START UPS AND SPIN-OFFS: THE ROLE OF BUSINESS INCUBATORS
In this age of exponential technology development and globalisation, innovation and entrepreneurship have become one of the key drivers (if not the key driver) of economic growth (Bathelt and Spiegel, 2011). Within this context, it is well accepted that also Universities can be central to the growth and development, especially if they support start-up and spin-off processes (Bigliardi et al., 2013; Galati et al., 2017). Indeed, the main involvement of universities refer to the creation of spin-offs companies (both based on intellectual property developed at the university or resulted from university–industry joint ventures), and start-ups (Mustar et al., 2006). Academic spin-offs are firms that are created by researchers to commercialize their innovations and research results (Shane, 2004). Similarly, start-ups are newly emerged entrepreneurial ventures aiming at meeting a marketplace need by developing a viable business model (Mustar et al., 2004). Both spin-offs and start-ups may have high failure rate or face difficulties especially in their initial development stage, thus needing a support. Business incubators usually assist these emerging ventures by providing support services and assistance in developing their business (Lalkaka, 2002).
The objective of this study is twofold: as first, to propose a taxonomy of start-ups, spin-offs and business incubators; as second, to define the role of business incubators in supporting emerging ventures. To reach this objective, after a brief introduction on the concept of spin-offs and start-up and their importance for the economic development and innovation, starting from the analysis of the available literature, a business incubator definition is given and all the various types of services offered by the incubator structure to the tenant companies are explained. Finally, we classify start-ups and spin-offs and map business incubators according to factors such as their objectives, mission, activities and role.
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