Secondment at Lancey Energy Storage , April 2024

María Fernández Moya, CUNEF Universidad

Work Package 4 of the EM4FIT Project delves into the agents of entrepreneurship, innovation, and talent from a historical perspective. Our goal with this package is to emphasize the critical role played by institutional and cultural contexts in entrepreneurship, and how social embeddedness fosters and expands innovation.

A central argument of Work Package 4 is that entrepreneurship is not merely an individual endeavor. Instead, it is shaped by business environments and heavily reliant on social networks and modes of cooperation. This perspective challenges the traditional view of entrepreneurship as an individual activity rooted in personal talent and attributes. Traditionally literature on entrepreneurship, particularly classic studies, has focused on individual attributes and capabilities, emphasizing their networks and the resources they assemble (Hwang & Powell, 2006). Pioneering works in this field, such as those by Barth (1963 & 1978), Collins (1980), and Simmel (1950), highlighted entrepreneurship as an unusual activity often undertaken by outsiders or strangers.

In the 1980s and 1990s, this traditional approach was contested by numerous works that portrayed entrepreneurship as a context-dependent profession, highly influenced by legal and political conditions, and by the broader environment that creates opportunities (Hwang & Powell, 2006). The discussion was not new. Indeed, the seminal work of Weber (1930) raised the question of how social issues like culture and religion determined entrepreneurial behavior. However, as the topic of entrepreneurship entered the research agenda of sociologists, the approach of considering external influences and focusing on the societal level became a relevant line of research (e.g., Shane, 1993; Reynolds, 1991; Low & Abrahamson, 1997; Aldrich, Howard, and Marlene, 1994). These studies laid the foundation for understanding entrepreneurship not just as a personal talent but as a professional competence shaped by wider social and cultural factors.

During this secondment, I delve into the evolution of entrepreneurship, with a special focus on the institutional practices that have legitimized it both as an academic field and within society at large. I begin by examining how the field of “entrepreneurship” has evolved since the 1980s and 1990s, a period when entrepreneurship began to be seen as context-dependent and the term became widely recognized.

Preliminary findings suggest that the academic infrastructure related to entrepreneurship has been shaped by various factors, including the intellectual trajectory of the field, the expanding infrastructure for teaching entrepreneurship (such as courses, business schools, chairs, and journals), and the broader societal acceptance of entrepreneurial activity. At the societal level, research reveals a new scenario in which socio-political legitimacy has been granted to entrepreneurial activities (Hwang & Powell, 2006), leading to the term “entrepreneurship” becoming ubiquitous across various professions. Entrepreneurship emerged as a viable career option, and possessing an entrepreneurial spirit became a prerequisite for embarking on a promising professional path. Consequently, educational programs began focusing on new ventures, fostering entrepreneurial mindsets and skills.

To deeply analyze the dynamics of this transformation, I explore a case study of the renowned French chef Paul Bocuse. His career illustrates how the revolution around entrepreneurship transformed traditional professions, such as that of a chef, and reshaped educational pathway in this field. Bocuse, one of the most important chefs of the 20th century and a leader of the Nouvelle Cuisine movement, created a culinary empire based in Lyon, France. More interestingly for this research, he co-founded the Institut Paul Bocuse (now Institut Lyfe) with Gérard Pélisson in the 1990s. This institute was established to disseminate French culinary know-how, cultural heritage, and the art of hospitality at the highest levels of excellence. The evolution of the Institut Paul Bocuse exemplifies how traditional professions in gastronomy have been transformed by entrepreneurial principles. Quoting its website, the institute aspires to the academic standards of a top business school, employing innovative and experiential teaching methods centered on project management, talent development, entrepreneurial spirit, and creativity. This transformation highlights the broader trend of integrating entrepreneurial education into classical professional training, thereby elevating the standards and scope of these professions and fostering innovation.


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