Campus incubation - A study of how incubators assist firms
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Incubators are considered a cost-effective way to stimulate and support knowledge-intensive entrepreneurial activity. Incubators seek to support the entrepreneur during the new venture creation process. They do this, typically, by providing a range of advisory and support services, business assistance, training and coaching to entrepreneurs. For the entrepreneur starting a knowledge-intensive business, the challenge is to form a judgement about the market; a judgement that is based on what Boisot (1999) refers to as 'fuzzy' information. As this information becomes more concrete and defined, the enterprise progresses through a series of new venture creation activities. The direct impact incubation has on the development of individual start-up companies has received little attention from researchers. This study examines how incubators facilitate the new venture creation process. By exploring incubation from both the incubator manager and the start-up enterprise perspectives, it maps the development processes of companies in business incubators; it identifies the impact incubation services and support have on company development; and it identifies the role of incubation in the start-up process. The study is based on in-depth longitudinal case research of nine companies and three incubator managers, located in three separate campus incubators in Ireland. Case histories of each incubator are presented. The specific challenges that each firm faced are identified and Boisot's 'I-space' is used to plot the emergence of each business idea. The supports and services provided by the incubator are considered in light of the challenges the entrepreneurs experienced during the start-up process. The study found that incubation has a positive impact on company development. Its role and the intensity of involvement varied according to the start up activities being pursued, the background of the entrepreneur, the progress of the company and the style in which the incubator was managed. This study has implications for policy makers and incubation practitioners. By identifying the services most valued by companies, incubation resources and services can be adapted to better suit the needs of incubating companies.
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