In the last decade, university spin-offs (Usos) have increasingly attracted attention. This has focussed on changes affecting higher education systems and institutions - which spin-offs are part of - and on the effects they have or may have on economic development from the perspective of the knowledge economy. After having sketched out the landscape of institutional changes in which spinoffs are embedded, the authors consider how spin-offs settle in the Italian context and their contribution to local development. Available evidence suggests that there is indeed a link between Usos formation and the transformation of universities, but it does not allow for a full assessment of their impact on local development. It is very likely that Usos need to be considered only as one element among others in an institutional environment fostering high-tech based local or regional development.
Keywords: University spin-offs, university third mission, academic entrepreneurship, higher education, research and local/regional development