Student Incubators: A New Tool for Entrepreneurial Eduaction?

Alessandro Colombo

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis studies the characteristics of student business incubators (SBIs) in Denmark. First, I investigate the distinctive characteristics of SBIs by comparing them with a residual category of commercial incubators (PBIs). To test the systematic differences between the two groups of incubators, I gather data from 5 incubators based in Copenhagen, through surveys and semistructured interviews. The final sample includes 226 entrepreneurs, clustered in 175 firms. I find that SBIs tenants are younger and less experienced than PBIs tenants, and that SBIs tenant firms are earlier stage than PBIs tenant firms. Furthermore, I find that SBIs tenants need, expect, and then receive, more mentoring, advisory services, and peer-community support than PBIs tenants. These results about business assistance services provide a first original contribution to the literature about SBIs, which is still at a very early stage. Furthermore, I focus on the educational outcomes of business assistance in SBIs. Prior research about entrepreneurship education and training (EET) programs implies that their effectiveness on entrepreneurship skills decreases with the age of the trainee (from the primary to the post-secondary level of education). Despite the greater amount of mentoring and entrepreneurial training provided to student entrepreneurs, I do not find evidence that SBIs tenants are more likely than PBIs tenants to acquire new entrepreneurship skills. I find, instead, that the age of SBIs and PBIs incubatees is negatively correlated to entrepreneurship skills acquired during incubation. In other words, the older is the incubatee, the less likely he or she is to acquire entrepreneurship skills; while the type of incubation program per se does not increase the probability of the incubatee to acquire such skills. Finally, I study the dynamics of business assistance in SBIs and PBIs. I find that the performance of SBIs tenants is more closely related than that of PBIs ones to the “regular producer” (mentoring, peer-community) and “consumer producer” (effort by the tenant) inputs in the co-production business assistance. In other words, I find that SBIs tenants are more dependent than PBIs tenants on the business assistance relation that they engage with the incubator. In conclusion, the thesis introduces the reader to empirical findings on student incubators and student entrepreneurship, and discusses the importance of these. Both the theoretical and empirical overview on the topic makes it fairly easy to extend this study, in order to make further investigations about the effectiveness of SBIs on entrepreneurship skills, and the dynamics of business assistance in SBIs.

EducationsMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages72
SupervisorsMirjam Van Praag