The role of entrepreneurial networking in the business incubator
The thesis examines the contribution of the business incubator to the networking
activities of the small entrepreneurial firm. Consequently, in so doing the thesis
explores how these activities evolve throughout the entrepreneurial transformation
process whilst considering the effect of close firm proximity. As such, the thesis
draws on the business incubator, cluster, entrepreneurship and networking literature in
order to provide a platform from which an appreciation of how the incubator
contributes to the networking activities of the entrepreneurial firm is gained. The key
element of the business incubator is the entrepreneurial firm. The entrepreneurial firm
is one which is driven by an individual with an opportunity focus and a commitment
to growth orientated strategies. The identification of the entrepreneurial firm as a
'firm under transition' recognises the entrepreneurial effort as a dynamic rather than
The impact of the business incubator on small firm survival rate has been noted.
However, this study provides new insights from a networking perspective. Therefore,
the thesis focuses on the relationship between proximity of the incubator and the
networking activities of the firms in the incubator. Moreover, an emphasis is placed
on the intangible benefits of networking rather than the widely cited tangible benefits
such as shared facilities. This coupled with the recognition of the importance of the
management of networks has led to the identification of an area requiring research,
that of the networked incubator.
Within this thesis, the empirical work is cited within the qualitative tradition with an
exploration of two incubators, eighteen firms in total using a two stage interview process which took place over a six month time period. The thesis focuses on
addressing the generic issue of the entrepreneurial firm within the business incubator.
However, as the research progressed the comparative dimension of the research
became evident. Consequently, the research acknowledges the impact of the inclusion
of two different incubator types on the wealth and richness of the data collected.
This thesis makes five notable contributions to the area of business incubation
research. Firstly, by focusing on the tensions inherent in incubation networks the
research added a new dimension to how networks were understood within the
business incubator. Secondly, trust and empathy were necessary in order to address
these tensions in the business incubator. Thirdly, entrepreneurial networks were
identified as an important function in the opportunity identification and opportunity
realisation process within the business incubator. Fourthly, the entrepreneurial firm
within the business incubator as a firm under transition was identified. Finally, the
neglect of social networks within the incubator leads to a wealth of intimate
knowledge and intelligence remaining untapped.