Business incubators are an increasingly popular tool for promoting job and wealth creation. Yet given the heterogeneity of incubation models, it is not always clear how incubators operate, what their main characteristics are and how can they best contribute to job and wealth creation. If technology is central in promoting economic growth and new firm creation the crucial mechanism in transferring new knowledge to markets, then technology incubators have the biggest potential to contribute to economic growth. We define technology incubators by their strategic choices in terms
of mission, linkages to universities and geographical location. We investigate their nature by comparing the levels of business services provision, selection criteria, exit policy and tenants’ characteristics. Our sample includes 12 incubators located in six Northwestern European countries and a total of 101 incubated companies. Data were collected in both incubators and among their tenants. Results show that technology incubators provide more tenants with their services, select younger companies and practice stricter exit policies. Additionally, they tend to attract more experienced teams of entrepreneurs. Our main contribution is a better understanding of the technology incubators impact against the remainder population of business incubators. We speculate that incubators not focused in incubating technology might not be fostering company creation and therefore not actively contributing to growth. Further, the low levels of service provision are both a product and a consequence of slack selection criteria and weak exit policies. Finally, we discuss the implications of our findings to business incubator managers, policy makers and prospective tenants.
|European Council of Small Business and Entrepreneurship