneurship is a socially embedded phenomenon and entrepreneurs are social embedded: literature has acknowledged that elements of the social context in which individuals grow up (e.g., family and early life experiences) and to which individuals are attracted later in life (e.g., workplace, friends, education) play a central role in cultivating and developing their predispositions towards entrepreneurship.
The aim of the present thesis is to address this gap by concentrating on university as social context and its role in nurturing entrepreneurial cognition. University is chosen because it represents a context, which provides opportunities of learning and socialization, as well normative frames that shapes the cognition, aptitudes and beliefs of its members, students and scientists. Specifically, the three missions of university – education, research and commercialization – together concur to the development of its members’ entrepreneurial thinking and acting.