Inside the incubator – business relationship creations among incubated firms

PublicationArticle (with peer review)
Business relationship, Christina Öberg, incubator


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. & Stockhult, H. (2020). Inside the incubator – Business relationship creations among incubated firms.Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, 35(11), 1767-1784.

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Design/methodology/approach: The empirical part of the paper consists of a single case study. Data was captured through interviews and secondary data sources.

Findings: The paper points to that resources alone do not explain strategic decisions by a company and how spin-ins and spin-outs result from the need for capabilities, changes in business foci and temporary solutions to deal with overcapacities or lack of alternatives.

Originality/value: The paper contributes to research by discussing contemporary issues in strategy and innovation and relating them to the resource-based view and the growth of the firm. Spin-outs, and acquisitions and divestitures as interlinked events have rarely been focused on in the literature, while they remain frequent phenomena in practice.

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