Implementing Acceleration Programs: Reflections for Academic Business Incubators Through a Portuguese Case Study

Implementing Acceleration Programs: Reflections for Academic Business Incubators Through a Portuguese Case Study

Sandra Pinto, Elis Shaida Ossmane, Luísa Cagica Carvalho
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6926-9.ch003
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In a complex business world, startups need to quickly test their value propositions and go to business development as soon as possible with the best strategic fit to the market. Startups that start their journey at academic business incubators are mostly knowledge based or technology based and need adaptable acceleration programmes that allow them to improve their management capabilities at the same time as they achieve market fit and technology development until revenue. This chapter aims to explore some frameworks for acceleration programmes adjustable to academic business incubators and their incubatees, attending best practices already published. In addition, it draws some possible strategies and reflections for a framework as a proposal for acceleration programme at academic business incubators.
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European Union (EU) strategies for regional development have been consolidating a position to stimulate open innovation and knowledge transfer (DGRIEC, 2014), pointing out that Higher Education Institutions (HEI) play a central role and need to be more entrepreneurial and catalyse the interactions between HEI, industry, government, civil society, and the environment (Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000; Carayannis et al., 2018).

For that matter, HEIs have been implementing all kinds of interactions with their regional stakeholders such as being part of regional associations, developing research and action projects alongside with industry and integrating processes of technology transfer (e.g. patent licence). Those are some traditional interactions that most of HEIs integrate in their missions. To go further and have a more direct impact in the creation of new and innovative ventures, HEIs have also been implementing their own incubators and acceleration programmes, recruiting their teachers, students, graduates, and researchers for those entrepreneurial based activities.

The efficiency of academic business incubators and academic acceleration programmes are yet to be proven, as there is insufficient data for analysis, but there are already some studies that consider academic business incubators as an important instrument of economic dynamism. Some conclusions address the creation of spin-offs, technology and knowledge transfer for companies’ development, advancement of market growth and entrepreneurial culture (Mian, 1996; Lalkaka, 2001; CSES, 2002; Grimaldi & Grandi, 2005; Van Burg et al., 2008; Somsuk & Laosirihongthong, 2014; Carvalho & Galina, 2015; Stal et al., 2016). There are also some studies that concluded that incubated firms outperform non-incubated firms in both sales' growth and employment. When it comes to acceleration programmes, some authors state that there’s evidence of systematic short-term growth advantages for startups that participate in accelerators compared to those that do not (Roberts & Lall, 2019).

But from the point of view of HEIs, especially the ones that already have academic business incubators implemented, and want to start an acceleration programme, there are some questions that need to have clear answers:

  • How can HEIs boost entrepreneurial creation by using their own incubation structures?

  • How can HEIs enrol their regional stakeholders, especially industry, in this entrepreneurial support process?

  • Will entrepreneurs that are involved in these acceleration programmes be successful?

  • Will their companies succeed after leaving their parent institution?

  • Will these companies have a great impact on regional and national development?

  • Will the methodologies used before the 2020 pandemic crisis need to be adjusted to the after crisis?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Business Accelerator: Is a programme that supports startups in the access to mentorship, investors and other support that help them become stable, self-sufficient businesses and grow.

Business Incubator: An organization designed to accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurial companies through support in infrastructures, network, and services.

Academic Business Incubators: Establish practical support for people connected with the entrepreneurship in the campus.

Incubatees: Free term indicating the entrepreneurial teams formally supported by the incubator.

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