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The Growth of Business Incubators and Accelerators

We’re surrounded by people thinking of starting their own ventures, wrestling with ideas and looking to progress to the next step.

  • There were a record 5.5 million private sector businesses at the start of 2016.
  • This is an increase of 97,000 since 2015 and 2.0 million more since 2000
  • SMEs account for at least 99% of the businesses in every main industry sector.
  • The combined annual turnover of SMEs was £1.8 trillion, 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK.

(Figures obtained from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills)

Government and bigger businesses have recently recognised the benefit of supporting the sector. By bringing a group of young businesses together, incubators can help produce a greater motivation and support when challenges arise. The result being a hotbed of innovative ideas many of which reach the market. Many Incubators and Accelerators boast over 80% survival rate.

Incubators - person working at a desk on a laptop

I started my first business some 30 years ago. I was not branded an entrepreneur, I was just someone starting a business. If I was labelled anything it was probably crazy. I was 27, female and gave up a decent salary to go out on a limb. 30 years ago there were no incubators or any support for people like me. No team of mentors, no networks and certainly no one offering me free desk space and a team of advisors. A few technical centres – early version of incubators –  set up mainly in universities in the 1980s but nothing for the small first-time founder with no funding.  That has certainly all changed!

Start-ups have become an industry in itself. Recognised by the government as a boost for the surrounding business ecosystem and generating a sizable income for the UK. Surrounded by peers and given the right support, businesses can be profitable much quicker. Welcome the rise of the business incubator and accelerator.

Incubators are big business

The sector is now firmly established. Its importance was foreseen by the Economic Commission for Europe who produced “Best practice in Business Incubation” in Geneva 2001. Stating “Guidelines on Best Practice in Business Incubation aims at presenting some of the experiences and lessons learnt in numerous networks of science parks and technopoles.” The forward opens, “How can Governments most effectively contribute to creating an enterprise culture? This question lies at the heart of the transition process from a command to a market economy.”

Incubators - a group of people having a discussionIn just 10 years, there has been an enormous rise in the number of incubators. First in the US and then in Europe. According to recent government figures there are 543 Business Incubators and Accelerators throughout the UK.  Just 23 of them setup before 2000. Not too surprisingly a third of them are based in London, but there is a good smattering in pretty much every major town and city.  Birmingham 20, Edinburgh 14, Manchester 13, Oxford 12, Bristol 8 and just 12 in Wales – although many do claim to have national or international coverage.

Nesta reports “There is a trend towards more accelerators being established outside of London in Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester, while incubators are spread relatively evenly throughout the UK.  The vast majority of accelerator programmes in Nesta’s database have been created since 2011, and just over half of incubator programmes were created during the same period.”

The rise of small businesses, led to the rise of Business Incubators and all the services they provide for those SME’s. And now there is the qualification: Business Incubation Management Certificate Programme (BIM). Lets see when the governing body steps up!

Providing a peer network and fertile environment for young business

Not all Incubators or Accelerators offer the same service, they can have quite different missions. They vary by type of industry they support, length of stay within the fold or service provided.  Some charge large fees or take a percentage of equity while a few provide their services for free.

Perhaps the biggest the biggest common denominator is the intention to help budding companies to survive their early stages while adding value to those companies and the surrounding economy.

To find out more about what Incubator and Accelerators can offer and what questions you should ask before investing your time and money watch out for our podcast. It will be recorded in Bristol 16th November at the Santander offices in Merchant Street, Broadmead.

A few tickets will be available for the live interview.  We will be talking to 2 recruiters from well-know Incubators/accelerator organisations:

  • Marina Traversari who has recently taken up the mantle as Orcale’s startup Cloud Accelerator (OSCA) Programme Manager here in Bristol
  • Matt West, entrepreneur development manager who oversees the Bristol hub of Entrepreneurial Spark, the world’s largest free business accelerator.

If you would like to come along and listen or to ask your own questions Please book your place here.

If you have any questions for our panelists please enter your details below

And before you go don’t forget to check out our reading list.

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The Growth of Business Incubators and Accelerators
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The Growth of Business Incubators and Accelerators
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a fast rise in Incubators and accelerators with different missions…the biggest common denominator the intention to help budding companies to survive early stages while adding value.
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