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This research aims to develop a capabilities-based conceptual framework, in order to study the stage-specific innovation problems associated with the dynamic growth of university spin-outs (hereafter referred to as USO) in China. Based on existing literature and five pilot cases, this study attempts to explore the innovation problems related to their entrepreneurial capabilities (e.g. alliances, venture finance, corporate governance, etc), and, to acquire, mobilize and re-configure key resources at four firm-growth stages, which would then be used to generalize strategic patterns to solve innovation problems for academic entrepreneurs in further study. There is limited research that investigates entrepreneurial innovation problems associated with dynamic growth processes and transitions in order to better explain the growth facilitators and obstacles for academic entrepreneurs. Studies that recognize the heterogeneity of USOs (especially in China) in terms of resources and capabilities that may influence growth processes also remain sparse. Addressing this research gap will be of great interest to entrepreneurs, policy makers, and venture investors.