On the structure of business incubators: de-coupling issues and the mis-alignment of managerial incentives
On the structure of business incubators: de-coupling issues and the mis-alignment of managerial incentives
Ali J. Ahmad 0 1
Courtney Thornberry 0 1
0 Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick , Coventry CV4 7AL , UK
1 Warwick Manufacturing Group, International Digital Laboratory, University of Warwick , Coventry CV4 7AL , UK
Business incubators are structurally complex and have resisted any major change to their internal structure, replicating throughout the world in large numbers, and delivering value through numerous models. A question, thus arises, what specific structural properties of incubators facilitate the organizational form's replication and performance in a range of institutional contexts? In order to shed light on this question, an exploratoryinductive approach is adopted; and, utilizing the tools of organization theory, the internal environment of the business incubator is de-coded. This draws attention to attributes of the hybrid incubator-form's internal structural properties that have not been discussed in the past, including de-coupling issues and the mis-alignment of managerial incentives with the actual role of incubating. These properties, rather than impacting incubators' status, award incubators with ceremonial value and help their managements avoid close inspections of performance. This in turn, it is proposed, has allowed for their rapid replication in a variety of socio- cultural, economic and institutional contexts.
Hybrid organizations; Organizational theory; Business incubator; Institutional theory
Business and technology incubators became popular in the United States in the 1980s and
have since spread throughout the world as a means of supporting the development and
growth of start-up companies and facilitating the commercialization of scientific and
technological innovations (Mas-Verdu et al. 2015; Sa´ and Lee 2012). Sometimes known by
other names, such as research parks or innovation centres (Aernoudt 2004), they operate by
providing entrepreneurs with an array of targeted resources and services such as low-cost
space, shared equipment and services, and a range of administrative, consulting and
networking. Their main objective is to produce successful firms that will leave the programme
financially viable and freestanding (Bollingtoft and Ulhoi 2012; Grimaldi and Grandi 2005;
Hackett and Dilts 2004a).
Faith in incubators is most likely based on evidence which suggests that the model is
capable of establishing SMEs at a faster rate and at a lower cost than other policy
instruments (Costa-David et al. 2002). This role is evidenced by the growing number of
incubators worldwide with positive testimonials (Khalid et al. 2014; Sanders 2014).
Business incubators-incubation is utilized by a wide range of actors (e.g., public sector
science and technology laboratories, academic institutions, development authorities and
corporations) in an array of traditional [example: for-profit, not-for-profit, hybrid (Allen
and McCluskey 1990) and campus (Mian 1997)] and new [example: virtual (Nowak and
Grantham 2000); specialist (Schwartz and Hornych 2008), and the ‘business accelerator’
(Cohen 2013)] models for purposes ranging from economic development to promotion of
technology entrepreneurship and innovation (Bruneel et al. 2012).
The above cited incubator models demonstrate interesting differences even though their
ultimate objective (irrespective of the delivery mechanism) may be the same—‘‘to support
the creation and growth of its client firms during the start-up years through value-added
contributions—the incubation process’’ (Mian 1997, p. 257). From an internal structure
standpoint, inter-model differences may emanate due to differences in the combinations,
mechanisms, intensity and proportions of services offered by different types of incubator
organizations (Clarysse et al. 2005). However, given their purpose—an organization
designed to grow other organizations—incubators have demonstrated significant structural
robustness, resisting any major change to form in nearly four decades. In essence,
following the original ethos instituted by incubator pioneers such as the Mancuso brothers
(Adkins 2002). This observation has resonated with researchers in the area who have
acknowledged incubator-incubation’s ability to consistently deliver benefits through a wide
variety of models in a range of socio, cultural, economic and institutional contexts (Khalid
et al. 2014; Sanders 2014; Bruneel et al. 2012; Aaboen 2009; Phan et al. 2005; Bergek and
Norrman 2008; Aernoudt 2004; Hackett and Dilts 2004a, b; Lewis 2002). The question
arising therefore is: what are incubators’ unique structural properties that have allowed this
organizational form to replicate around the world, and to deliver benefits in a variety of
Answering the above question is fraught with difficulty due to limitations of extant
frameworks in organization theory. Hackett and Dilts (2004b) and Ahmad (2014) have
reviewed the usefulness of a wide range of theoretical frameworks to explain the existence
and internal mechanisms of incubators, settling on the Real Options Theory and Social
Mechanisms Theory, respectively. While valuable contributions have been made around
how incubators function, unfortunately, our understanding around the reasons why
incubators are rapidly growing in numbers around the world and have been able to consistently
deliver value, despite academic criticisms (see for instance Sherman 1999; Rudy 2004;
Sofouli and Vonortas 2007; Tama´sy 2007) remains rudimentary.
In order to advance understanding in the above area, it is proposed that the knowledge
deficit on incubators’ structural properties which allow replication and efficient
functionality irrespective of context, may be remedied by utilizing the theoretical lens of hybrid
organizations. It is argued that incubators neatly fall into the category of hybrid
organizations such as associations, educational organizations, collaborative outsourcing,
franchising, cooperatives, partnerships, business groups, subcontracting, and co-opetition on
which useful theoretical advances have been made (Jolink and Niesten 2012; Borys and
Jemison 1989). Research in the area of hybrid organizations falls within the wider body of
knowledge often referred to as ‘organization theory’, and focuses on the formation,
functioning and implications of hybrids. Thus, advances in the area of hybrids are likely to
benefit in the development of explanatory theory in the area of incubators-incubation as
well. Following on from this proposition, the aim in this paper is to contribute new
explanatory theory which draws attention to incubators’ structural properties, which
facilitate its replication and performance in a range of contexts. The paper’s major
contribution comes from case study-based research conducted at two incubators in Dublin,
Ireland. Results are grounded in concepts from hybrid theory which explain aspects of
The paper is organized as follows: in the next review section work on hybrid
organizations and structural properties of incubators is surveyed with the presentation of key
highlights and gaps in understanding. Next, this research’s methodology is presented,
which includes a clarification of its theoretical lens, and details on data collection and
analysis methods. In the following analysis section, two themes are drawn from the
analysis work and are elaborated upon using data and previous literature. In the discussion
section, the key outcomes and contributions of the research are highlighted and finally, in
the conclusion section, the research’s limitations are acknowledged and recommendations
for further inquiry are made.
2 Literature review
2.1 Hybrid organizations
The rapid and unpredictable change in the environment of organizations (Hoffmann 2007)
in the last decades has led to a substantial increase in the number of inter-organizational
collaborations, leading to the formation of hybrids (Bercovitz and Feldman 2007; Capaldo
and Petruzzelli 2011). Jolink and Niesten (2012) have proposed a definition of hybrids
which explains their formation, functioning and implications. Their definition is based on
key insights gained from recent literature on hybrids that used a variety of theoretical
perspectives in combination with agency and property rights theory, transaction cost
economics (TCE) and the resource-based view. They suggest that organizations become
hybrids to create value and to more efficiently share resources, where it would be important
to consider a combination of all the issues that are raised by each of the above theories
separately. Decisions must be taken on the best means to achieve efficient collaboration
and coordination; this would involve safeguarding against contractual hazards to a
reduction of transaction costs, the organizing of information in a way so as to reduce
agency costs, and entering into re-contracting to allocate residual claims. Thus, they define
hybrids as: ‘‘collaborations between independent organizations that exchange and
co-develop goods and services to create value, reduce agency and transaction costs and allocate
residual claims, by combining resources, organizing information, and safeguarding
contractual hazards and property rights’’ (Jolink and Niesten 2012, p. 4). This definition
applies well to business incubators as they have been viewed as hybrid networked
organizational forms, emerging as a result of territorial synergy, physical proximity, relational
symbiosis, and economies of scale (Bollingtoft and Ulhoi 2005).
Battilana et al. (2015) extend the above definition and propose that hybrids are: ‘‘those
enterprises that design their business models based on the alleviation of a particular social
or environmental issue’’. They clarify that income and capital are generated from either
for-profit models, non-profit models or a mixture of both. This definition would suggest
that the hybrid nature of the business was also motivated by ethical issues, as well as the
useful aspect of resource-sharing. Once again, this definition too applies to incubators;
incubator-incubation researchers have long stressed that the primary motivation behind
not-for-profit incubators, which is the predominant model for incubators, has been on job
creation and the upliftment of local communities through the promotion of entrepreneurial
risk taking (Hongyi et al. 2007; Hughes et al. 2007; Cooper and Park 2008; Ndabeni 2008).
The literature on hybrids which utilized organization theory has contributed a number of
useful insights and offers explanations for the formation, functioning and implications of
hybrids based on distinct sets of theoretical characteristics (Jolink and Niesten 2012). Such
explanations include why firms engage in this (hybrid) type of organizational form
(formation), the different kinds of mechanisms that maintain the hybrid form of organization
(functioning), and the impact or performance of the organizational form (implications).
The theoretical lenses that researchers have favoured to explain the
formation-functioningimplications of hybrids have been largely similar to those used for traditional
organizations, and include agency theory, property rights theory, transaction cost economics (TCE)
and the resource-based view (Barney and Hesterly 2006).
First, studies demonstrate that rules and regulations in the institutional environment
influence the formation of hybrids (Barretta 2008). Second, the environment has a direct
impact on the functioning of hybrid organizations, and that hybrids serve as safeguards for
transactions where the institutional environment does not perform this function (Me´nard
2010; Lyon 2006; Yvrande-Billon and Me´nard 2005). Third, institutional environments
also enable hybrids to create value, but also have the potential of creating performance
problems (Raynaud et al. 2009; Ulset 2008). Fourth, the alignment of governance with
technology and strategy are important for the functioning of hybrids (Raynaud et al. 2009).
Fifth, the network perspective suggests that hybrids endeavour to become the focal firm in
a network in order to increase its value and to attract future alliance partners. Firms in a
network with a high degree of resource interdependence are likely to collaborate to form
hybrids (Ozcan and Eisenhardt 2009). Sixth, the literature on trust emphasizes that
preexisting trust relations in a network determine the formation of new alliances. Woolthuis
et al. (2005) suggest that trust is the intentions of a firm’s partner towards their relationship,
particularly in refraining from opportunism. They report that when there is no fear of
opportunism, contracts do not include clauses on the protection of property rights.
Conversely, when there is a high chance of opportunism, safeguards on property rights are
included in the alliance contract. The functioning of hybrids is dependent on trust to ensure
the disclosure of knowledge by the other contracting party, or to continue and renew the
relationship (Woolthuis et al. 2005).
When it comes to incubators, and specifically to the aim of this research which deals
with their internal structural properties, it is proposed that the above perspectives which
highlight the importance of strategic alignment between governance and technology
(which could also be non-technical rules and procedures on how to get work done) and
trust are most helpful.
The next section will consider what is known about the structures of business incubators
and establish the research gap when conceptualising business incubators as a form of
2.2 Structural properties of business incubators
A recent content analysis and review on business incubator literature published from 1985
to 2012 indicated a vast majority of publications (56%) focus on the creation and effects of
business incubators in an entrepreneurial environment (Perdomo et al. 2014). Due to the
varied nature of research in this area, the authors stressed the need for an improved
structure of further research on business internal structures. Structure here is viewed as the
‘‘established pattern of relationships among the parts of the organization’’ (French et al.
1985, p. 348). Exploration into current business incubator research shows no explicit work
with regards to the actual organizational structure of organization. A few publications
focus on the specifics of main attributes and classifications of business incubators, namely;
services and strategies, knowledge structure, networking and cooperation (Perdomo et al.
2014) and the role of the incubator management/manager (Ahmad and Ingle 2011; Ahmad
2014). These attributes can be considered as contributing factors to the overall structure of
a business incubator, and contributions by incubator-incubation scholars in these three
areas are reviewed below.
2.2.1 Services and strategies
Bergek and Norrman (2008) identified three main types of services that tenants can
access from a business incubator; (1) infrastructure, which is use of physical facilities
such as buildings and equipment; (2) business support; that is consulting and expert
advice from incubator employees and (3) mediation; that is a network with potential
partners and collaborators outside the incubator. Robinson and Stubberud (2014)
investigated the use of these services and found that the sharing of knowledge was more
common than sharing or using facilities. They suggested that, in some instances,
educational or mentoring programs may be more cost effective than incubators. They
acknowledged, however, that incubators are still young and much more research needs to
be conducted to truly understand their value. Vanderstraeten and Matthyssens (2012)
considered the strategies that needed to be applied to help differentiate incubators to their
tenants. Two interesting findings from their research include (1) diversified incubators
may lead to more success than specialized ones and (2) the aspect of co-creating of value
with the tenant is key to success. This ability to create value is supported by the
knowledge structure of the incubator.
2.2.2 Knowledge structure
A core competency of a business incubator is the knowledge it is able to share with tenants.
It is also a core structure of a business incubator and critical to consider to understand the
overall structure of the organization. Aaboen (2009) argues that there are two main types of
knowledge, technical and client. Client knowledge can encompass the specific details
known about the tenant, as well as the relevant market and business knowledge needed to
achieve success. Rubin et al. (2015) follow a similar theme, though instead presenting three
types of knowledge from their research; technological, market and financial. This further
categorizes client knowledge into understanding of the market and knowledge of business
and financial structures. Knowledge was found to be the essential attribute of networks in a
study conducted by Zhang et al. (2016), as they found that specific knowledge structures of
an incubator, that is channels through which knowledge is shared and used, affects
innovation activities. This contributes directly to both networking and cooperation
activities that take place in incubators.
2.2.3 Networking and cooperation
Networking impacts the success of cooperative activities in business incubators. Schwartz
and Hornych (2010) investigated the cooperative patterns of 150 German incubators to
better understand how networking contributed. They found no great different between two
main types of incubators, those that specialize in a particular market or industry, and those
that are more diversified in their skill set. Additionally, they found that informal
networking was the strongest attribute that led to successful cooperative activities, which was
established through a strong feeling of trust and promoted by incubator management.
Scillitoe and Chakrabarti (2010) also considered networking in their study of American
and Finnish incubators. Counselling and networking were differentiated in their work; they
found that networking helped ventures with technological-know skills whereas
counselling, mainly from incubator management, assisted more with business understanding.
A particular point of interest within the literature about networking and cooperation is
the focus on incubator management and the role it plays in the success of the incubator
overall (Schwartz and Hornych 2010; Scillitoe and Chakrabarti 2010).
2.2.4 The incubator management/manager
Incubator management (IM) as a role is not as well defined when compared to roles in
other professions such as Chartered Accounting, Actuarial Science or Law. In the absence
of a recognized academic or industrial qualification for incubator managers, incubator
professionals often rely on imagination, previous business experience and by learning on
the job (SUMMIT-II 2010). Practitioner literature time and again emphasizes that the
success of an incubator is heavily dependent on the person appointment as the Manager.
The NBIA recommends, for instance, three principal qualities of an IM: (1) must be a good
‘people manager’ since the IM simultaneously needs to manage the Incubator Board,
stakeholders, staff and clients; (2) should have entrepreneurial experience, having
succeeded or failed in starting his/her own business (preferably in the targeted industries) so
that client firms can relate to and respect the individual; and (3) must be a good
communicator since a really critical task for the IM is to promote the incubation programme in
all kinds of business settings and to market it to different stakeholders, including the client
firms (Boyd 2006).
Although there is no accepted code defining the precise role and accompanying tasks of
an incubator manager, practitioner literature suggests the importance of leadership qualities
(UKBI 2001; Byrne 2005; NBIA 2008). The effectiveness of leadership styles has long
been a topic of discussion in both academic and practitioner circles (Howell and Avolio
1992; Avolio and Bass 1995; Avolio 1999). A majority of managers exhibit components of
several different leadership styles such as transformational behavior, contingent reward
leadership and management-by-exception leadership (Bass and Steidlmeier 1999),
therefore, it becomes difficult to precisely point-point an individual manager’s exhibited style.
However, researchers agree that effective leadership in any role requires a manager to be
adept at a number of common skills such as being able to develop and coach subordinates,
communicate clearly, resolve conflicts, analyze problems, make sound decisions, be able to
respond to work challenges in a positive way, use time efficiently, and delegate work
(Davis et al. 1996).
The incubator managers must demonstrate the above qualities as part of their work at
the incubator, helping nascent entrepreneurs identify opportunities and take reasonable
risks to grow their enterprises (Todorovic and Moenter 2010).
2.3 Concluding remarks
Considering the definitions of hybrid organizations has helped to clarify their connection
with business incubators. Business incubators, like all hybrid organizations create value
through resource sharing, achieved from efficient collaboration and coordination;
especially through the networks they are able to establish for their tenants and from the internal
and external knowledge they access. Although we have descriptive information through the
efforts of previous researchers on incubators’ services and strategies, knowledge structure,
networking and cooperation and the role of the incubator management/manager; what is
presently unclear is the nature of work inside the incubator organization, and the manner in
which the incubator creates value and is able to maintain its internal organizational form
through (1) integration (the way activities are coordinated), (2) differentiation (the way
tasks are divided), (3) the structure of the hierarchical relationships (authority systems),
and (4) the formalised policies, procedures, and controls that guide the organization
(administrative systems). It is proposed that focusing on the above themes will help in
shedding light on a number of interesting structural properties of incubators including
decoupling and mis-alignment of managerial incentives—aspects which introduce
uncertainty, information asymmetry and contracting complexities.
The primary aim in the empirical component of this research is to highlight aspects of
incubators’ internal structure and environment that contribute to the formation of a hybrid
form of organizational coordination and control. This will help in explaining how
incubators have been able to not only maintain the internal structure, but also effectively
replicate it in various geographical environments, which would also imply institutional
contexts. Given the research’s raison d’eˆtre, the case study provides the necessary
methodological framework for a reliable and in-depth investigation of incubators’ internal
environment. The case study is a methodologically flexible approach to research design
that focuses on a particular case—whether an individual, a collective or a phenomenon of
interest. It is known as the ‘study of the particular’ for its thorough investigation of
particular, real-life situations (Rosenberg and Yates 2007). Thus, the methodology fits in
well with the research’s Interpretivist worldview.
The ‘‘instrumental case study’’ was most suitable considering the objective and
requirements of this research. Here the case itself is secondary to understanding a particular
phenomenon, therefore, the focus will remain on the ‘internal structure’ rather than a
particular ‘incubator organization’ enacting that process. It offers thick descriptions of a
particular site, individual or group (multi-unit analysis).
3.1 Case selection approach and criteria
The case study was deliberately constructed so as to maximize the opportunities for
learning through cross-case comparison. The approach of using multiple cases for
comparative analysis has a number of advantages over single case studies. For instance, only a
comparative approach can help in identifying client selection approaches that maybe
specific to particular types of incubator organizations. Comparative analyses allow for
prescriptive learning, such as looking at what management techniques or approaches can
be transferred across models. Finally, comparative studies bring more rigor to research
allowing the testing of generalizations such as dominant management models and
According to Yin (2009), when using multiple cases, case selection must lead to either
(a) the prediction of similar results (a literal replication); or (b) the development of
contrasting results but for predictable reasons (a theoretical replication). In this research,
the aim of the multiple case selection strategy was to compare and contrast results or
The problem of generalization associated with qualitative case study research has been
due to the simplified understanding of the concept where it is generally assumed that a
sample of cases has been drawn from a larger universe of cases. Thus, the incorrect
terminology ‘‘small sample’’ arises, as though a single-case study were a single respondent.
Yin (2009) argues that the confusion arises when one is unable to differentiate between
‘analytic generalization’ and ‘statistical generalization’. Yin refuted this criticism by
clearly differentiating analytic generalization from statistical. In statistical generalization,
an inference is made about a population (or universe) on the basis of empirical data
collected about a sample (such as via surveys). In analytical generalization, previously
developed theory is used as a template against which to compare the empirical results of
the case study, in other words, the investigator is striving to generalize a particular set of
results to some broader theory (Yin 2009).
It was believed that for the twin case strategies of analytic generalization and
theoretical replication, results from two cases sufficed. Collection of data from the participants
in the case organizations continued until data saturation points were reached (i.e. no new
information came forth). The chosen case organizations are discussed in the following
3.2 About the case organizations
The research took place in Dublin-Ireland. The Republic of Ireland began investing
much later in incubators when compared to other EU nations. At the time of data
collection (2010–2011), Ireland was investing heavily in setting up business incubators,
the policy environment favoured the setup of incubation facilities at all tertiary
educational institutions (universities and polytechs) in the Country as a matter of priority.
Thus, the enthusiasm around incubators-incubation was quite high, incubator managers
and client firms were willing to engage with researchers and to share insights, and new
models and best practices were being experimented with. These conditions presented
a viable research incentive; an opportunity to examine an interesting and developing
phenomenon where the likelihood of finding novel outcomes was higher in comparison
to other developed tier 1 EU nation states whose incubation systems were older and
According to the 2014 report on Entrepreneurship in Ireland prepared by the
Government (Entrepreneurship in Ireland 2014), there are two different types of incubators in the
Country providing start-up support. These include:
University Campus Incubators These are incubators linked to either 3rd level institutes
of higher education or the various institutes of technologies (ITs) in Ireland. The idea
behind the establishment of these entities was to support academic researchers to take
the outputs of research with commercial potential and bring it to a point where it can
be transferred into industry or be commercialized. The client-mix at these facilities is,
therefore, inclined towards the sciences or engineering. The incubators are usually set
up as independent entities with a % of shareholding (in terms of equity input) of both
university-IT (where equity contributed is usually land/space) and EI. There are 30
such facilities across the country, of which 5 specialize in bio-technology
Community Enterprise Centres These are rooted in the local community, and their
objective is generally to provide local employment through the generation and support
of local enterprise. They have, in most part, been established by local communities on
a mostly self-help basis with support, at times, from local County Enterprise Boards.
These facilities are mixed-use incubators catering to wide array of small business
sectors and are not usually purpose built. They provide office space, commercial
kitchen space, work shop space alongside advice, training, mentoring and other
support services such as reception desk, conferencing, mail handling, shared internet,
cafeteria and so on. There are 120 such facilities (NACEC 2015).
Two of the largest and oldest incubators from the above categories were selected for this
research. DubInc—a mixed-use business incubator (a community enterprise centre)
representing the traditional model of business incubation and IncuWorks—a
universitycampus based hi-tech incubator.
DubInc was established in the mid-1980s as a result of a decision at a large public meeting
organized by a local community in Dublin. The community met to decide on options to
remedy the significant problem unemployment in the area. The answer at the time was
proposed by a visiting foreign consultant and backed by a number of public-spirited local
businessmen. The idea came from the US, where local volunteers offered their expertise to
unemployed people, helping them become entrepreneurs. The suggested vehicle was an
‘Enterprise Centre’ would be set up to supply offices, work space and communal secretarial
services. It was agreed that the initiative’s key objective would be ‘job creation’ and
The Centre had eight staff members who provided advisory and administrative support
to client businesses. The services offered by DubInc can be categorized in a number of
ways: according to their various types of clients; the type of service itself (such as
infrastructural or advice-based or a combination); whether they were free or charged;
whether they were exclusive to a particular category or available across the board and so
on. These included:
One-to-One Business Advice and Guidance
Assistance with business planning
Assistance with funding applications
Business network meetings
The two significant revenue streams for the Centre were rentals paid by incubation
clients and the array of training courses offered. A diverse mix of clients was based at
DubInc with a range of backgrounds, industry exposure, experience and business models,
belonging to industries such as power/energy, information technology, publishing,
insurance, optics, food and construction.
IncuWorks was based at a prominent Dublin university. Its Board had been mandated to
function under the broad strategic outlook of the hosting university’s innovation strategy.
The physical facility was located within the University confines in an up-market area of
Dublin city with close proximity to the city centre, bookshops, banks, restaurants, sports
and other facilities. Since its inception, IncuWorks had been recognized both locally and
internationally through a number of awards as a high quality and effective organization.
Staff complement was approximately 15 professionals responsible for overall
leadership, operations, enterprise development, technology transfer and intellectual property
protection, communication, continuing professional development, facilities management
and administration. Supporting the Enterprise Development function was an outside
network of experts and specialist firms.
IncuWorks offered a range of services in its areas of operation. An exhaustive listing of
services will not be instructive since they were flexible and tailored to suit the needs of a
particular client. Its revenue came from only one major source: client rentals. IncuWorks
attracted clients in the hi-tech sector and its support programmes were designed for their
requirements. Rental pricing was competitive and based at par or slightly below existing
commercial letting rates in its vicinity.
3.3 Data collection and analysis
The tables below present details on the interview subjects at DubInc and IncuWorks
respectively. A client numbering system was developed which places DubInc clients in the
range of 1–20 and IncuWorks clients in the range of 21–39. This allows the tracing of
specific quotes used in the analysis back to particular respondents (Tables 1, 2).
Data was collected over a period of approximately 6 months at each case organization
during weekly visits. A research plan was drawn up in coordination with the incubator
manager (IM), the point of contact, which contained scheduling details on a series of
semistructured, face-to-face interviews with both clients (business founders) and members of
the incubator organization. The purpose of these interviews was to obtain an understanding
of participants’ perception of the incubation process, how it unfolded for their firm and the
internal normative environment of the incubator. With support from the IM, emails were
sent to clients to confirm the schedule. In addition to interviews, the research plan included
the attendance of the researcher at a number of up-coming ‘incubation’ events taking place
in the incubator.
A total of 68 interviews (11 with members of incubator managements and 57 with
clients) were conducted, recorded and transcribed, each lasting 35–45 min. An ‘interview
Table 1 DubInc interview subjects
guide’ was prepared using previous literature and keeping in mind the major aim of the
research. The approach to interviewing was semi-structured and was informed by Patton
(1990). In addition to semi-structured formally arranged interviews, more informal
exchanges during numerous chance encounters with clients also occurred, for instance, at
the incubator’s cafeteria or at the reception desk. Any notable points arising out of these
discussions were duly recorded in a field diary. This diary was also used to record
observations and to chronicle thoughts, feelings, experiences and perceptions of the
researchers throughout the research process. In addition, a field log was also utilized
providing a detailed account of the various ways in which time was spent when on-site.
During each visit, in addition to the scheduled face-to-face interviews with clients and
other members of the incubator organization, there was a 30 min meeting with the IM also
arranged. The purpose was to factor-in perceptions from both IMs and clients which
allowed the researchers to juxtapose data and draw more nuanced conclusions.
Eisenhardt and Graebner (2007) suggest that theory building from qualitative research is
an inductive process. The focus was to extract meaning in complex qualitative data through
Table 2 IncuWorks interview subjects
the development of summary themes or categories from raw data through a process of data
reduction. In order to induct meaning from case data, the qualitative data analysis rules
recommended by Miles and Huberman (1984) were followed. These authors point out that
careful descriptions of events, people and settings is one of the most important
contributions of qualitative research. This requires an interpretive and analytic effort to illuminate
the constant, influential and determining events which shape the course of events. Hence,
qualitative data analysis would be a formalized yet creative process (Miles and Huberman
4 Analysis of findings
4.1 Nature of work
The Incubator Manager’s (IM) role as a manager and leader is multi-faceted and complex.
When analyzing the IM’s nature of work, two distinct areas of intervention become
apparent; (a) the role as manager-leader of the incubator staff and organization (corporate
and physical); and (b) the role as a mentor-coach to incubation clients. The responsibility,
accountability, incentives and rewards associated with these two areas are different, and
the IM is usually on a tightrope in order to ensure that the allocation of energy and time to
corporate versus incubation activities is in accordance with the expectations set out by the
incubator’s Board of Directors. For the IM, like any top-tier manager, meeting the Board’s
expectations and achieving set targets is linked to compensation and promotion. Therefore,
IM time allocation should be impacted by the way in which Board strategic targets are tied
in with IM incentives.
The Board, however, are only able to effectively govern (and as a consequence
evaluate) the IM’s corporate role, since associated outputs are usually in the form of tangible
numeric indicators, such as % growth in revenue or implementation of a certain
infrastructural upgrade scheme. Evaluating the IM’s incubation-related role is much more
difficult to evaluate due to the problem associated with identifying and putting a measure on
intangible indicators. For instance, the DubInc IM stated:
[DubInc IM] …Putting a dollar value on our work is unrealistic…I mean…how will
the allocation of three hours of joint-planning time with an IT client be weighed in
comparison to one hour of commenting on a food sector client’s business plan?…
[IncuWorks IM] …My work with clients is quite difficult to precisely document…a
lot happens during a typical day, week and month…from a conversation in the
cafeteria, to an email exchange…it would take a lot of my time capturing all these
interventions…it would not be practical…
A significant part of the IMs’ work related to building a community orientated ethos
within the incubator and to project such an image to outside stakeholders, the wider
community and potential new clients. Further, both IMs believed that the most complex
part of their work was building trust with clients, where there was need for them to be
viewed as not only subject experts who were technically competent but also as individuals
who were genuinely interested in clients’ welfare:
[DubInc IM] …It is essential that we are seen as a community orientated
organization, everything we do here is about ensuring that our reputation for promoting
new start-ups and employment opportunities is maintained…over the past two
decades or so we have built the local community’s confidence, and when people
apply here for space, it is on this very basis…
[IncuWorks IM] …We have had a number of positive evaluation results which we
publicize widely…but to be honest to succeed as an incubator means to succeed in
building clients’ trust…business start-up is a difficult process, entrepreneurs can be
difficult individuals, sharing internal details about IP and future plans openly requires
that we build in clients a degree of confidence…this is a very subtle skill…
It was found that much of the value that clients derived from incubation had little to do
with the efficiency of developmental activities. Measuring what clients learn and the
impact of that learning on economic growth targets and what IMs are actually
delivering/contributing introduces unnecessary uncertainty, and creates doubts about the
effectiveness of the status structure of the incubator organization. Even if indicators and
measures were developed, due to the randomness and complexity inherent in incubation,
capturing and logging precise details (for later appraisal) is likely to lead to a high cost
administrative overload. By minimizing resources devoted to coordination and control, the
incubator furthers its ability to increase the ceremonial worth of its contribution to client
firm development and ‘‘success’’.
Amongst the most important indicators by which IM performance was judged at DubInc
(in the absence of external assured income), was ensuring that the organization generates
enough revenue on a month-to-month basis to meet its short and long term financial
commitments. Assuring performance on this key indicator meant that the IM’s energy and
time was diverted to a variety of corporate revenue generating activities such as funding
and developing community schemes, marketing training programmes and running short
courses. The IM’s compensation and benefits were linked to the liquidity situation of
DubInc and not strictly to how well client firms were performing (which ought to be, by
some standards, the real IM performance indicator). Interestingly, the DubInc IM, realized
that the above had the potential to tarnish organizational reputation:
[DubInc IM] ‘‘…We do a lot of work with our existing clients and people walking in
but there is no way to show the impact of all this effort…we want to start compiling
data about our clients and the progress they make…so when we present our case to
Enterprise Ireland we will have concrete figures…’’
The IM had, therefore, commissioned a software company to implement a tracking and
monitoring system to log incubation activity. This system (under design when the research
was conducted) was to contain client firm data in the form of profiles created on the day of
first contact till the time a client graduated. It is important to note that this new software
system was exclusively for incubation and was in no way meant to be connected to the
incubator’s corporate accounting, payroll, inventory and other systems.
Unlike DubInc, at IncuWorks a number of incubation-focused key performance
indicators for the IM did exist. The IM’s role (as described) was ‘‘tech. transfer from
University to spin-outs’’. Towards the accomplishment of this primary role, a number of
key performance indicators (monitored on a yearly basis) were allocated to the IM
including: (1) number of new spin-outs created; (2) number of new desk space clients
inducted; (3) number of new unit clients inducted; (4) number of feasibility grants acquired
from Enterprise Ireland; and (5) seed funding/capital raised by new clients. These
indicators are meant to report actual performance not actual performance versus set targets. In
other words, at the strategic level, there were apparently no firm targets set out on a yearly
basis including how many new spin outs were to be created or how many new unit clients
were to be inducted.
According to the IncuWorks’ IM, the performance indicators were reviewed annually,
however, it was not revealed whether there were any consequences for non-performance.
Due to our new understanding of incubators based on the concept of de-coupling, it may be
argued that even with the presence of key performance indicators, the IncuWorks’ IM’s
true role remained largely uncontrolled and unmonitored. Consider the efficacy of the
indicator—‘‘number of new spin-outs created’’; a number, let us assume ‘3’ new spin-outs,
what does it really tell us about the precise role and contribution of the IM? Similarly, the
number of new desk space and unit clients inducted may or may not have anything to do
with the IM’s effort. Numerically, how will the IM’s contribution by way of a VC
introduction be delineated from the (hypothetically speaking) €500 000 of seed capital
raised by a client? Thus, the indicators are not true measures of IM performance and this
fact has also been brought out in practitioner literature and surveys (UKBI 2006).
4.2 Incubator management and incubation management
The IM job description breaks down the task of ‘incubator management’ into two basic
categories: (1) corporate activities aimed at running the organization like a business; and
(2) activities focused on helping client firms grow. The IMs at the case organizations, when
asked what the requirements of the role were, responded as follows:
[DubInc IM] ‘‘…My job requires a number of things of me, I am here to progress
DubInc’s vision and mission of local community development through the promotion
of an enterprise culture, I am responsible for the overall management of the facility
and for making plans for its expansion and to provide whatever support we can to our
[IncuWorks IM] ‘‘…I will have to say that tech-transfer from the University (hosting
institution) to the market is my key role. This requires the identification of
intellectual property, working with our scientists and researchers to develop commercial
proposals and business plans and then help in raising funding and launching their
businesses…it is a whole cycle. Besides this I am required to monitor and facilitate
the progress of our existing clients, organise the CCDP programme, attend
networking meetings and widen our service network, work with my other colleagues to
organising trainings and promote our client companies in local and international
The following quotes show what the IM’s felt were key aspects of their role:
[DubInc IM] ‘‘…My most useful aspect is my commercial background as
manager….working in various organizations in different capacities…this helps me
strategising with our clients and coordinating everything…’’
[DubInc IM] ‘‘…The greatest influence I have on client firms is in the day-to-day
stuff that allows them to get on with their business…remove worries…’’
[IncuWorks IM] ‘‘…My academic background helps build a rapport with our clients,
especially spin-ins, because they feel that I can emphatically understand the
unpredictable process of commercialising scientific research…’’
[IncuWorks IM] ‘‘…Helping companies to understand the need to be innovative at
all times and not being fixed on only one product or aspect of the business…’’
[DubInc IM] ‘‘…Would like to spend more time with clients but as you can see I
wear a number of different hats…’’
While the DubInc IM’s tasks fall into both the above categories (corporate and
incubation), evidence showed that IncuWorks’ IM’s role is much more focused on the second
category i.e. incubation activities aimed at helping client firms grow. Corporate and
administrative responsibilities fell into the Director’s domain who was assisted by a variety
of specialized staff. Therefore, in judging and planning the incubator management role, it
is apparent that balances need to be struck between:
Premises management and client support services
The provision of day-to-day help and strategic inputs
The focus on the current and potential client firms and focus on local and regional
In the absence of an incubation profession regulatory body (like those that regulate the
medical, accounting and actuarial professions) time allocation to the above three categories
of ‘competing priorities’ by IMs is usually a reflection of Board expectations and the IM’s
‘personal leadership style’. The ‘leadership style’ aspect seems to have a very strong
bearing on client attitudes towards incubation. The IM-Client dyadic relationship is quite
closely related to the IM’s leadership and management style and impacts whether or not a
client decides to work with the IM. To illustrate, a number of clients stated:
[Client 9] ‘‘…Contact with the IM has been informal with good access…lots of
interaction…(gender ref. removed) is quite approachable and easy-to-talk-to…’’
[Client 31] ‘‘…Relationships are good…the IM takes an interest in the growth of the
firm, introduced us to other clients and has helped us identify customers…this a good
[Client 39] ‘‘…I sometimes get useful nuggets of information by talking with the
management here, but I personally don’t know the IM at all…’’
[Client 16] ‘‘…The relationship between us and the Centre is sticky…I feel they
don’t consider clients as proper customers…there is a need for a bit more
professionalism…I would not treat my customers like the Centre treats its clients…’’
[Client 28] ‘‘…I have never felt any unease in approaching the IM or other staff
here…they are not pushy…we can talk whenever needed…but it is quite rare that I’d
approach the IM with a business problem because we have our own network and
there is a lot of support from the parent company…’’
(Client 4] ‘‘…I think it makes a big difference if the IM is emphatic, experienced and
has good contact…there is a need to build trust and rapport without which I don’t
think there will a chance to move forward…here I suppose the IM needs to come
across as interested and proactive…otherwise how would we know…’’
Based on the client quotes above, and other confidential client firm feedback, dyadic
coproduction would be greatly enhanced if the IM displayed emphatic behavior, showed a
keenness to devote personal time, had domain (market, sectoral and technical) knowledge
and had a dense network of useful and resourceful contacts. If these important ingredients
were missing in an IM’s leadership style, clients felt that the role of the IM would become
irrelevant and it was likely that dyadic co-production would greatly slow down or halt
altogether. The importance of these IM leadership attributes became prominent when
clients were requested to compare the leadership and management styles of one of the case
organization’s previous IMs with the recently appointed new IM. In the words of clients:
[Client 19] ‘‘…X (previous IM) was I am sure a very nice person but seemed very
formal and reserved, was usually in the office with the door closed, we did not really
have much contact, perhaps once a week in the corridor when we’d see each other
and wave hello or something…but since Y (the new IM) took over, things are very
different, (gender ref. removed) comes to my office every week, sends out
personalised emails regularly, is very friendly and seems keen…I think age also makes a
difference…we are like peers now…’’
[Client 14] ‘‘…the culture here is entirely different since Y (the new IM) took over,
there is much more openness and rapport, it feels more like an incubator
now…previously I’d say it was somewhat like a commercial office let…’’
Ultimately, the leadership style of IMs has an important bearing on the range and
quantum of dyadic co-production (Ahmad and Ingle 2011). The greater the degrees of
perceived empathy, proactivity, domain knowledge and network density, the greater are the
chances that clients will engage in developmental co-production. Previous practitioner
research has highlighted that there is no clear evidence that the skills and time inputted to
face-to-face involvement with clients and the leadership/management style of the IM have
direct influence on the development of incubator clients as a whole (UKBI 2001).
However, this research has found that there are examples where the amount of time spent with
individual clients, and/or where the level and type of intervention is higher, leads to greater
benefits being perceived by clients. Clients and graduated firms regard support and
encouragement from the IM very highly. Even though the IM’s personal involvement may
not be a direct cause of improved business performance for all clients, the IM remains
significant in terms of the clients feeling recognised and appreciated within the incubator.
In the Literature Review section, it was proposed that given their purpose—an organization
designed to grow other organizations—incubators, as hybrid organizations, are much more
complex than the conventional firm model put forth by heterodox theories of the firm.
However, what was lacking in extant literature were explanations for why incubators were
able to effectively maintain and replicate their structures in a wide variety of
sociocultural, economic and institutional contexts, delivering value. The research’s contribution
towards this interesting area comes from two lines of argument which provide valid
explanations for why, despite negative evaluations and other methodological issues in
establishing the incubator model’s true value as a policy instrument for new venture
creation, governments around the world continue to invest significant sums of capital in
setting up and running business incubators to solve problems related to economic
regeneration. These two contributions are highlighted in the sections below:
5.1 Implications arising out of structural de-coupling
Like some other hybrid organizations (such as universities and social movement
organizations for instance), incubators function with ‘‘structural de-coupling’’—the idea that the
creation and maintenance of gaps between formal policies and actual organizational
practices allows certain types of organizations to function. De-coupling has been observed
in a variety of organizations, including educational organizations (Meyer and Rowan 1978;
Delucchi 2000), corporations (Westphal and Zajac 2001), government agencies (Lines
2005), and social movement organizations (Elsbach and Sutton 1992).
De-coupling occurs in instances where organizational control does not affect all areas of
activity equally, and at times structure is disconnected from technical (work) activity, and
activity is disconnected from its effects (Meyer and Rowan 1978). In other words,
decoupling of structure is the idea that the creation and maintenance of gaps between formal
policies and actual organizational practices allows certain types of organizations to
function. It is proposed that structural de-coupling is inherent to incubators where the
major activity of the incubator organization (incubation) tends to be disconnected from
organizational control structures and the activity itself is disconnected from its true
There were varying degrees of structural de-coupling observed in the two case
organizations, impacted by the IM’s task variety and key performance indicators. It is proposed
that levels of de-coupling influence a particular leadership style to emerge, thereby,
influencing incubation strategy (dormant, proactive or reactive) and incubation approach
(coaching or mentoring). In incubators with high levels of de-coupling, the focus of IM
activity would be organizational self-preservation and bolstering legitimacy and reputation.
This is at a cost of devoting time and resources to the core purpose of the incubator—
incubating. Lower levels of de-coupling is likely to have an opposite effect i.e. a greater
IM focus on the core organizational activity due to higher levels of accountability,
monitoring, tie-in of IM incentives to incubating, clearer definition of the IM’s role and the
presence of alternate ‘resources’ to manage the incubator firm or corporation.
De-coupling within incubators serves to bolster legitimacy and reputation. Incubators
avoid close inspections because elaborate displays of confidence and trust can increase the
commitments of internal participants. By agreeing that IMs have incubation delivery
competence, maximum social responsibility for upholding the ethos of incubation goes to
the IMs. This enables incubator organizations to gain legitimacy with their external
constituents while simultaneously maintaining internal flexibility to address practical
considerations. By avoiding close inspections and through elaborate displays of confidence
and trust, commitments of internal members increase. By assuming that incubator
managers (IM) are competent at incubating, maximum social responsibility for upholding the
ethos of incubation becomes the IMs’ responsibility. This in turn allows for the
maintenance of the incubator’s internal structure, and allows for easy replication in a variety of
5.2 Mis-alignment of managerial incentives with the actual work of incubating
The complex and nearly impossible-to-monitor work of the IM raises a number of
interesting points, such as, what is truly required of an incubator manager?; and, whether
personal leadership style has any impact on incubation ethos, strategy and triggers? It is
proposed that the personal leadership style, personality and behavioral traits of the IM have
tremendous bearing on the overall quality, levels and intensity of developmental assistance
activity at an incubator organization. The effectiveness of leadership styles has long been a
topic of discussion in both academic and practitioner circles (Howell and Avolio 1992;
Avolio and Bass 1995; Avolio 1999). Most managers exhibit components of several
different leadership styles such as transformational behavior, contingent reward leadership
and management-by-exception leadership (Bass and Steidlmeier 1999), therefore, it
becomes difficult to precisely point-point an individual manager’s exhibited style.
However, researchers agree that effective leadership in any role requires a manager to be adept
at a number of common skills such as being able to develop and coach subordinates,
communicate clearly, resolve conflicts, analyze problems, make sound decisions, be able to
respond to work challenges in a positive way, use time efficiently, and delegate work
(Davis et al. 1996).
It is proposed that building and nurturing an IM-Client relationship is much more
difficult than building more conventional familial or professional relationships such as
those between a VC-entrepreneur and landlord-tenant. The IM operates in a number of
different capacities, at a number of different levels, and as a consequence maintains several
different relationships with clients including that of landlord, shareholder, mentor, referee
and broker. Depending on the nature of the IM-Client dyadic relationship, the IM must
wear a number of different ‘hats’ simultaneously whilst maintaining enough levels of
rapport to facilitate dyadic co-production. An upset in any one of these roles can have an
impact on the level of rapport, thereby, on the efficacy of dyadic co-production. Thus, the
IM’s role is by its very nature a complex one, and is primarily about influencing clients by
building and maintaining quality relationships.
The one normative advantage the IM has, in balancing anticipated benefits against costs
and risks, is the value of the relationship. The incubation relationship is such that, in
aggregate, neither of the two parties (IM and Client) is significantly vulnerable without
each other, but nonetheless, the relationship provides necessary and sufficient benefits.
Therefore, the risk in sharing and imparting knowledge is reduced, since, due to the nature
of the relationship, the likelihood of one partner abusing or exploiting the relationship is
low as there is no real incentive or gain by abusing the relationship.
This complexity undoubtedly gives rise to heightened uncertainty in the internal
managerial environment, and helps in explaining why incubator evaluation and impact
assessment cannot be meaningful using traditional evaluation tools. Three aspects that lead
to client-level uncertainty, which to the best of knowledge, have not been previously
examined: (1) clients not being able to precisely pin-point the areas where they needed
incubator intervention; (2) clients uncertain about what developmental assistance, coaching
and mentoring actually meant in practice; and (3) clients uncertain about whether they
should or could approach the IM for assistance and advice.
The aim in this paper was to contribute new explanatory theory that drew attention to
incubators’ structural properties, which facilitate its replication and performance in a range
of contexts. The two contributions inducted via the analysis of case data and by drawing on
the literature on hybrid organizations, highlighted the reasons why incubators’ internal
structure remains robust, withstanding all forms of scrutiny and criticism, to replicate, and
rapidly spread across the globe, becoming a favorite public policy mechanism for
economic regeneration and job creation. An interesting question at this juncture would be: how
did this occur so rapidly and effectively?
It is widely known that business incubators were setup as responses to prevailing
environmental conditions. The originators of the incubator-model interpreted their internal
and external environments to conceive an innovation that reflected genuine problems. The
incubator’s structure was adopted to complement both agent strategy and external
environmental transformations. Initially, the most powerful actors who supported new
incubator setup were states and universities in the US. The support received also awarded
political legitimacy to the nascent incubator-form. Thus, the award of political legitimacy
was a two-way process. An increase in the incubator-form’s political legitimacy led to
further diffusion since legitimated structures are quickly transmitted in a field through
tradition, represented by the field’s founding organizations; through imitation, based on the
field’s currently most prevalent forms; through coercion, exercised by the field’s dominant
organizations; and through normative pressures, diffused through educational
organizations and social networks. An innovation is institutionalized when no question arises in the
minds of actors that a certain form is the natural way to affect some kind of collective
action. In the case of incubators, precisely because it has been difficult to evaluate their
outcomes and contributions and to link these to programmatic objectives and budgets and
that they serve the political interests of the proponents of the prevalent paradigm of
economic development, despite negative evaluations, they remain institutionalized as
essential components of the US national technology policy and innovation system.
Finally, much of the modern incubation literature, however, posits a diverse and
differentiated world of incubator models and seeks to explain variation in their structure and
behaviour. To this, institutional theorists would argue, that although in the initial stages of
their life cycle, organizational fields do display considerable diversity in approach and
form, but once a field becomes well established there is an inexorable push towards
homogenization. Once disparate organizations in the same line of business are structured
into an actual field (by competition, the state, or the professions), powerful forces emerge
that lead them to become more similar to one another. Organizations may change their
goals or develop new practices, and new organizations enter the field. In the long run
though, organizational actors construct around themselves an environment that constrains
their ability to change further in later years.
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution,
and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the
source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Aaboen , L. ( 2009 ). Explaining incubators using firm analogy . Technovation , 29 ( 10 ), 657 - 670 .
Adkins , D. ( 2002 ). A brief history of business incubation in the United States . Athens, OH: NBIA.
Adler , P. S. , & Kwon , S. ( 2002 ). Social capital: Prospects for a new concept . Academy of Management Review , 27 , 17 - 40 .
Aernoudt , R. ( 2004 ). Incubators: Tool for entrepreneurship? Small Business Economics , 23 , 127 - 135 .
Ahmad , A. J. ( 2014 ). A mechanisms-driven theory of business incubation . International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research , 20 ( 4 ), 375 - 405 .
Ahmad , A. J. , & Ingle , S. ( 2011 ). Relationships matter: Case study of a university campus incubator . International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research , 17 ( 6 ), 626 - 644 .
Allen , D. N. , & McCluskey , R. ( 1990 ). Structure, policy, services, and performance in the business incubator industry . Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice , 15 ( 2 ), 61 - 77 .
Avolio , B. J. ( 1999 ). Full leadership development . Beverly Hills, California: Sage Publications.
Avolio , B. J. , & Bass , B. M. ( 1995 ). Individual consideration viewed at multiple levels of analysis: A multiframework for examining the diffusion of transformational leadership . Leadership Quarterly , 6 , 188 - 218 .
Barney , J. B. , & Hesterly , W. ( 2006 ). Organizational economics: Understanding the relationship between organizations and economic analysis . In S. R. Clegg , C. Hardy , T. B. Lawrence , & W. R. Nord (Eds.), The Sage handbook of organization studies . London: Sage Publications.
Barretta , A. ( 2008 ). The functioning of co-opetition in the health-care sector: An explorative analysis . Scandinavian Journal of Management , 24 , 209 - 220 .
Bass , B. M. , & Steidlmeier , P. ( 1999 ). Ethics, character, and authentic transformational leadership behaviour . Leadership Quarterly , 10 ( 2 ), 181 - 217 .
Battilana , J. , Sngul , M. , Pache , A. , & Model , J. ( 2015 ). Harnessing productive tensions in hybrid organizations: The case of work integration social enterprises . Academy of Management Journal , 58 ( 6 ), 1658 - 1858 .
Bercovitz , J. , & Feldman , M. ( 2007 ). Fishing upstream: Firm innovation strategy and university research alliances . Research Policy, 36 , 930 - 948 .
Bergek , A. , & Norrman , C. ( 2008 ). Incubator best practice: A framework . Technovation , 28 ( 1-2 ), 20 - 28 .
Bøllingtoft , A. , & Ulhøi , J. P. ( 2005 ). The networked business incubator-leveraging entrepreneurial agency ? Journal of Business Venturing , 20 ( 2 ), 265 - 290 .
Borys , B. , & Jemison , D. ( 1989 ). Hybrid arrangements as strategic alliances: Theoretical issues in organizational combinations ? Academy of Management Review , 14 ( 2 ), 234 - 249 .
Boyd , K. ( 2006 ). Developing a business incubation program . In M. Erlewine (Ed.), Athens, OH: NBIA Publications.
Bruneel , J. , Ratinho , T. , Clarysse , B. , et al. ( 2012 ). The evolution of business incubators: Comparing demand and supply of business incubation services across different incubator generations . Technovation , 32 , 110 - 121 .
Byrne , O. ( 2005 ). Enterprise Ireland-Campus business incubation best practice manual .
Capaldo , A. , & Petruzzelli , A. ( 2011 ). In search of alliance-level relational capabilities: Balancing innovation value creation and appropriability in R&D alliances. Scandinavian Journal of Management , 27 , 273 - 286 .
Clarysse , B. , Wright , M. , Lockett , A. , Van de Velde , E. , & Vohora , A. ( 2005 ). Spinning out new ventures: A typology of incubation strategies from European research institutions . Journal of Business Venturing , 20 ( 2 ), 183 - 216 .
Cohen , S. ( 2013 ). What do accelerators do? Insights from incubators and angels . Innovations , 8 ( 3-4 ), 19 - 25 .
Cooper , S. Y. , & Park , J. S. ( 2008 ). The impact of 'Incubator' organizations on opportunity recognition and technology innovation in new, entrepreneurial high-technology ventures . International Small Business Journal , 26 ( 1 ), 27 - 56 .
Dacin , M. T. , Goodstein , J. , & Scott , W. R. ( 2002 ). Institutional theory and institutional change: Introduction to the special research forum . Academy of Management Journal , 45 ( 1 ), 45 - 56 .
Davis , B. L. , Skube , C. J. , Hellervik , L. W. , Gebelein , S. H. , & Sheard , J. L. ( 1996 ). Successful manager's handbook: Development suggestions for today's managers . Minneapolis, MN: Personnel Decisions Inc.
Delucchi , M. ( 2000 ). Staking a claim: The decoupling of liberal arts mission statements from baccalaureate degrees awarded in higher education . Sociological Inquiry , 70 , 157 - 171 .
Eisenhardt , K. M. , & Graebner , M. E. ( 2007 ). Theory building from cases: Opportunities and challenges . Academy of Management Journal , 50 ( 1 ), 25 - 32 .
Elsbach , K. D. , & Sutton , R. ( 1992 ). Acquiring organizational legitimacy through illegitimate actions: A marriage of institutional and impression management theories . Academy of Management Journal , 35 , 699 - 738 .
Entrepreneurship in Ireland. ( 2014 ). National policy statement on entrepreneurship in Ireland . Government of Ireland. https://www.localenterprise. ie/Documents-and-Publications/Entrepreneurship-in-Ireland2014 .pdf. Accessed November 15 , 2016 .
French , W. L. , Kast , F. E. , & Rosenzweig , J. E. ( 1985 ). Understanding human behavior in organizations . New York: Harper & Row.
Grimaldi , R. , & Grandi , A. ( 2005 ). Business incubators and new venture creation: An assessment of incubating models . Technovation , 25 ( 2 ), 111 - 121 .
Hackett , S. M. , & Dilts , D. M. ( 2004a ). A systematic review of business incubation research . Journal of Technology Transfer , 29 ( 1 ), 55 .
Hackett , S. M. , & Dilts , D. M. ( 2004b ). A real options-driven theory of business incubation . Journal of Technology Transfer , 29 , 41 - 54 .
Hoffmann , W. ( 2007 ). Strategies for managing a portfolio of alliances . Strategic Management Journal , 28 , 827 - 856 .
Howell , J. , & Avolio , B. J. ( 1992 ). The ethics of charismatic leadership: Submission or liberation? The Academy of Management Executive ., 6 ( 2 ), 43 - 54 .
Hughes , M. , Ireland , R. D. , & Morgan , R. E. ( 2007 ). Stimulating dynamic value: Social capital and business incubation as a pathway to competitive success . Long Range Planning , 40 ( 2 ), 154 .
Jolink , A. , & Niesten , E. ( 2012 ). Recent qualitative advances on hybrid organizations: Taking stock, looking ahead . Scandinavian Journal of Management , 28 ( 2 ), 149 - 161 .
Khalid , F. A. , Gilbert , D. , & Huq , A. ( 2014 ). The way forward for business incubation process in ICT incubators in Malaysia . International Journal of Business and Society , 15 ( 3 ), 395 - 412 .
Lewis , D. A. ( 2002 ). Does technology incubation work? A critical review of evidence . Athens, OH: National Business Incubation Association.
Lines , K. ( 2005 ). MIS and the problem of decoupling in e-government reforms . Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems , 17 ( 2 ), 107 - 132 .
Lyon , F. ( 2006 ). Managing co-operation: Trust and power in Ghanaian associations . Organization Studies , 27 ( 1 ), 31 - 52 .
Mas-Verdu´, F. , Ribeiro-Soriano , D. , & Roig-Tierno , N. ( 2015 ). Firm survival: The role of incubators and business characteristics . Journal of Business Research , 68 ( 4 ), 793 - 796 .
Me´nard, C. ( 2004 ). The economics of hybrid organizations . Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics , 160 ( 3 ), 345 - 376 .
Me´nard, C. ( 2010 ). Hybrid modes of organization: Alliances, joint ventures, networks and other 'strange' animals . Working paper (number: halshs00624291 ). In R. Gibbons & J. Roberts (Eds.), Handbook of organizational economics . Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Meyer , J. W. , & Rowan , B. ( 1977 ). Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony . The American Journal of Sociology , 83 ( 2 ), 340 - 363 .
Meyer , J. W. , & Rowan , B. ( 1978 ). The structure of educational organizations . In J. W. Meyer (Ed.), Environments and organizations (pp. 78 - 109 ). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mian , S. A. ( 1997 ). Assessing and managing the university technology business incubator: An integrative framework . Journal of Business Venturing , 12 ( 4 ), 251 - 340 .
Miles , M. B. , & Huberman , A. M. ( 1984 ). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook . Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage.
NBIA. ( 2008 ). Principles and best practices of successful business incubation . http://www.nbia.org/ resource_center/best_practices/index.php. Accessed May 19 , 2014 .
Ndabeni , L. L. ( 2008 ). The contribution of business incubators and technology stations to small enterprise development in South Africa . Development Southern Africa., 25 ( 3 ), 259 - 268 .
Ozcan , P. , & Eisenhardt , K. ( 2009 ). Origin of alliance portfolios: Entrepreneurs, network strategies, and firm performance . Academy of Management Journal , 52 ( 2 ), 246 - 279 .
Patton , M. Q. ( 1990 ). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed .). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Phan , P. H. , Siegel , D. S. , & Wright , M. ( 2005 ). Science parks and incubators: Observations, synthesis and future research . Journal of Business Venturing , 20 , 165 - 182 .
Raynaud , E. , Sauve´e , L., & Valceschini , E. ( 2009 ). Aligning branding strategies and governance of vertical transactions in agri-food chains . Industrial and Corporate Change , 18 ( 5 ), 835 - 868 .
Robinson , S. , & Stubberud , H. A. ( 2014 ). Business Incubators: What services do business owners really use ? International Journal of Entrepreneurship , 18 , 29 - 39 .
Rosenberg , J. P. , & Yates , P. M. ( 2007 ). Schematic representation of case study research designs . Journal of Advanced Nursing , 60 ( 4 ), 447 - 452 .
Rubin , T. H. , Aas , T. H. , & Stead , A. ( 2015 ). Knowledge flow in technological business incubators: Evidence from Australia and Israel . Technovation, 41 - 42 , 11 - 24 .
Rudy , A. ( 2004 ). Incubators: Tool for Entrepreneurship? Small Business Economics , 23 ( 2 ), 127 - 135 .
Sa´, C. , & Lee , H. ( 2012 ). Science, business, and innovation: Understanding networks in technology-based incubators . R&D Management , 42 ( 3 ), 243 - 253 .
Sanders , J. ( 2014 ). Entrepreneurship development through business incubators & accelerators in times of transition: The case of Egypt . Robert H. Smith School Research Paper No. RHS 2490716. http://ssrn. com/abstract=2490716.
Schwartz , M. , & Hornych , C. ( 2010 ). Cooperation patterns of incubator firms and the impact of incubator specialization: Emperical evidence from Germany . Technovation, 30 , 485 - 495 .
Scillitoe , J. L. , & Chakrabarti , A. K. ( 2010 ). The role of incubator interactions in assisting new ventures . Technovation , 30 , 155 - 167 .
Sherman , H. ( 1999 ). Assessing the intervention effectiveness of business incubation programs on new business start-ups . Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship , 4 ( 2 ), 117 - 133 .
Sofouli , E. , & Vonortas , N. S. ( 2007 ). S&T Parks and business incubators in middle-sized countries: The case of Greece . Journal of Technology Transfer , 32 ( 5 ), 525 - 545 .
SUMMIT-II. ( 2010 ). Business incubator management training institute . http://www.summitii.org.
Sun , H. , Ni , W. , & Leung , J. ( 2007 ). Critical success factors for technological incubation: Case study of hong kong science and technology parks . International Journal of Management , 24 ( 2 ), 346 - 363 .
Tama´sy, C. ( 2007 ). Rethinking technology-oriented business incubators: Developing a robust policy instrument for entrepreneurship , innovation, and regional development? Growth and Change , 38 ( 3 ), 460 .
Todorovic , Z. W. , & Moenter , K. M. ( 2010 ). Tenant firm progression within an incubator: Progression toward an optimal point of resource utilization . Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal , 16 ( 1 ), 23 .
UKBI. ( 2001 ). Incubators: Identifying best practice . UK Business Incubation Limited , Birmingham, United Kingdom. www.ukbi.org.uk.
UKBI. ( 2006 ). Bench marking survey . UK Business Incubation Limited , Birmingham, United Kingdom. www.ukbi.org.uk.
Ulset , S. ( 2008 ). The rise and fall of global network alliances . Industrial and Corporate Change , 17 ( 2 ), 267 - 300 .
Vanderstraeten , J. , & Matthyssens , P. ( 2012 ). Service-based differentiations strategies for business incubators: Exploring external and internal alignment . Technovation , 32 , 656 - 670 .
Westphal , J. D. , & Zajac , E. ( 2001 ). Explaining institutional decoupling: The case of stock repurchase programs . Administrative Science Quarterly , 46 , 202 - 228 .
Woolthuis , R. K. , Hillebrand , B. , & Nooteboom , B. ( 2005 ). Trust, contract and relationship development . Organization Studies , 26 ( 6 ), 813 - 840 .
Yin , R. K. ( 2009 ). Case study research: Design and methods (4th ed.). Beverly Hills, California: SAGE Publications.
Yvrande-Billon , A. , & Me´nard, C. ( 2005 ). Institutional constraints and organizational changes: The case of the British rail reform . Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization , 56 , 675 - 699 .
Zhang , H. , Wenqing , W. , & Zhao , L. ( 2016 ). A study of knowledge supernetworks and network robustness in different business incubators . Physica A , 447 , 545 - 560 .