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Stakeholder theory approach to technology incubators

Gry Agnete Alsos (Nordland Research Institute, Norway)
Ulla Hytti (Turku School of Economics, University of Turku, Finland)
Elisabet Ljunggren (Nordland Research Institute, Norway)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 27 September 2011

Abstract

Purpose

Using stakeholder theory the paper seeks to investigate how technology incubators manage and balance the expectations of stakeholders, and the effect on the shaping of technology incubators and their chances of success.

Design/methodology/approach

Incubator programmes have been introduced with multiple goals. A case study is conducted in order to examine stakeholders based on their power to influence, the legitimacy of the relationship and the urgency of claim, and how incubators deal with stakeholder expectations.

Findings

Incubator management involves balancing a complex set of conflicting goals. Expectations are interdependent, hierarchically organised, and involve sub‐processes related to different stakeholders. Goals are not fitted to an operational context. Consequently, suboptimal solutions are chosen to balance and fulfil expectations sufficiently to ensure survival. Three strategies to balance stakeholder expectations are identified.

Research limitations/implications

The stakeholder theory approach adopted shows how incubators manage the expectations of their various stakeholders, and so may explain why studies on incubator performance produce diverse results.

Practical implications

The effectiveness of incubators is difficult to assess due to multiple, and often moving, targets. There is a great risk that incubators aim for the goals that are easiest to measure and focus on short‐term results. Social returns of incubators can be reduced if incubator managers choose suboptimal solutions to balance the demands of different stakeholders.

Originality/value

Rather than accepting normative assumptions, the paper contributes to the critical analysis of the technology incubator ideal. Through stakeholder analysis the paper demonstrates how incubators are shaped by the struggle to balance conflicting goals.

Keywords

Citation

Agnete Alsos, G., Hytti, U. and Ljunggren, E. (2011), "Stakeholder theory approach to technology incubators", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 17 No. 6, pp. 607-625. https://doi.org/10.1108/13552551111174693

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited