Research database

SCALE-UP! - How to scale up startups: using the scientific method to make organizational design decisions

24 months (2025)
Principal investigator(s):
Project type:
Nationally funded research - PRIN
Funding body:
Project identification number:
PoliTo role:


Favoring the scale up of startups is a key policy concern in Europe. Despite policymakers emphasize the importance of financial resources for the scale up, scholars recognize that also qualified human capital is crucial. Startups face severe challenges in recruiting talents and organizing their activities. The limited research on organizational design in startups is of little help to address such challenges. To assist startups, our project studies the effects of the adoption of a scientific approach (i.e. mirroring the approach used by researchers in science) in making decisions about recruitment and organization of talents for the scale up (hereafter, organizational design decisions). We will first develop a theoretical framework based on the assumption that a scientific approach provides rigorous bases to predict the outcomes of entrepreneurs’ decisions. Entrepreneurs may overestimate (false positives) or underestimate (false negatives) the potential outcomes of their decisions. We posit that, like in science, entrepreneurs using a scientific approach reduce false positives and false negatives. We build on the intuition that, as the decisions made by most entrepreneurs are not effective, entrepreneurs are more likely to face false positives than false negatives. Thus, a scientific approach which corrects these errors is more likely to reveal that a seemingly good strategy is not effective than a seemingly bad strategy is effective. Entrepreneurs adopting a scientific approach are thus more likely to change their organizational design strategies and succeed in scale up than entrepreneurs who do not adopt this approach. We will test this framework in a randomized control trial (RCT). We will offer entrepreneurs from 150 startups in the pre-scale up phase free-of-charge training on how to recruit talents and organize employees’ activities. We will split the entrepreneurs into a treatment and a control group. While we will offer the control group standard training, we will teach the treatment group to develop and test hypotheses about decisions’ outcomes and discuss the results in a scientific manner. Then, we will monitor and analyze the actions and performance of all startups in the 10 months after training. The combination of a theoretical framework, that focuses on a novel approach and develops testable implications, and rigorous empirical evidence based on a RCT, will advance the literature on organizational design in startups. Moreover, our results will have relevant practical implications; they can both inform the design of policy initiatives facilitating talent attraction in startups and help universities, incubators and technology transfer offices design effective entrepreneurial training programs. We think we are the right team to implement this proposal because we can leverage the experience in conducting RCTs and the contacts in the Italian startup ecosystem we developed in a PRIN 2017 project based on RCTs targeting startups.





ERC sectors

SH1_11 - Technological change, innovation, research & development

Sustainable Development Goals

Obiettivo 8. Incentivare una crescita economica duratura, inclusiva e sostenibile, un’occupazione piena e produttiva ed un lavoro dignitoso per tutti


Total cost: € 218,768.00
Total contribution: € 179,498.00
PoliTo total cost: € 91,037.00
PoliTo contribution: € 68,459.00