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Relationships matter: case study of a university campus incubator

Ali J. Ahmad (Dublin City University Business School, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland)
Sarah Ingle (Quality Promotion Office, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 27 September 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to study the nature of the incubator manager (IM)‐client, client‐client and client‐IM‐client relationships that facilitate incubation activity.

Design/methodology/approach

A case study methodology was adopted for undertaking the empirical work. The case organization was an Irish Dublin‐based university campus incubator. During the course of the research, which lasted six months, data were collected from high‐technology client firms and the incubator management using semi‐structured interviews, non‐participant observation and corporate documents.

Findings

Incubation is very much dependent on the quality of human relationships and occurs via a process of co‐production in dyads and triads. Without the voluntary and active participation of client firms, the mechanisms that facilitate co‐production break down. There is no one master incubation process, it is comprised of small micro‐processes each with its own norms, dynamic and stages depending on relational quality.

Research limitations/implications

The paper is based on a single case study using a qualitative, inductive and interpretive approach; the aim was analytic rather than statistical generalization, therefore, contributions are made to incubation theory.

Originality/value

The research makes a number of contributions; first, the amount of interaction among the incubation parties has the potential to both positively and negatively impact the overall quality of client experiences; second, levels of interaction and relational quality among a certain category of clients in the same incubator may be higher than others based on industrial affiliation; and third, brokerage behaviour by the IM that facilitates the connection of clients in consortia or links clients individually or in groups to unrelated outside agencies, improves the overall quality of the incubation environment.

Keywords

Citation

Ahmad, A.J. and Ingle, S. (2011), "Relationships matter: case study of a university campus incubator", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 17 No. 6, pp. 626-644. https://doi.org/10.1108/13552551111174701

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited