Four incubators’ activities and regional collaboration
The report describes how four Swedish incubators in four regions work on promoting the growth of new, knowledge-based companies and also how collaboration proceeds with other stakeholders in the promotional system, so as to create an environment that provides a good basis for these companies to be able to develop and grow.
We note that the four incubators provide individually customized advice from experienced entrepreneurs. The intensity, depth and length of the assistance given to the companies is something that differentiates these incubators from the activities of other stakeholders. The incubators also distinguish themselves by selecting a smaller number of companies, according to more specific criteria. The incubators are thus perceived as having their own niche in terms of the specialization of advice to help certain types of company to grow. In Tillväxtanalys’ opinion, this specialist help represents a specific approach within the Swedish company promoting system.
The other purpose was to investigate which stakeholders the incubators collaborate with. Have the Swedish incubators followed the trend that grew up in the 1990s of representing a link between the academic and business worlds and the public sector? Our assessment is that the four incubators that were investigated belong to the third generation of incubators, with a strong focus on networking both locally and nationally, and increasingly also internationally, although this does not apply to all. It also appears that a functioning division of work has been established with other growth-promoting stakeholders. This means that we have not found any great overlap in what the different stakeholders offer to the regions’ companies.
However, collaboration with other stakeholders occurs not in the incubators’ core activities, but in the additional activities that have grown up in what the incubators’ offer, such as running stakeholder networks, initiating investment funds, running angel networks, organizing events and trade fairs and establishing relationships with experts. The purpose of these activities is to increase the flow of companies into incubators and reinforce the offers or advice given to these companies. However, the ways in which the incubators act as a link to other stakeholders vary in terms of both form and extent.
Finally. The relatively comprehensive specialist help offered by the incubators is reserved for a small number of companies. For the incubators’ efforts to result in the greatest possible benefit, the selection of companies is important. However, the case studies show that the opportunities for the four incubators to select companies are different in the different contexts. We can see that incubators in metropolitan regions and those in rural regions have similar core activities. This raises new questions that have not been addressed here: questions about whether incubators should be financed in the same way and have the same types of activities or should be more adapted to regional circumstances.