Actors of innovation, business incubators play an essential role in the maturation of an innovative project. Present both upstream of the creation and during the life of the company, they provide project leaders with a multitude of services allowing them to get started in the best conditions. Generally, this incubator will help startups to innovate and grow. They usually provide workspace, mentorship, education and access to investors for startups or entrepreneurs.
They thus contribute to the formation of an ecosystem conducive to the emergence and development of start-ups.
Note: Innovation is not limited solely to the field of science and pure technology. Today, in particular thanks to the evolution of uses and digital technology, it is possible to bring innovations, among others, at the level of the business model, the commercial approach or in the very field of the social and solidarity economy.
What is a business incubator?
A support structure for business creation, the incubator aims to transform an innovative idea into a successful business.
Nevertheless, faced with the proliferation of structures, it is difficult today to propose a rigorous classification as they are so different in their modes of operation (public-private, private, etc.), their purposes (technology transfer, attractiveness, economic development , return on investment, etc.), their sectors of intervention (biotech, digital, robotics, etc.), their audiences (students, women, etc.) and their admission requirements.
In any case, here are the main families of business incubators that can be identified:
Their mission is to promote the transfer of technologies developed in public research laboratories through the creation of innovative companies. To know more
Incubators attached to the universities
They are present in major engineering schools such as Centrale, Polytechnique, Telecom Paris Tech, etc. and major business schools:
- Canada: The DMZ at Ryerson University
- Findland: Aalto University Startup Center
- France: HEC, EM Lyon, ESCP, etc.
- Netherlands: Utrecht University
- University of California, Berkeley
- Harvard University (Boston)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- Stanford University (California)
- University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)
The services offered vary from one structure to another. They are aimed at students and sometimes even former students.
Their field of intervention is not necessarily limited to support; some are also dedicated to raising awareness of the entrepreneurial spirit among students.
Local government incubators
They depend on a region, a metropolis, etc. to contribute to the attractiveness and economic and even social development of their territory.
They can be initiated by entrepreneurs, investors, professional associations, etc. with or without the support of public partners and large companies. Some of them take the form of accelerators.
Large business incubators
In the current context, characterized by a strong digital transformation of certain sectors, large companies have implemented open innovation strategies, in particular by creating their own incubators in order to attract new talents and resources. The objectives are multiple: improve the commercial efficiency of a product, create a new offer, promote the emergence of an intrapreneurial culture within the teams, etc.
What is an accelerator?
The first of its kind, the Y Combinator created in 2005, comes from Silicon Valley. It results from the marriage of an incubator and a seed capital investment fund. The accelerator is remunerated by taking a stake in the accelerated startups. Basically, the support period is very short, over a period of a few months, and intensive. Today, the duration of support tends to stretch according to the needs of entrepreneurs over an indefinite period.
For Maddyness, an incubator designates “a public or private structure involved in business creation and which generally accompanies the entrepreneur on his reflection around his project, the writing of a first BP and meetings with early adopters”. The accelerators are “private organizations that will become more involved in the business aspects of startups, by validating the value proposition, by supporting the preparation of the growth phases and a major fundraising“.
What kind of services are offered?
The service offer varies from one incubator to another, so it is difficult to draw up an exhaustive list. Nevertheless, it is possible to cite the most widespread:
- personalized support by one or more incubation managers,
- intervention of technical and business experts,
- access to a community of former incubates,
- accommodation at a price that may be lower than the market price,
- connecting with investors, partners, customers, beta testers, etc.
- provision of materials and services, technologies, etc.
- contribution of capital by means of an equity investment (particularity of accelerators),
Generally speaking, each incubator offers several levels of services.
Know-how: support in determining the business model, drafting the business plan, filing patents and all aspects relating to intellectual property, legal structuring and fundraising.
Resources: premises, services, materials, technologies, capital, etc.
Networking: the incubator helps the future company to understand its market and the resulting business opportunities and supports it in its search for financing thanks to its close relations with, in particular, seed funds (when it is not is not itself an accelerator).
How to integrate an incubator?
The project selection methods depend on the category of incubators targeted. It is important to know the entry criteria before applying. Some are aimed at budding projects while others are intended for companies looking for growth or even development.
The mode of admission is specific to each organization. As a general rule, the selection takes place in two phases, an application file must be sent to the incubator and then a committee selects the projects corresponding to the criteria established by each incubator.
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