Business incubation is a new and fast growing industry in the UK. The environments within which incubation can take place and their descriptors as used across the industry are many and varied. The language engaged in by policy‐makers, professionals and practitioners commonly applies metaphors to convey meaning of loosely defined terms and concepts in a diverse market seeking increased clarity. Metaphors can offer a qualitative approach to sense‐making. By articulating ideas through metaphors, individuals can often expand the concepts and expressions available through language. It is asserted that it would be valuable to incubation communities to provide shared meaning to the discourse of incubation such that further confusion is minimised. This paper aims to address this challenge by proposing a classification of incubation environment types based upon a qualitative approach to understand the incubation marketplace through its language, specifically the application of metaphor.
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