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What matters in business incubation? A literature review and a suggestion for situated theorising

Nicholas Theodorakopoulos (Aston Business School, Aston University Birmingham, UK)
Nada K. Kakabadse (Henley Business School, University of Reading Henley-on-Thames, UK)
Carmel McGowan (University of West London, London, UK)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Article publication date: 11 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to provide a critical assessment of the literature on business incubation effectiveness and second, to submit a situated theoretical perspective on how business incubation management can provide an environment that supports the development of incubatee entrepreneurs and their businesses.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper provides a narrative critical assessment of the literature on business incubation effectiveness. Definitional issues, performance aspects and approaches to establishing critical success factors in business incubation are discussed. Business incubation management is identified as an overarching factor for theorising on business incubation effectiveness.

Findings

The literature on business incubation effectiveness suffers from several deficiencies, including definitional incongruence, descriptive accounts, fragmentation and lack of strong conceptual grounding. Notwithstanding the growth of research on this domain, understanding of how entrepreneurs and their businesses develop within the business incubator environment remains limited. Given the importance of relational, intangible factors in business incubation and the critical role of business incubation management in orchestrating and optimising such factors, it is suggested that theorising efforts would benefit from a situated perspective.

Originality/value

The identification of specific shortcomings in the literature on business incubation highlights the need for more systematic efforts towards theory building. It is suggested that focusing on the role of business incubation management from a situated learning theory perspective can lend itself to a more profound understanding of the development process of incubatee entrepreneurs and their firms. Theoretical propositions are offered to this effect, as well as avenues for future research.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Thanks are due to the ESRC for supporting the project on which this work is based (ES/J001538/1). The authors would also like to thank the anonymous referees, as well as Professor Harry Matlay for his comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Citation

Theodorakopoulos, N., K. Kakabadse, N. and McGowan, C. (2014), "What matters in business incubation? A literature review and a suggestion for situated theorising", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 602-622. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSBED-09-2014-0152

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited