Business incubation is a business support process that accelerates the successful development of start-up and fledgling companies by providing entrepreneurs with an array of targeted resources and services. These services are usually developed or orchestrated by incubator management and offered both in the business incubator and through its network of contacts. A business incubator’s main goal is to produce successful firms that will leave the program financially viable and freestanding. These incubator graduates have the potential to create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, commercialize new technologies, and strengthen local and national economies.
Critical to the definition of an incubator is the provision of management guidance, technical assistance and consulting tailored to young growing companies. Incubators usually also provide clients access to appropriate rental space and flexible leases, shared basic business services and equipment, technology support services and assistance in obtaining the financing necessary for company growth.
Incubators vary in the way they deliver their services, in their organizational structure and in the types of clients they serve. Highly adaptable, incubators have differing goals, including diversifying rural economies, providing employment for and increasing wealth of depressed inner cities, and transferring technology from universities and major corporations. Incubator clients are at the forefront of developing new and innovative technologies – creating products and services that improve the quality of our lives in communities around the world.
The earliest incubation programs focused on a variety of technology companies or on a combination of light industrial, technology and service firms – today referred to as mixed-use incubators. However, in more recent years, new incubators have emerged targeting industries such as food processing, medical technologies, space and ceramics technologies, arts and crafts, and software development. Incubator sponsors have also targeted programs to support microenterprise creation, the needs of women and minorities, environmental endeavors and telecommunications.