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A preliminary investigation into networking activities within the university incubator

Maura McAdam (School of Management and Economics, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK)
Susan Marlow (Department of HRM, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 13 June 2008




Research to date has identified incubator units as an effective mechanism for supporting the growth and development of small entrepreneurial firms. Advantages are gained not only from the provision of appropriate facilities and external managerial expertise on site, but also from the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial networks facilitated by the spatial proximity of incubator firms. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of context, in other words the degree to which the networking opportunities provided by the university incubator support the small firm in its pursuit of sustainability and growth.


Empirical evidence is presented from six in‐depth, longitudinal case studies of entrepreneurial firms based within a university incubator located within the United Kingdom. The interviews were tape‐recorded and transcribed and then analysed through the NUD*IST software package.


The current research highlights the specific role of the university context in networking activities, and in particular, the development of particular types of networks, namely, social and business. Having identified the role of the university in facilitating such networks, future research needs to consider how proximity and tacit knowledge establishes the trust which underpins successful networking. However, this paper has also revealed some disadvantages of university incubator placement worthy of further consideration and research, namely, how proximity between firms is seen as a threat to intellectual property rights and also, how the image of the academic might be seen as a disadvantage within the business community.


This paper adds to existing literature through an exploration of the manner in which firm proximity within a university incubator impacts upon networking opportunities for new entrepreneurial firms.



McAdam, M. and Marlow, S. (2008), "A preliminary investigation into networking activities within the university incubator", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 219-241.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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