Studies on the strategy and performance of business incubators

PhD student
Johanna Vanderstraeten

Prof. dr. Paul Matthyssens
prof. dr. Arjen van Witteloostuijn        

Although new businesses have a stimulating effect on the economy, liability of newness and smallness provoke high start-up failure rates. For example, start-ups may lack the necessary legitimacy, network connections, resources or experience to survive in a competitive business environment. To counter such high failures rates, new ventures may be nurtured in business incubators. These organizations allow start-ups to benefit from economies of scale, offer accessible business support and networking opportunities that might accelerate their tenants' learning curve, and help them overcome resource constraints. Incubator tenants can also gain credibility through the incubator's networking contacts and image.
Despite the exponential growth of the number of incubators throughout the world, research on this topic is still in its infancy. This doctoral thesis examines the relationships between four main building blocks: an incubator's strategic positioning, its internal characteristics, its environment and its performance. Two overarching research goals are envisioned. In Chapters 1 and 2, the doctoral thesis maps the conditions for fit between these building blocks. To this end, a qualitative research design is employed. In Chapters 3 and 4, the thesis verifies some of the mechanisms influencing these relationships. These chapters rely on quantitative data from Brazilian and European incubators.
Besides these overarching research goals, each chapter examines a specific aspect of incubator functioning. In Chapter 1, service-based differentiation options for incubators are explored. External alignment is assured through tenant service expectations. For each service-based differentiation alternative, a competence configuration is developed. Chapter 2 focuses on the evaluation of internal incubator functioning. It offers an adapted strategy map and balanced scorecard for nonprofit economic development incubators. As such, it examines how strategy realization can lead to efficiency and internal functioning effectiveness. In contrast, Chapter 3 investigates which strategy formulation options lead to outcome effectiveness. In this chapter, the relationship between an incubator's service customization and focus strategy is examined, as well as their impact on tenant survival and growth. This chapter focuses on Brazilian incubators and incorporates the influences of the Brazilian institutional entrepreneurship context. Chapter 4 turns toward European incubators, and explores the determinants of incubator-tenant service co-creation. Here, the focus is on the incubator's human capital and its institutional context.

PhD dissertation, Univerisity of Antwerp - Faculty of Business and Economics, 2013

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