The research was initially designed to complete the study with an investigation of the growth stories of the biotechnology spin-offs from the universities in the study. When it became evident that several of the firms targeted for this in-depth story, were no longer in existence, a more important question became ‘why did they fail?’ In the search for answers to this question, a tale of turbulence in the sector, and particularly in the environment in which they were to innovate and grow, emerged. This research is novel in that it shows with the aid of the case studies, how a complex series of internal (to the firms) and external factors (in the national and regional innovation systems) combined to lead to the failure of the biotechnology spin-offs. The paper yielded important insights on the unintended consequences of institutional changes. Further, funding for seed and start-up capital remains an obstacle to growth in biotechnology in South Africa. These insights may assist policy makers, technology transfer officers and entrepreneurs in designing and implementing strategies to enhance the development of the biotechnology sector and spin-off creation in general.
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