Key point: A strong support network (strategic partners, external advisers, etc) is vital to the success of the incubatees and, consequently, the incubator.
An incubator is also a network of organizations providing skills, knowledge, motivation, real estate experience, as well as business and shared services to its tenants (Allen 1985). Thus, in order for an incubator to maximise the value delivered to incubatees, it must recognise the increasingly important role of local universities, government, non-profits, other private organisations, and even incubator “graduates” in the incubation process. Hansen et al. (2000) point out that an incubator’s network provides incubatees preferential access to established commercial entities for strategic proposals (See note below for clarification). The value that an incubator provides in this case is the immediate and high-quality feedback on an incubatee’s ideas. In another illustration, involvement of a university adds value to the incubator through “university image, student employees, faculty consultants, and the institutional support provided by the R&D community in and around the university” (Mian 1996). A high-quality support network is one of the most critical components in the incubator-incubation concept and it needs to be managed effectively in order for the incubator to succeed.
- However, Hansen et al. (2000) are quick to point out the subtle but important difference between preferential access and preferential treatment. “Preferential access means being able to call a meeting and receive the full attention of busy people” while preferential treatment is being guaranteed results or resources regardless of the proposal’s merits. The latter is not recommended as it will negatively affect the quality of the incubator’s outputs.
For a backgrounder on the incubator-incubation concept, see my earlier post.