New approaches to business incubation

Business incubators can provide start-up enterprises with professional space for reasonable rents – but they can play a much larger role as well.

They can connect new entrepreneurs to the technical assistance and training that will provide them with a running start.  In addition, business incubators can provide a network of entrepreneurially minded cohorts in close proximity to foster the type of encouragement and support system that comes best from peers.

While incubators have been around since the 1960’s, they continue to shift their service delivery, tailoring the model. There are currently 29 small business incubators in Virginia, each with a different suite of resources and geographic service area.

For instance, Virginia Tech Knowledge Works Business Acceleration Center incorporates both incubation space and special programs like the Concept Camp for potential technology-based entrepreneurs. The reality check of this two day risk-education retreat can prevent premature launch of an effort. For those who are ready though, the Knowledge Center has a suite of support services.

The May 2009 Entrepreneur magazine article, “A New Take on Incubators,” gives a rundown of the specialized access to research and technology that some incubators are now taking. Most of these have close connections to university research centers and many are incorporated into regional economic development strategies in fields such as biotechnology and software development.

But anywhere there’s entrepreneurial energy and a base of knowledge, whether its high-tech, or longer standing traditions (textiles, culinary, the arts…) the combination of technical assistance, training, encouragement, and—when the time is right—incubation, can bring products to market and create jobs.