Improving the Services of Academic Incubators
7/31 10:50~12:20 Room 110
Professor, Graduate Institute of Technology and Innovation Management,
National Chengchi University
First I will talk about the trend of academic incubator, then will compare academic
incubators with others, then I‘ll propose on how to improve incubators‘ services
within university‘s context. Though I teach at university, I have to say universities are usually reluctant to change. The second point is university-based support for
incubation and technology development is relatively new phenomenon. Universities
are supposed to be knowledge creators, so many ideas in business are coming from
universities. That‘s why university incubators are so prominent these years. In Taiwan, the legal and legislative frameworks do not fully support academic incubators.
For academic incubators, the objectives are of course commercializing the
technologies, developing entrepreneurial spirits, and looking for new sources of
finance. The targets are trying to commercialize projects, which eventually become a
business, within universities. For offerings, we‘ve talked a lot these in the past two
days. Academic incubators could offer financial resources, prototype and market
testing, and access to commercial markets. Eventually they could offer long-term
strategic partnership, and access to multiple competencies. The key problems
academic incubators face is the legitimacy inside the institution. I think the legal
status and independence are still ambiguous in universities. At the early stage, many
incubators rely on government subsidies, which may not be sufficient to hire qualified
candidates to manage the operations within the company. But I think the
knowledge-based incubation is a trend. More and more people aware the operation of
university incubators might strategically related to the development of universities.
Universities can do lots of things to strengthen the activities of incubations. I
called the process of pre-incubation. Teaching and research are the main focus of
university staff. If we could influence university faculty to be more entrepreneurial, I
think it will bring further impact to the incubator operations hereafter. For
pre-incubators, I mean to create an atmosphere to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirits
and innovative ideas. In the last two days, we talked about incubators are like catching
an eggs; pre-incubators are like producing more eggs before they are caught. Here‘s
an example of USC‘s incubator program.
The process is as followed: first, they form an incubator advisory committee,
then send finalists to incubator. And incubator director and management professor
teach some ―how-to‖ to the students. Finalists submit business plan to incubator. And incubator director sends business plan to the committee. Finally the committee selects
good companies which can enter the incubator. The student company will have a free
office space for 2 years, and have $1,000 start-up capitals, not much, but for students,
that‘s some money. And they‘ll have assistance with incorporation process, free telephone and internet connection. They‘ll connect them to other research foundations
to get some financial support. And they‘ll also have access to a service provider
The aims of pre-incubator is to encourage interest and participation in new venture
creation amongst existing and former students through a range of initiatives which are
complimentary and mutually beneficial to incubators, schools and students.
Secondly, I will mention a case called ICE in England. ICE means innovation,
creativity and enterprise. It‘s a range of training and development programs in new venture creation. Hatchery is a space for students to test out their ideas for a new
venture. They also have a website. ICE is a range of training programs have been
developed to provide comprehensive access to suitable courses of study to interest
individuals or groups both inside and outside the university. The Hatchery will
provides facilities & support to enable students to develop an idea for a new venture
into a viable business proposition, that is to seek to develop creativity and innovation
among students and enable students to have confidence to take an idea
forward—either later one to start a company or become a person with entrepreneur
spirits. The results up to March 2003 are that the Hatchery has 40 members, has
started 27 business ideas. And 12 of them directly went into market.
Next I‘ll like to talk about this Japanese term: University Venture Business.
I‘ll like to show you the statistics of technology transfer and the company
start-ups in the top ten U.S. universities. As you can see, UC system has 26
start-up companies, which is a lot more than most schools. Japan‘s economy
grows rapidly in the 90‘. After 1996, the venture business is phenomenal in
MIT has a entrepreneurship lab, e-lab, which invites students with all
disciplines to gets hands on experiences to start and run new ventures. Student projects focus on one urgent aspect of the start-up such as marketing plans, competitor analysis, financing, business plan writing, etc. Objective of the internships is to provide students with a valuable and significant experience and introduce students to needs of the CEO and officers of a high-tech start-up firms, and finally to perform useful work and deliver to the host companies in return. Students include MIT Sloan students, MIT graduate students in Science and Engineering, and even a few Harvard MBAs. It‘s a joint program.
What kind of companies will have motifs? Companies typically are
venture-backed, with fewer than 35 employees. They are in the business of computer software, hardware, and networking. Most companies are in the near areas, but some of them are from silicon valleys or foreign countries. It‘s a great
global environment for companies to start up. For a start-up company, there are a few key questions to answer. First is: what is the product or service you are selling? What is the problem that the product or service solves? Students join the program could learn first hand experience on how to solve these problems. Students can define and develop the sales process and sales mode or perform a market or competitive analysis so on and so forth.
Over the course of a semester, teams answer the following questions: who will buy the product? What is the problem? How is that economics benefit measured?
Incubation has different stages in different countries. Since they are at different phase, they have different aspects to concern. This is the diagram I borrowed from UKBI last month. There are nearly 200 incubators in UK. They try to benchmark each one of them. At foundation phase, they all have some critical and core principles. At development phase, we need core elements, processes, people and infrastructure. The outside ring is optional element.
In the conclusion, I think university can do a lot for pre-incubators. The other thing is
to benchmark. Without this benchmark, we won‘t see how we evolve and be
Summary of The University Virtual Incubator
Mr. Andrew Beveridge
Project manager, Office of Industry and Innovation University of Western Australia
•virtual incubator at the University of Western Australia.•Services provided
2. Comparison between Virtual and Physical Incubators
Critical Success Factors Physical’ Incubator
Low High Capital Cost
Low Moderate. Running costs
Excellent Availability of Support
Ideal Ideal Location
Poor Ideal Disruption to the key
Good Good Access to support
Poor Excellent. Investor perception
Poor Excellent. Community perception
? •Survey what is happening in a region similar to your own.
? •Use ‗best practice‘ approaches where possible. ? •Ensure that you appoint people with the right mix of skills. ? •Use existing resources, fill in gaps by engaging with third parties. ? •Don‘t wait until everything is perfect before launching.
? •Networks are vital to the success of a virtual incubator – cultivate
? •Use creative approaches in problem solving.
? •Have fun!5.ConclsuionBoth ‗Physical‘ and ‗Virtual‘ incubators have
Virtual incubators are a great way to start.
A physical incubator located on campus would be the ideal follow-on from
a virtual incubator.