What next for Nesta's research into business incubators and accelerators?
Last April we published an updated directory of UK incubators and accelerators, together with an analysis of the existing programmes. So what has been happening since?
Certainly, the world of incubators and accelerators has continued to evolve. New models keep appearing - including some, like Deep Science Ventures, which challenge our categorisation.
In the world of corporate accelerators, we’ve sensed growing concerns about the financial sustainability, in terms of the internal rate of return, of programmes. How this will play out is yet unclear: some corporates will likely take the view that strict impact measurement is neither possible nor needed, especially if the ultimate goal is internal cultural change; others, however, will likely shift from internal corporate initiatives to third-party-managed, shared, vertical accelerators.
The end of last year also saw the announcement of a new incubator and accelerator network, organised by the Centre for Entrepreneurs. This may go some way towards filling the gap left by the closure of UK Business Incubation some years ago.
Nesta has not sat still, either. We are currently working on a follow-up study to our April 2017 report, in collaboration with BEIS, the Open University, the London School of Economics and the data provider Beauhurst.
This research will aim to probe more deeply into the impact of existing programmes, trying to quantify their impact on startups, as well as looking at their broader impact within ecosystems. Specifically, we will investigate:
- Performance of participating vs. non-participating ventures: How do participating and non-participating startups differ in revenue growth, employment growth, investment raised, or other measures of success?
- Most and least useful services: Which services commonly offered by accelerators and incubators (e.g. workplace, training and mentoring) do participating startups find most and least useful? Do these results vary by sector, stage of the venture, and location?
- Barriers to maximising impact: What barriers do accelerators and incubators report in reaching their impact objectives?
- Ecosystems effects: How do accelerators and incubators interact with other players in their ecosystem? Do they act as a focal point, helping a richer ecosystem to develop around them?
Why is this important?
As we’ve commented previously, research into the impact of such programmes has, unfortunately, not kept pace with their rapid growth. Unfortunately, as with much startup support, there is relatively little robust evidence to demonstrate what works, and for what types of company.
Our research should give us a richer understanding of the effectiveness of incubators and accelerators, help accelerator and incubator managers to evaluate and report their impact to potential funders, and help policymakers decide between different potential interventions.
However, we cannot do it alone.
If you work for a UK accelerator or incubator, or a startup which has recently been in one, we want to know about your experience. In the coming weeks, we will be releasing two surveys which will help inform our research, and would very much value your opinion. These will be distributed via email but also linked on this site.
The findings of this study will be made publicly available in a report published in September 2018. If you have additional questions about the research, please contact us at: [email protected].
Photo by Mathew Schwartz via Unsplash