Nesta has a long-standing interest in understanding startup support, including methods of incubation and acceleration.
Today, we publish a new study, commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and produced by Nesta with support from the UK Science Parks Association (UKSPA) and Synoptica, an artificial intelligence data provider, which maps the landscape of incubators and accelerators in the UK, identifying where they are located and what sectors they cover.
At the same time, we are also publishing a new directory of incubators and accelerators in the UK. This directory is, we believe, the most comprehensive of its kind for the UK and we hope that it will be a useful tool for both entrepreneurs searching for programmes and facilities to which they can apply, as well as to researchers.
Accelerators and incubators continue to grow and develop. This report and accompanying dataset illustrates how these startup support organisations are changing rapidly.
One consequence of the changing space is that our previous definitions may need updating - especially concerning the matter of equity taken.
In relation to geography, the concentration of accelerators in London is not entirely surprising - this is where many companies are headquartered, and where the UK's VC industry is based - but in Nesta's view it risks further exacerbating regional inequalities, and may drive a relocation of (digital) talent towards the capital, hindering the development of clusters elsewhere. This is particularly true given that, in our view, many programmes actually have a limited catchment area - that is, programmes which are in principle open to applicants from across the UK may in practice be relatively local. For this reason, the trend towards new accelerators being launched outside London is welcome, in Nesta's view.
We also note that some Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) seem to contain neither an accelerator nor an incubator. Whether or not this is a problem is unclear - it is possible, for instance, that they are adequately served by neighbouring LEPs - but this may warrant examination.
In relation to growth, the current growth rate of accelerators shows no sign of slowing. We estimate that accelerators already support approximately the same number of firms as incubators - although the type of support offered can vary considerably. If the current rate of growth is maintained, we estaimate that there will be more accelerators than incubators in the UK within the next 18 months or so.
Given this rate of increase, a number of questions emerge. Is this rate sustainable, or are we in an 'accelerator bubble'? Are corporates gaining value from accelerators, or are they simply mimicking competitors? Do some regions of the UK have too many support programmes, or will their presence help stimulate further demand for their services? Do we need a new umbrella organisation to replace the defunct UKBI? Is public money needed to drive more support in certain areas?
This report does not answer these questions, but it does provide a dataset on which to build. The full dataset can be downloaded from the Gov.uk website and we encourage others to interrogate the data further.
If you are involved with an accelerator or incubator and you would like to add or amend some information in the directory, please email [email protected]. Any additions or amendments that Nesta receives until the 12th of June 2017 will be added to the directory. Please note: the report will not be updated.