Business incubators in their different settings have proven to be valuable tools for establishing supportive environments for entrepreneurs and contribute in a reliable manner to the establishment of durable new companies.
The most common types of incubators are:
- Regional business and innovation or technology centres (see for instance the members of EBN, the European Business & Innovation Centre Network).
They often have a broad target group, with no sector focus;
- Research-based incubators and pre-incubators, often closely linked to one or a limited number of higher education and research organisation. Many of them, but by far not all, have a thematic focus linked to their mother organisations’ priorities.
Business incubators are mostly publicly funded by local, regional and national authorities and are usually not for profit organisations, even if they have revenues. Besides this there are also, in smaller numbers, private incubators driven by large corporations or investors and acting for profit.
For about ten years, coming from the USA, a new type of business incubators has emerged and is rapidly expending on a global scale: the business accelerators or accelerator programmes. They mainly differ from traditional incubators in the following aspects:
- They offer an intensive coaching and access to resources for a limited time (typically 3 to 6 months) …
- … to a limited number of selected start-ups,
- … with the aim to stimulate a rapid growth, for instance in terms of internationalisation of the companies’ markets.
- They facilitate access to investors (venture capital, business angels…), which are willing to finance the expected growth of the accelerated start-ups.
- Start-ups benefitting from the acceleration program provide normally in return shares, which are expected to generate a significant return on investment for the investors.
- They focus mostly on technology sectors (e.g. ICT, Internet of Things, medical technologies, biotechnologies, emerging industries…), which provide significant growth opportunities.
In the next policy brief, the concept of accelerators will be explored in more depth in order to show its potential benefits compared to traditional incubators on the one hand, and to which extent local and regional authorities can get involved in such schemes and generate benefits for the local or regional economy. Special attention will be paid to how business accelerators can contribute to the internationalisation of start-ups and SMEs.
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