The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 433–453 | Cite as

Motivations and obstacles to networking in a university business incubator

  • Christine E. CooperEmail author
  • Stephanie A. Hamel
  • Stacey L. Connaughton


Business incubators strive to develop robust business and social networks to bring value to their resident companies in the form of intellectual and material resources. Yet, information about what motivates resident companies to participate in networking activities and the obstacles they face in trying to build effective networks is limited. This study employs a communication perspective to examine the process of incubation in an award-winning university business incubator. Using a combination of network analysis and in-depth interviews, the case study reveals the nature of communication in the internal network of 18 resident companies and the incubator administrators. Despite being on the cutting edge of innovations in technology use, study findings reveal face-to-face interaction in the incubator is predominant. The physical proximity of resident companies at the incubator influences who they talk to the most, suggesting incubator site design is important in creating an entrepreneurial environment. The case study also indicates resident company motivations for networking include a strong desire for social support to help manage stress, security of membership in an in-group, and increased access to material or information resources. The primary obstacles residents face to participating in networking and building relationships with each other include extreme time limitations during the early start-up phase, lack of ongoing information about other residents, and lack of trust related to keeping information about innovations and funding sources secure. Implications of these findings and recommendations for incubator managers for building successful and sustainable communication networks conclude the article.


Business incubator Communication network Motivations to communicate Social support Trust 

JEL Classification

Y45 Y80 



We would like to thank Heather Osterman for her assistance with data collection as well as Craig Scott and multiple peer and journal reviewers for their helpful comments on previous versions of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine E. Cooper
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stephanie A. Hamel
    • 2
  • Stacey L. Connaughton
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Communication Arts and SciencesMetropolitan State College of DenverDenverUSA
  2. 2.Department of Communication Arts and SciencesCalifornia State University, ChicoChicoUSA
  3. 3.Department of CommunicationPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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