From Local Academic Spin-Off to International Firm: The Case of VisLab

  •  Maria Cristina Arcuri    
  •  Elisa Bocchialini    
  •  Gino Gandolfi    


Universities play an important role in developing and transferring technology. In Italy, much innovation takes place where universities are located outside large towns, as in the case of VisLab.

VisLab, the Vision and Intelligent Systems Laboratory, founded by Prof. Alberto Broggi of Parma University, is a pioneer in perception systems and autonomous vehicle research. It is also the spin-off of the University of Parma acquired by Silicon Valley company Ambarella Inc., in July 2015 for $30 million. After the deal, VisLab remained in Italy and all the staff, about thirty researchers, were hired by VisLab for the Parma location.

This paper examines the university-industry interaction and, in particular, academic spin-off, as a source of economic growth, pointing out the importance of the context. The study describes the main characteristics of the VisLab case, including the possible alternative strategies, the structure of the final M&A deal and the advantages deriving from Parma and surrounding area.

Despite, or perhaps because of its originality, the VisLab case seems to confirm the rule. It suggests that universities can play a key role in technology transfer: universities provide knowledge and trained personnel to firms, facilitating interaction between research and industry. Thus, policy makers should promote the commercialisation of research outcomes.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.