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Inside the incubator – business relationship creations among incubated firms

Christina Öberg (Weaterhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA; The Ratio Institute, Stockholm, Sweden and School of Business, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden)
Markus Klinton (Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden)
Helen Stockhult (University of Skövde, Skövde, Sweden)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 16 April 2020

Issue publication date: 15 December 2020




Incubators, as providers of advice and resources, suggest fostering the development of early-idea firms. Literature and practice seem to suggest an ever-increasing amount of incubator support. The creation of business relationships is at the heart of any business development, and this paper addresses whether a laissez-faire incubator fosters the creation of business relationships. The purpose of this paper is to explore the creation of business relationships among incubated firms during and after their time in the incubator along with the roles that these relationships play for the incubated firms.


Empirically, the paper is based on retrospective interviews with representatives of all incubated firms in a university incubator. A total of fifteen interviews were conducted with representatives of the incubated firms, the incubator and its owners, complemented by secondary data sources.


The paper points out three antecedents for business relationship creation: the lack of experience and connections; convenience; and trust based on the interactions with others in the incubator. These antecedents are connected to the roles of transforming businesses and of adaptation in the dyadic relationships. The laissez-faire incubator helped through the learning-by-doing among the incubated firms, which made them focus on business relationship creation from early on.


Most incubator research portrays the unilateral transfer of knowledge from the incubator to the incubated firm, with the latter being a service taker rather than a co-producer. The paper adds knowledge about business relationships among firms in incubators and the roles that these business relationships could play for the firms. The focus on an incubator providing limited support is of high practical relevance, given the trend of incubators facilitating more and more services.



Öberg, C., Klinton, M. and Stockhult, H. (2020), "Inside the incubator – business relationship creations among incubated firms", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 35 No. 11, pp. 1767-1784.



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