Business Incubation Development Framework (BIDF)
"Business incubation is a unique and highly flexible combination of business development processes, infrastructure and people designed to nurture new and small businesses by helping them to survive and grow through the difficult and vulnerable early stages of development." (© UK Business Incubation Limited 2012)
Business incubation is different to other forms of business support in that it provides a complete, tailored, ‘hands-on’ business support environment. The business development resources made available through an incubation environment are provided by both an on-site incubation team as well as ‘brought in’ from a network of external contacts. Incubation is a resource-intensive activity therefore most incubation has to be selective. The purpose of incubation is not to provide support indefinitely, so most incubation environments will set a limit on the time that they will work with client ventures before they are encouraged to move on.
Business incubator is a term often used to describe the physical, ‘with-walls’ facility through which business incubation is delivered. ‘Without walls’ (‘virtual’) incubators also exist, which seek to deliver incubation processes through means other than physical premises, although even virtual incubators frequently provide some hot-desking facilities or meeting rooms for their clients. Some incubation environments operate with a combination of both ‘virtual’ and ‘physical’ provision.
Performance reviews and their methodology and indicators exist for business incubation environments but they are often limited to Public Service Agreements (PSAs), i.e. quantitative data which relies heavily on requirements and remits of the initial sources of funding (e.g. ERDF, HEIF, etc). For incubation management teams, benchmarking is a very important means of identifying strengths and weaknesses, monitoring and comparing their performance against others, and progressively upgrading their performance. It is a learning tool. Being benchmarked also represents an opportunity for the incubation manager to convince existing and potential funders of their impact and role in stimulating enterprise and nurturing innovation.
In order to fill the above gap, UK Business Incubation undertook primary and desk based research in 2003/04 and developed the National Business Incubation Framework (NBIF). The framework was subsequently updated in 2007-2008; the research and results were regularly reviewed by a Steering Group composed of expert practitioners and business incubation stakeholders.
The Framework recognises that there is no single model or template for the running and structuring of a business incubation environment. Each one reflects a unique combination of internal and external factors. Such diversity (and complexity) poses problems for the development of a ‘one size fits all’ Framework for the benchmarking of business incubation environments, both in terms of indicators used (qualitative indicators are needed in addition to quantitative indicators) and in terms of methodology (who should and how to collect the data).
Based on an aspirational model, the Business Incubation Development Framework consists of:
Three development phases: foundation, development and leading edge phases;
Four core principles: selection policy, business incubation strategy and delivery, skilled business incubation team, exit policy;
Four core elements: processes, infrastructure, operations, people (management);
Socio economic impact elements: direct impact, indirect impact, long term added value.
UKBI also developed a methodology for benchmarking business incubation environments based on a set of best practice standards which focus on the management of the business incubation process as well as on generic indicators to measure the performance of business incubation environments operations as well as its socio economic impact/added value over time.
If you would like further information on the Business Incubation Development Framework, please contact Arnaud Drapier
Over the years, the Business incubation Development Framework has been used by various national and international business incubation and government bodies. Examples include:
UK regional development agencies: Emda, AWM, OME North East, WAG, Scottish Enterprise
International organisations: Infodev (World Bank’s network of business incubators in developing countries)
Government bodies: Mexican government