Espacios. Vol. 37 (Nº 19) Año 2016. Pág. 18

Strategies for business incubation management: A case study in Brazil

Estratégias para gestão de incubação de empresas: um estudo de caso no Brasil

Sergio Azevedo FONSECA 1; Ricardo Augusto Bonotto BARBOZA 2; Geralda Cristina de Freitas RAMALHEIRO 3

Recibido: 10/03/16 • Aprobado: 20/04/2016


1. Introduction

2 Success factors of business incubators

3 Management strategies

4 Methodology

5 Results and discussion

6. Conclusions and closing remarks



The main objective of this paper is to report and discuss the results of a research focused on the comparison of two distinct management strategies of incubators in Brazil. The research employs a qualitative method and is exploratory purpose. The intentional sample comprised two business incubators, both in São Paulo State, Brazil: the first one created in 1986 in São Carlos; the second created in 1996 in Araraquara. Along their lives, both incubators experienced several changes in their trajectories. The research tried to evaluate and compare the distinct management strategies of both incubators, with special emphasis in the most recent periods.
Keywords: business incubation management; Management strategies, Brazil


O objetivo principal deste trabalho é relatar e discutir os resultados de uma pesquisa focada na comparação de duas estratégias distintas de gestão de incubadoras no Brasil. A pesquisa emprega um método qualitativo e exploratório propósito. A amostra intencional, composta por duas incubadoras de empresas, tanto no estado de São Paulo, Brasil: o primeiro que foi criado em 1986 em São Carlos; o segundo, criado em 1996, em Araraquara. Ao longo de suas vidas, ambos incubadoras experimentaram várias mudanças em suas trajetórias. A pesquisa tentou avaliar e comparar as estratégias de gestão distintas de ambas as incubadoras, com especial ênfase nos períodos mais recentes.
Palavras-chave: gestão de incubação negócios; Estratégias de gestão, Brasil

1. Introdução

The concept of business incubator is often used as a name for organizations that form or create a supportive environment that is propitious for the creation and development of new companies (Almeidaa, Zattar, Seleme, & Stefano, 2015; Korontai et al., 2016; Ahmad, 2014; Bergek & Norrman, 2008; Bøllingtoft, 2012; Bruneel, Ratinho, Clarysse, & Groen, 2012; Lesáková, 2012; Soetanto & Jack, 2013). The policymakers at national, regional and local levels consider incubators as institutional agents promoting economic boost, innovation and sustainability (Barbero, Casillas, Ramos, & Guitar, 2012; Korontai et al., 2016; Fonseca, 2010; Grimaldi & Grandi, 2005; Ratinho & Henriques, 2010; Saraiva & Rodrigues, 2009; Schwartz & Hornych, 2010; Schwartz, 2013; Somsuk & Laosirihongthong, 2014; Somsuk, Wonglimpiyarat, & Laosirihongthong, 2012).

Additionally, they are regarded as agents to support the strengthening of newborn companies and as environments that stimulates college spin-offs (Bergek & Norrman, 2008). Many incubators also offer activities that hasten the learning curve and provide managerial skills, such as individual advisory service and training (Luz, Kovaleski, Júnior, Pilatti, & Frasson, 2012; Bøllingtoft, 2012; Bruneel et al., 2012; Lesáková, 2012; Ratinho & Henriques, 2010; Soetanto & Jack, 2013). One of the most important and critical services offered is the support to access to technological, professional and financing networks (Bøllingtoft, 2012; Bruneel et al., 2012; Cooper, Hamel, & Connaughton, 2012; Lesáková, 2012; Ratinho & Henriques, 2010; Soetanto & Jack, 2013).

Not less important is the role the incubators play as institutional resources (Hsu et al., 2015), or "social and cultural spaces" (Blohmke, 2014), which qualify them as agents of the Triple Helix Model (Etzkowitz & Leidersdorff, 1995, 2000), performing as environments that facilitate the technology transfer process (Desidério & Zilber, 2014), often linked to entrepreneurial universities (Kalar & Antoncic, 2015), and so contributing to "transferring and connecting the knowledge resources of universities to start-ups" (Baraldi & Havenvid, 2015, p. 3).

There are services and facilities which have been progressively aggregated by incubators during their evolution and consolidation: the offer of a physical space was characteristic of the first generation incubators; services of skill learning were characteristic of second generation incubators; finally, the access to networks has been characteristic of third generation incubators ( Ratinho & Henriques, 2010; Bergek & Norrman, 2008; Bruneel et al., 2012; Soetanto & Jack, 2013).

Not every incubator is successful in executing and incorporating these aforementioned services. The measurement of the success rate must be based on several criteria and indicators in order to achieve a complete performance assessment.

The incubator's performance assessment is a largely discussed theme in the literature, and there is no consensus about the proper way to make it  (Barbero et al., 2012; Bergek & Norrman, 2008; Chan & Lau, 2005). Fonseca (2010) argues that the assessment tool should also support the management. Bigliard et al. (2006) say that they should comprise factors such as inputs (ways through which the firms/entrepreneurs are selected), processes (internal organizational factors and ways through which companies get withheld) and outputs (companies' quality and sustainability). Grapeggia, Ortigara, Bastos, Juliatto, & Lezana (2011) observe that the assessment models emphasize three evaluative items: physical infrastructure, which is responsible for the basic indicators related to structure availability issues; managerial services, which are responsible for the intermediate indicators related to qualification of the team and partners; and offer of a network, which is responsible for the advanced indicators related to the ability of the incubator to promote commercial and technological business and partnerships.

In the last decades there were some shifts in the emphasis of assessment models. Until the end of last century, infrastructure and managerial services were emphasized; since 2000, the support to business management has been emphasized; some tools that evaluate the offer of contact networks by incubators have been recently incorporated (Grapeggia, Ortigara, Bastos, Juliatto, & Lezana, 2011).

This study aims to analyze and evaluate the different management strategies in two public and nonprofit incubators, same-sized and located in neighbor towns in São Paulo State (Brazil). The research seeks to answer this issue: how does the role performed by the incubator's management strategy influence the final performance of the unit? The paper has five sections, apart from this first one. The second points out the factors that can lead incubators to success patterns. The third section discusses incubator's management strategies. The fourth section contains the methodology of the research and a general characterization of two incubators: Núcleo de Desenvolvimento Empresarial (Business Development Centre, incubator located in Araraquara) and Centro de Desenvolvimento das Indústrias Nascentes (CEDIN, Emerging Business Development Centre, located in São Carlos). The fifth section reports the research outcomes. Finally, the last section will present the final considerations and indicate perspectives for future researches.

2. Success factors of business incubators

Korontai et al. (2016), Lesáková (2012), Schwartz & Hornych (2010), Schwartz (2013) e Soetanto & Jack (2013) show that not every incubator is successful. Lesáková (2012) e Soetanto & Jack (2013) observe that unsuccessfulness is partly due to decisions of setting incubators following political interests, misregarding other substantive factors as economic and technological. The authors indicate that the incubation's goal should maintain a connection with the local inclination and should be installed in areas where it is possible to identify a real demand, improving the synergy with the business environment and providing access to services or product markets.

Vanderstraeten & Matthyssens (2012) emphasize that incubators should aim external and internal differentiation and alignment in order to reach performance benefits. They suggest that the choices of branch and technology areas should define the competitive scope of an incubator and that the offer of services which aggregates value to the incubatees should assure the longevity of the activities performed by the incubator. Differentiation and alignment should be outcomes of a strategy that meets the needs of the incubator's stakeholders. Strategy shall be, thus, the preponderant factor in order to reach success (Fonseca, 2010; Vanderstraeten & Matthyssens, 2012). Accordingly, Alsos, Hytti & Ljunggren (2011) emphasize that managing and assuring the confluence of the bulk of interests involved are some of the most crucial points in the definition of successfulness or unsuccessfulness of different models of incubators.

Ahmad (2014) considers that the normative environment, the incubation's rules and norms and the interaction of personal trajectories influence the direction of the incubators. The author emphasizes that the idiosyncrasy, often camouflaged throughout the incubation, is a social mechanism directly linked to the successfulness of incubators.

M'Chirgui (2012) emphasizes that the successfulness of incubators is strictly linked to the effectiveness of their integration within the local systems of innovation. Following a similar point of view, Ratinho & Henriques (2010) and Alsos et al. (2011) assure that linkages with universities are crucial to the successfulness of incubators. M'Chirgui (2012) highlighted the role of the governmental entities as a success factor of incubation programs. The author points out that the input of tangible and intangible, financial and economical resources should be established and maintained by public entities.

Authors of many different visions, which analyze incubators through a performance approach, assign their success to the following factors:

  1. Selection mechanisms (Aernoudt, 2004; Aerts, Matthyssens, & Vandenbempt, 2007; Allen & Mccluskey, 1990; Bergek & Norrman, 2008; Bhabra-Remedios & Cornelius, 2003; Dornelas, 2002; Fonseca, 2010; Mian, 1997);
  2. Offered services and aggregated value generated by incubators (Allen & Mccluskey, 1990; Bergek & Norrman, 2008; Bhabra-Remedios & Cornelius, 2003; Chan & Lau, 2005; Fonseca, 2010; I. Peña, 2004; Mian, 1997; Peters, Rice, & Sundararajan, 2004; Sipos & SZbó, 2006);
  3. Bonds with universities and research centers  (Fonseca, 2010; Mian, 1997);
  4. Relationship with the community (Fonseca, 2010; Mian, 1997);
  5. Facilities and infrastructure of the program (Bermúdez & Morais, 1998; Bhabra-Remedios & Cornelius, 2003; Dornelas, 2002; EUROPEAN, 2002; Fonseca, 2010; Hackett & Dilts, 2004; Mian, 1997; Phillips, 2002; Sipos & SZbó, 2006);
  6. The incubator's human resources staff, particularly the roles of manager, consultants and technical support (Bermúdez & Morais, 1998; EUROPEAN, 2002; Fonseca, 2010; Grapeggia et al., 2011; Hackett & Dilts, 2004; Peters et al., 2004);
  7. Public funding invested in the program  (Barbero et al., 2012);
  8. Environmental context of the incubator (Bermúdez & Morais, 1998; Bhabra-Remedios & Cornelius, 2003; Chan & Lau, 2005);
  9. Financial performance of the incubator (Bhabra-Remedios & Cornelius, 2003; Dornelas, 2002; EUROPEAN, 2002; Fonseca, 2010; Hackett & Dilts, 2004; Phillips, 2002; Sipos & SZbó, 2006); e
  10. The network the incubator offers to the incubatees (Chan & Lau, 2005; Peters et al., 2004).

Additionally, the literature shows that management is a very important variable towards a good performance of incubators (Almeida, Zattar, Seleme, & Stefano, 2015; Abetti, 2004; Allen & Mccluskey, 1990; ANPROTEC & SEBRAE, 2002; Beltrame & Carmargo, 2015; Bergek & Norrman, 2008; Bhabra-Remedios & Cornelius, 2003; Carayannis & von Zedtwitz, 2005; Chan & Lau, 2005; Fonseca, 2010; Grapeggia et al., 2011; Hackett & Dilts, 2004; Mian, 1997; Ratinho & Henriques, 2010; Scillitoe & Chakrabarti, 2010). Alsos, Hytti & Ljunggren (2011) emphasize that managing an incubator involves balancing a complex set of conflicting goals. Ratinho & Henriques (2010) highlight that, in order to manage incubators, specific skills are required, because it involves complex processes, such as technology transfer, definition and offering of services and the effectiveness of selection processes. Accordingly, Fonseca (2010) considers the following skills as fundamental: a) professional education in areas related to incubator management; b) professional qualification (through courses and similar activities) in incubator management; c) professional experience in company and/or institution management; d) verified negotiation skills – contracts, projects and similar; e) experience in team leadership; f) experience in activities that require communication skills.

In order to achieve a high level of performance, incubators may choose different management models. In the next section, some possible management arrangements are outlined.

3. Management strategies

According to Grimaldi & Grandi (2005), there are two types of incubators: private or for-profit and public or nonprofit.

Private incubators aim to create new enterprises in order to have partial access to the capital of the nurtured firms. They can follow a managerial or an independent model, also known as accelerators (Grimaldi & Grandi, 2005). It aims to induce the outbreak of new independent business from the facilities of the company which supports the incubator. The other way corresponds to incubators nurturing small business which need capital or know-how support. Both these models of incubators, as a rule, do not aim to actualize interventions during the earlier definition stages of the firms, but only to accelerate ideas which have already been launched (Grimaldi & Grandi, 2005).

Public or nonprofit incubators are oriented to promote economic development through job creation and economic and technological development (Grimaldi & Grandi, 2005). They are usually made feasible by public resources, and the main revenue source comprises both fee paid by the tenants for the services provided and funding from local, national or international public agents. These incubators can follow three management models: university model, designed to promote technological development; participatory model, which has the local development as its main purpose; corporative model, oriented to support and strengthen the target groups (firms or entrepreneurs) of each corporation (Fonseca, 2010).

There are two ways most frequently adopted by these public incubators to play their managerial tasks: self-management and third-party management. In the first way the incubators are dependent on the whole institutional strategy of the organization which created them. In the second way an independent agent manages the incubator, which is institutionally linked to a network of public-private agents. The main Brazilian entities that usually claim this duty are: city government, universities, foundations, nongovernmental organizations (development agencies, institutes and specific associations), associations, centers and federations (commercial and industrial) and consulting companies.

The research, whose outcomes will be ahead described, compared different incubator management strategies and the respective outcomes. The next section will evince the employed methodology.

4. Methodology

This research's main goal was to compare different management strategies in two incubators located in São Paulo State – Brazil. A qualitative method was employed, as multiple case study, with an exploratory purpose and using several data collection tools.

The data collection tools were:

  1. Assessment model developed by Fonseca (2010), comprising dimensions such as: selection mechanisms, offered services, connections with universities and research centers, relation with the local community, facilities and infrastructure, the incubator's human resources staff, the invested public funding, the environmental context and the political and institutional environment in which the program has been inserted;
  2. Semi structured itinerary for data collection: incubation program's history; incubator's attitude toward crucial success factors which have been previously identified in the literature (choice for the program's allocation; differentiation and strategic alignment; program's culture; integration with the innovation system and governmental support);
  3. Documents which have been provided by the managers in order to evince the programs' history;
  4. Observation and comparison with reality.

The research was conducted in July and August 2014, having as main data sources the incubators managers and the incubated companies.

4.1 Features of the performance assessment tool

The assessment model stems from an academical research made by the Department of Public Administration at the Faculdade de Ciências e Letras de Araraquara, State University of São Paulo (Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho – Unesp).

It consists of nine indicators, which can be split into two groups: the first one comprises issues related to the incubator's operational management and evaluates its ability to manage its processes in order to generate successful firms. The second group evaluates the incubator's contributions towards the companies' performance. It is understood that the incubator has an institutional responsibility of promoting the development of the environment in which it is located, supporting innovation, economical strengthening, generation of sociocultural benefits, adoption of environmental practices and support to political-institutional benefits. Each indicator consists of a series of internal components, factors which are relevant to a performance assessment, treated as variables. Altogether there are 52 variables in the model.

The first group contains four indicators and 25 variables. The indicator called "Occupation Strategy" is applied to identify what is the strategy of the incubator in terms of the types of entrepreneurs and firms to support and the activity sectors that are prioritized. The "Retention" indicator evaluates the quality and the diversity of the infrastructure and the internal and external services offered by the incubator, on the assumption that these are critical factors to the permanence of the tenant firms during the incubation period. The "Graduation" indicator ascertains the incubator's ability to ensure the graduation of the companies within the time limits which have been established, without limiting their survival propensity after the incubation. Lastly, the "Institutional Sustainability" indicator evaluates the long-term incubator's survival ability, from its institutional point of view. It is understood that this condition is related to factors such as: ratio of own generated resources; intensity of the institutional support it receives; staff's motivation, commitment and qualification.

The second group of indicators, evaluators of the outcomes from the incubator's operation, consists of five indicators and 27 variables. The "Environmental Performance" indicator evaluates the incubator's level of sensibility and commitment to the environmental values, assets and resources. The "Innovation" indicator has a triple purpose: a) to assess the frequency and the volume of innovations incorporated – by self generation or external transference – by the tenant firms; b) to identify the typology of innovations; c) to evaluate the incubator's contributions to the innovation processes. The "Sociocultural Performance" indicator evaluates the incubator's social contributions, particularly with regard to job generation and preservation, work qualification and establishment of positive bonds with the external social environment. The "Economical Performance" indicator evaluates the economic performance of the incubatees, whether based on revenue increments or other variables such as market share. Lastly, the "Political-Institutional Performance" indicator evaluates the intensity of the incubator's contributions towards the accomplishment of strategic goals of the public supporting institutions.

As aforementioned, this model was applied in two incubators located in São Paulo State – Brazil, Núcleo de Desenvolvimento Empresarial, located in Araraquara, and Centro de Desenvolvimento das Indústrias Nascentes – CEDIN, located in São Carlos, whose profiles are presented below.

4.2 Brief characterization of the evaluated incubators

The Centro de Desenvolvimento das Indústrias Nascentes (CEDIN, Emerging Business Development Centre) was born in 1986 as a branch of the science park located in São Carlos. The Núcleo de Desenvolvimento Empresarial (Business Development Centre) was created in 1996 to foster and leverage entrepreneurship in Araraquara. Throughout their respective histories, both incubators have experienced successive management strategy changes, which arose from the establishment of bonds with several management institutions.

CEDIN was conceived in 1984 by the former Campanhia de Promoção da Pesquisa Científica e Tecnológica (Promocet, São Paulo State Scientific and Technological Research Promotion Company), in the context of the "National Technology for Entrepreneurs" program, whose aim was to promote the Scientific and Technological System through the creation of five emerging business centers in São Paulo State, in areas which were considered as technological centers – Campinas, São Carlos, Piracicaba, São José dos Campos and São Paulo (TOFK et al, 1985). CEDIN was inaugurated in 1986 through a joint initiative from São Paulo State Government and São Carlos Municipal Government (TOFK et al, 1985).

Since its inauguration, CEDIN was managed by four different institutions: Promocet (1986-1994); Centro das Indústrias do Estado de São Paulo – CIESP, São Paulo State Industry Center (1996-2007); Inova São Carlos Institute (2009-January 2012); São Carlos Municipal Government (since February 2012). During this period, CEDIN has had several management strategies. In the first period, the management was centralized in the administrative structure of São Paulo State Government (Secretaria de Ciência, Tecnologia e Desenvolvimento Econômico – SCTDE, Department of Science, Technology and Economic Development), and the management activities were done by a public state staff. This format changed in 1994, when São Paulo State Government closed CEDIN, and it was re-inaugurated two years later through an agreement between CIESP, SEBRAE-SP (Serviço Brasileiro de Apoio a Micro e Pequena Empresa do Estado de São Paulo – Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service in São Paulo State) and São Carlos Municipal Government. CIESP was responsible for the management. This management model ended in 2007, when the agreement between CIESP and SEBRAE-SP came to an end. After two years with no official management, CEDIN turned to be managed by a nongovernmental organization (Inova São Carlos Institute), which held this position until January 2012.

The incubator of Araraquara was created in 1996 by the Municipal Government, through an agreement between CIESP and SEBRAE-SP. Its purpose was to strengthen and leverage local entrepreneurship through incubation of small industrial firms. It has been managed, along its life cicle, by four institutions: CIESP (1997-2007); Aequitas Institute (2008-2010); Inova São Carlos Institute (2011-January 2012); Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho – Unesp (since January 2012). Comparing both incubators' courses, it can be noticed that they had different initial goals and management strategies. Moreover, they had been organized by entities located in different spheres (state and municipal). But, their paths have converged in 2011, since the Inova São Carlos Institute held both management positions. However, this organization decided to leave the management of both incubators in January 2012, due to an internal restructuring, and "gave it back" to the respective municipal governments. São Carlos Municipal Government has chosen an internalization strategy of CEDIN management in its structure, while Araraquara Municipal Government has chosen an outsourcing of the incubator management through an agreement made with the Department of Public Administration – State University of São Paulo (Unesp/Araraquara).

The results which will be presented in the next section point the outcomes of the research. This assessment was conducted nearly 18 months after the last changes in the management trajectories of both incubators.

5. Results and discussion

The management strategies were evaluated through an assessment model developed by Fonseca (2010). The next subsections will show the results for each incubator.

5.1 CEDIN assessment

In its first step the research tried to identify the main managerial activities of the incubator in the two last periods. It has been evidenced the absence of any strategic vision or positioning of the incubator in both periods. As a consequence, it was noticed that there was no occupation strategy, implying the absence of mechanisms for recruiting and selecting new firms. Furthermore, there were no incubation contracts, which can be considered a permissive condition to cause conflictive relations in the incubator.

The physical setting of the incubator consisted of individual modules, administrative area and common use areas. The building was specially designed to house the incubator, and its initial structure (with eight modules) was later adapted so that 13 tenants could be housed. Due to financial restrictions, it was not possible to conduct preventive and corrective maintenance of the physical structure.

The permanent staff of the incubator comprised a complete full-time team with managerial skills. According to the manager, the staff embraced activities as: administrative support, surveillance and security, cleaning, telephony, external services (messenger) and legal support to the incubated companies. There were quarterly meetings with the incubatees, but no advising/consulting services to the elaboration of business plans were offered.

As for the graduated companies, it was noticed that there were no post-incubation services or any kind of monitoring, precluding the data collection about the performance of these firms.

As for the institutional sustainability, it was noticed that CEDIN was highly dependent from external financial transferences: it did not generate own resources, did not charge incubation fees and did not conduct consulting activities. Furthermore, the incubator did not keep strategical partnerships. On the other hand, it was noticed that the manager had (in his self-assessment) a commitment to the development of required skills towards a better performance of his function, as well as his administrative staff's.

In terms of environmental practices, it was noticed that the incubator's infrastructure project included use of renewable energy sources – notably solar energy and wind power – and capture, treatment and saving systems of water resources. Furthermore, the incubator's manager encouraged the firms to implement similar mechanisms in their future facilities. Against these efforts however, the incubator hadn't yet established any environmental conditions to the selection of new incubated companies. It was a consequence of the absence of incubation strategy.

In terms of innovations generation, half of the firms in the incubator had innovated in the year before the research was done, without, however, any institutional support of the incubator. It could be noticed that CEDIN didn't offer any labs for common use, didn't have any consultancy to leverage innovations or partnerships with technological centers and universities. In summary, as for the incubator, it was noticed the absence of any strategy or mechanism to foster or support technology absorption (a primary condition for technology transfer) and, additionally, the companies didn't have any environment prone to innovation.

In its sociocultural performance, it was observed that the incubator's activities have generated an average increase of jobs by about 20%. The research also revealed that: there was a permanent zeal for the comfort in the workplace, the sound, thermal, visual and lighting aspects; it required personal protective equipment (PPE) and followed the provisions of the Comissão Interna de Prevenção de Acidentes (CIPA – Internal Committee on Accident Prevention); it had also a work health and safety system; the incubator allows the external community to access its facilities – auditorium, computer lab, library etc.; the staff is frequently involved  in external activities with community's representatives and stimulates managers and workers of the incubated companies to carry out social investments (funding and other types of support to communitarian, educational, sports, cultural projects etc.).

As for the economic performance, it was observed that CEDIN didn't monitor the incubated enterprises' billing, commercialization and income and taxes generation rates.

Lastly, in the political-institutional indicator, it was found that CEDIN has supported the creation of a mechanism to support local incubators, micro and small enterprises, along with other existent political tools.

In order to evaluate the managerial activities' outcomes, from the perspective of the incubated companies, they were asked about the level of satisfaction they had, regarding the company incubation program. They had four choices (excellent, good, regular or poor). The results were: 10 (76.92%) have classified the incubation program as poor, and 23.08% as regular. Thus, there wasn't any positive evaluation (excellent or good) regarding the incubator and the manager's activities. Afterwards, the entrepreneurs were asked why the program received such a negative evaluation. The main aspects were:

  1. Absence of a training schedule;
  2. Absence of technical and managerial consultancy;
  3. Absence of a graduation schedule;
  4. Lack of assistance regarding the business plan elaboration;
  5. Absence of a business manager;
  6. Poor infrastructure for building maintenance.
  7. In the finalistic indicators, the research evidenced that the mortality and evasion rates were between 11% and 20%.

5.2 Business Development Centre of Araraquara assessment

Unlike CEDIN, it could be noticed that one of the Araraquara-based incubator's transitional period marks was the elaboration of a strategic plan to the new management board. Furthermore, there was an occupation strategy, with the establishment of rules and mechanisms to the recruitment and selection of new incubated companies, and the establishment of incubation contracts, which turned out to avoid actions and conducts that could harm the environment and the internal relationship. Lastly, it was found that regulatory frameworks had been created (mainly an adhesion contract and internal rules) in order to assure the regulation of the incubator's internal activities.

The incubator's physical setting comprises individual modules, administrative area and common use areas, being especially designed to house the incubator. Along the last period of incubation (after 2012) the initial structure (12 modules) was adapted and expanded to 14 modules. There are periodical preventive and corrective maintenance activities in the facilities, supported by incubator's own resources.

As for the incubator's permanent staff, there was a complete full-time team, with managerial skills and formal competences. It offered administrative support, surveillance and security, cleaning, internal telephony and technical support to the incubated companies. Furthermore, it offered advising/consulting services to the elaboration of business plans and held monthly meetings with the incubated companies in order to promote integration and share experiences.

Focusing on the graduated companies, it was noticed that there were no services designed to this public and that the current management board didn't monitor them, hindering their monitoring and accompaniment.

Focusing on the institutional sustainability of the incubator, the research revealed that the Araraquara-based unit is not dependent from transferences of external funds. The funding of operational activities and investments stemmed from incubation fees, external partnerships and consulting activities.

The incubator has a management board composed of representatives from Araraquara City Government, State University of São Paulo (Unesp), University Center of Araraquara (Uniara) and São Paulo State Industry Center (CIESP). Along with the formal partnerships, the incubator had kept a close relationship with SEBRAE, the National Service for Industrial Apprenticeship (SENAI) and the Commercial Industrial Association of Araraquara (ACIA).

In its environmental performance, it was observed that the incubator's infrastructure project did not comprise an environmentally responsible system. There were, however, training and consultancy meetings that aimed to change the entrepreneurs' behavior, in order to comprise the environmental aspect within the business activities. Like CEDIN, however, it hadn't established any environmental condition proper to the selection of new incubated companies.

As for innovations, collected data revealed that 41% of the incubated firms had innovated in the last twelve months before the research. The management staff was crucial to this performance. Some diagnoses were made in order to identify potential innovations and paths which could be followed towards the materialization of innovative projects. The research also pointed out that 66% of the entrepreneurs which have invested in innovations created products, processes or services which were already available in the market or society, but new to their respective firms. The innovations' sources were empiricism, internal experience and/or technical information. To sum up, the incubator was proactive in managing innovations, warning entrepreneurs about an innovation necessity, developing permanent inductive activities, identifying and seeking technical, material and financial funding sources. Along the selection process for new companies, the incubator had tried to set innovation as a criterion for incubation. Because of these actions, the incubator, which was initially traditional, turned out to be characterized as a technological profile incubator, according to the State Government assessment.

Concerning the sociocultural dimension, it was observed that the incubator's activities had increased the number of jobs by 40%, that it had tried to assure comfort in the workplace, as for the sound, thermal, visual and lighting aspects, and that it required personal protective equipment (PPE) and followed the provisions of the Internal Committee on Accident Prevention. Furthermore, it could be noticed that the incubator interacted with the external environment, opening its facilities – auditorium, computer lab, library etc. – so that the community could use it, above all the academic community. The incubator took part in events organization along with community's representatives, especially Rotary Club, encouraged the entrepreneurs and the workers in the housed units or the incubator to carry out social investments (support to communitarian, educational, sports, cultural projects etc.).

In the evaluation of the economic performance, the research revealed that the incubator had monitored the incubated enterprises' billing, commercialization and income and taxes generation rates. The following rates have been identified: billing increased by more than 30%; 100% of formalization in the first six months of incubation; workers' revenues increased by more than 30%; tax revenues increased by more than 30%.

As for the political-institutional performance, it was found out that the incubator is acknowledged by the municipal government as an important tool towards public policies which support the local entrepreneurship.

Considering the performance assessment from the perspective of the incubated companies, the outcomes were: four (22%) have evaluated the incubation process as excellent; nine (50%) have classified it as good; and five (28%) have regarded it as regular. From a qualitative point of view, the main answers were:

  1. There is a training schedule;
  2. There is a managerial and technical consultancy;
  3. Support to business plan elaboration;
  4. There is a business manager;
  5. Building infrastructure and maintenance.

Lastly, in the finalistic indicators, it could be observed that there wasn't any record regarding the mortality rate and that the evasion rate was between 11% and 20%.

5.3 Comparison between the incubation management strategies

Among the results generated by the research, it can be highlighted that a local university managed one of the incubators (Araraquara). Furthermore, it implemented a self-designed management model which substantially dynamized the incubator's performance and provided a strong profile change, including it in the context of technological incubators.

It could be observed, also, that these strategies provided different actions and results to the incubators, when one compares them with the success factors described in the literature. The following table is a synthesis of the current managers' posture regarding these factors.

Evaluated dimensions



Management strategy


By a third party, in an agreement with the University

Incubator's permanent staff

Manager, administrative support, administrative support services, surveillance and cleaning staff.

Coordinator, supervisor, manager, technical advisor, administrative advisor, trainees and cleaning staff.

Working time


Full-time (manager, administrative advisor and trainees).

Coordination/Management board's skills

Experience in negotiating – contracts, projects and similar elements.

They hold Public Administration and Incubator Management degrees; experience in managing non-profit institutions.

Management board


A board which comprises representatives from Araraquara Municipal Government, Unesp, Uniara, Ciesp and the incubated companies.

Choice of manager institution

Firstly, technical criteria; then, party-political criteria.

Technical criteria.

Strategic alignment and differentiation

There is no differentiation: the only offered service is physical space.

There is no internal and external alignment.

It seeks differentiation and offers several specific services to each incubated company.

The strategic alignment is determined in periodic meetings of the management board.

Program's culture

There are no internal regulatory frameworks; entrepreneurs treat incubator as a condominium.

Updated documentation. Entrepreneurs treat incubator as an opportunity to develop their business models.

Integration with innovation system

There is no integration or approach with the innovation system.

Completely integrated, because the manager is the University.

Governmental support

It receives support exclusively from the Municipal Government.

It receives support from the Municipal Government and the manager university.

Table 1 – Comparative analysis of the crucial success factors in two incubators (results from field research, 2013)

The table 1 highlights that the São Carlos-based incubator had every necessary element to a good performance, but few actions were enabled due to the current manager's limitations. The city is prone to innovation, houses engineering campi of two of the most important Brazilian technological universities (Universidade de São Paulo – USP and Universidade Federal de São Carlos – UFSCar) and the incubator does not seem to be able to get benefits from this institutional context. On other hand, Araraquara's economy is basically traditional and agricultural, which means it is not prone to the installation of an incubation program, but it had better results due to a better performance by its managerial strategy.

A possible inference about the differences in the performance patterns of both incubators can arise from CEDIN's limitations regarding the workaday operation decisions, since it is done within the organizational structure of São Carlos City Government. The current manager seeks a target to the establishment of its strategy. On the other hand, the Araraquara-based incubator has value added and a differential, has reached its financial autonomy and partnerships which are fundamental to its action strategy.

6. Conclusions and closing remarks

Due to the eminently exploratory feature of this research, along with the small number of incubators which were deliberately taken into account, these conclusions should be regarded as preliminary and restricted. They are not directly related to the performance patterns of the incubators, but more precisely to the parameters used to evaluate the incubators. In other words, we can infer from the conclusions of the research some indicatives regarding the applicability and validity of the analytical dimensions which have been used.

The option to use ten analytical dimensions arise from the literature indicators regarding the incubators' success factors and the authors' conviction regarding the multifaceted and systemic aspect of the incubators (not only the assessed ones, but in the institutional sense). This aspect gives another complexity level to this organizational modality, when we compare them to the organizations which have been more often approached in the management literature – especially business and state public organizations.

Although incubators were recognized, since their origin, as innovation environments, playing the role of social and cultural agents to foster technology transfer and spin-off generation, they turned out to become more diversified and took on other roles, such as those which were pointed by the literature revised in this paper. One of the consequences of this diversification – as a challenge to the management literature – is the need to adopt multiple criteria and indicators to the performance assessment.

It represents the recognition that, depending on the individual profile of each incubator, different performance patterns will be identified, as they are evaluated through different indicators (the most frequent are economic and innovation indicators).

This research has confirmed this indication, although it has highlighted the preponderant role performed by the incubators' managing teams. As for this particular aspect, four management factors, or analytical dimensions according to the table 1, have been identified as the most crucial to the performance of the evaluated incubators. The first one is the administrative continuity. The opposite recurrently damaged both incubators along their histories, until early 2012, laying on serious negative consequences to their respective performance patterns. The second aspect comprises the full delegation of skills and the oneness of command. This factor opposes the management strategies of both incubators under evaluation since 2012. While the Araraquara-based incubator stays under control of one managing institution, Unesp, which received full delegation from the City Government, CEDIN has simultaneously and contradictorily suffered because of the duplicity and the lack of command. The third factor regards qualification, experience, diversity and dedication of the incubators' managing teams. As for this particular aspect, there is a visible imbalance between both teams: Cedin's is smaller and comprises municipal government employees with no academic background or experience in managing incubators, while the Araraquara-based incubator's comprises a qualificated staff (with specialized academic background) to manage incubators. Furthermore, there are more members, including students with academic background in this field. Finally, the fourth crucial factor, which clearly opposes both incubators, regard the external links and the propensity to leverage technologic transfer opportunities: while Cedin was closed to relationships with the external environment, above all with the local universities, the Araraquara-based incubator had a management board whose staff arose mainly from the university and tried to create relationships and links with external institutions, seeking to create conditions for the technological transfer and, in consequence, the permanent upgrading of the incubator's performance.

The closing remarks should highlight the preliminary aspect and the limited scope of the research's results. Even though these results were virtuous, they indicate an opportunity to the continuity, expansion and deepening of the research, through the construction of better structured data collection tools and the use of more sample elements.


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1. Economist graduated in Universidade de São Paulo (USP), 1977; Master in Administration from the Universidade de São Paulo (USP), 1995; PhD in Administration from the University de São Paulo (USP), 2000Presently, is a teacher in Department of Public Administration of the University Estadual Paulista (UNESP).
2. Economist graduated from the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP), 1998; Specialist in Education from Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP), 2001; Master in Urban Engineering from the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), 2003; PhD in Food and Nutrition from Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP), 2011; Post PhD in Food and Nutrition from Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP), 2013. Presently, is teacher in Department of Business Administration of the University Center of Araraquara (UNIARA). email:
3. Administrator in University Estadual Paulista (UNESP), 2013; masters student' in Management organizations and public systems by the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar).

Revista Espacios. ISSN 0798 1015
Vol. 37 (Nº 19) Año 2016


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