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Adhering to certain industry best practices contributes more to incubator success than a program's age, size or regional economic conditions, according to a new study funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. This article highlights some of the most important research findings for incubation practitioners.

Study reveals key characteristics of successful incubators

by Linda Knopp

December 2011

Business incubation programs that adhere to industry best practices outperform those that do not – no matter where they're located or what type of environment they operate in. That's the key finding from a new research study funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration and conducted by the University of Michigan's Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy; the University at Albany, SUNY; NBIA; and Cybergroup. After a three-year research effort, the EDA released Incubating Success: Incubation Best Practices That Lead to Successful New Ventures in October.

This finding comes as good news for the incubation community – especially those developing or operating incubation programs in regions experiencing tough economic conditions, as the results demonstrate that incubator managers can maximize client success by implementing certain key best practices.

Through the Incubating Success study, the research team set out to identify the factors that contribute most to incubator and client success. Although other industry studies have examined business incubation best practices and trends, this work is one of the first to use a rigorous definition of what constitutes a business incubator. To be included in this study, incubators had to:

  • Have correct and verified contact information
  • Have been in operation at least five years
  • Target their services to start-up firms
  • Offer at least five commonly provided incubator services, such as help with business basics, networking activities among incubation program clients, help with accounting or financial management, access to capital, or linkages to higher education resources and/or strategic partners

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Keywords: Advocacy, Best practices, client services, Economic development, Economic impact of Incubation, Policy, Research-incubation

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