Journal of the Knowledge Economy

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 423–443 | Cite as

Business Incubators: Effective Infrastructures or Waste of Public Money? Looking for a Theoretical Framework, Guidelines and Criteria

  • Ernesto TavolettiEmail author


There is a wide literature about business incubators (BIs), especially about successful cases in high tech and knowledge intensive industries. Despite that, there is neither a viable integrative theory of effective business incubation nor clear guidelines about the preconditions for establishing BIs and their management. Such theory and guidelines are urgently needed because there is increasing evidence in the literature that, despite many successful cases and public policies supporting business incubation, most of BIs are not successful at all and serious doubts have emerged about the general effectiveness of business incubation and the advisability of investing public money in it. Based on a systematic literature review of the poor and scattered theoretical knowledge of effective business incubation, general principles are proposed to decide when a BI should be established and what it should do to be effective. The research is limited to non-profit BIs whose main goal is regional economic development as they represent the overwhelming majority of operating BIs.


Business incubators Business incubation Theoretical contribution New ventures Start-ups 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Studies on Economic DevelopmentUniversity of MacerataMacerataItaly

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