Vanderstraeten 2013 ph d - studies on the strategy and performance of business incubators

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Defesa da tese de doutorado de Johanna Vanderstraeten, ocorrida na Universidade de Antuérpia, na Bélgica. Teses sobre o tema incubadoras.

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Vanderstraeten 2013 ph d - studies on the strategy and performance of business incubators

  1. 1. STUDIES ON THE STRATEGY AND PERFORMANCE OF BUSINESS INCUBATORS
  2. 2. Studies on the Strategy and Performance of Business Incubators Johanna Vanderstraeten, 2013 ISBN: 978-9089-940-78-0 Printed by: Universitas Antwerp University of Antwerp Faculty of Applied Economics Department of Management Belgium With the financial support from - Provinciale Ontwikkelingsmaatschappij (POM) Antwerp – Research project 2009 - Intercollegiate Center for Management Science (I.C.M./C.I.M.) – Doctoral Fellowship Johanna Vanderstraeten, October 2009 until September 2011 - Antwerp Management School (AMS) – Applied Management Research Grant 2011 - Vereniging van Educatieve en Wetenschappelijke Auteurs (VEWA) – Academic Fellowship Fund 2012
  3. 3. Faculty of Applied Economics STUDIES ON THE STRATEGY AND PERFORMANCE OF BUSINESS INCUBATORS Johanna Vanderstraeten Proefschrift voorgedragen tot het behalen van de graad van doctor in de Toegepaste Economische Wetenschappen 11 september 2013 Supervisors: - Prof. dr. Paul Matthyssens - Prof. dr. Arjen van Witteloostuijn
  4. 4. DOCTORAL JURY Prof. dr. Paul Matthyssens (supervisor) University of Antwerp and Antwerp Management School, Belgium Prof. dr. Arjen van Witteloostuijn (supervisor) Tilburg University, the Netherlands and University of Antwerp, Belgium Prof. dr. Koen Vandenbempt (chair) University of Antwerp and Antwerp Management School, Belgium Prof. dr. Tales Andreassi Fundação Getulio Vargas, Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo (FGVEAESP), São Paulo, Brazil Prof. dr. Marcus Dejardin University of Namur, Belgium Prof. dr. Eddy Laveren University of Antwerp and Antwerp Management School, Belgium Prof. dr. Roy Thurik Erasmus University Rotterdam and Free University Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  5. 5. TABLE OF CONTENTS Acknowledgements .................................................................................................................... vii Introduction ................................................................................................................................. 1 Overarching research goals and data gathering ................................................................................ 3 Theoretical anchors ............................................................................................................................ 5 Appendix A: Fact sheet Brazilian incubators ................................................................................... 10 Appendix B: Fact sheet European incubators (Belgium-Flanders; the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Ireland) ............................................................................................................................. 15 Appendix C: Fact sheet Brazilian and European sample incubators ............................................... 16 Bibliography ...................................................................................................................................... 17 Chapter 1: Service-based differentiation strategies for business incubators: Exploring external and internal alignment .................................................................................................................... 21 Abstract ............................................................................................................................................. 21 Highlights .......................................................................................................................................... 21 Keywords .......................................................................................................................................... 21 1.1. Introduction......................................................................................................................... 23 1.2. Theoretical background ...................................................................................................... 25 1.2.1. Strategic positioning theory ........................................................................................... 25 1.2.2. Strategic fit: internal and external alignment ............................................................... 27 1.3. Methodology ....................................................................................................................... 29 1.3.1. Population ....................................................................................................................... 29 1.3.2. Research design, data gathering process, and study quality ........................................ 31 1.3.2.1. In-depth interviews ................................................................................................ 32 1.3.2.2. Focus groups ........................................................................................................... 33 1.4. Empirical results .................................................................................................................. 34 1.4.1. Customer value creation leading to incubator differentiation ..................................... 34 1.4.2. The identification of necessary competence configurations ........................................ 41 1.5. Discussion ............................................................................................................................ 45 1.5.1. Customer value creation leading to incubator differentiation ..................................... 45 1.5.2. Necessary competence configurations .......................................................................... 47 1.6. Conclusion ........................................................................................................................... 49 1.6.1. Contribution to the literature ........................................................................................ 50 1.6.2. Implications for practice and policy ............................................................................... 51 1.6.3. Limitations and directions for future research .............................................................. 52 Appendix A: Characteristics of sample incubators .......................................................................... 54 Appendix B: Characteristics of sample incubator tenants .............................................................. 55 Bibliography ...................................................................................................................................... 56 Chapter 2: Toward a balanced framework for business incubator evaluation and improvement . 63 Abstract ............................................................................................................................................. 63 Highlights .......................................................................................................................................... 63 Keywords .......................................................................................................................................... 63 2.1. Introduction......................................................................................................................... 65 2.2. Theoretical background ...................................................................................................... 67 2.2.1. Individual incubator evaluation measures .................................................................... 67 2.2.2. Integrated incubator evaluation systems ...................................................................... 69 2.2.3. The balanced scorecard and strategy map as incubator evaluation tools ................... 72 i
  6. 6. 2.3. Methodology ....................................................................................................................... 73 2.3.1. Population ....................................................................................................................... 74 2.3.2. Research design, data gathering, and study quality ...................................................... 75 2.4. Empirical results .................................................................................................................. 77 2.4.1. Financial sustainability ................................................................................................... 77 2.4.2. How to attain financial sustainability: long-term strategic goals and alignment ........ 79 2.4.2.1. Structurally stable and diverse tenant portfolio................................................... 79 2.4.2.2. Value creation effectiveness.................................................................................. 80 2.4.2.3. Efficient functioning ............................................................................................... 82 2.4.2.4. Entrepreneurship and business development ...................................................... 82 2.4.3. How to measure internal and external alignment ........................................................ 84 2.4.3.1. External alignment ................................................................................................. 84 2.4.3.2. Internal alignment.................................................................................................. 85 2.5. Discussion ............................................................................................................................ 88 2.6. Conclusion ........................................................................................................................... 91 2.6.1. Contribution to the literature ........................................................................................ 91 2.6.2. Implications for practice and policy ............................................................................... 92 2.6.3. Limitations and directions for future research .............................................................. 93 Bibliography ...................................................................................................................................... 94 Chapter 3: Incubator strategy, institutional context, and incubator performance: A moderated mediation analysis of Brazilian incubators ............................................................................... 101 Abstract ........................................................................................................................................... 101 Highlights ........................................................................................................................................ 101 Keywords ........................................................................................................................................ 101 3.1. Introduction....................................................................................................................... 103 3.2. Theoretical background and hypotheses ......................................................................... 105 3.2.1. Strategic positioning and service logic ......................................................................... 106 3.2.2. Institutional environment ............................................................................................ 109 3.3. Methodology ..................................................................................................................... 112 3.3.1. Target population ......................................................................................................... 112 3.3.2. Data gathering and sample representativeness .......................................................... 112 3.3.3. Questionnaire ............................................................................................................... 114 3.3.3.1. Incubator performance ........................................................................................ 115 3.3.3.2. Entrepreneurial institutional context .................................................................. 116 3.3.3.3. Service customization and focus strategy ........................................................... 117 3.3.3.4. Control variables .................................................................................................. 118 3.3.4. Brazilian context ........................................................................................................... 120 3.3.5. Regression analysis ....................................................................................................... 120 3.4. Empirical results ................................................................................................................ 122 3.5. Discussion and conclusion ................................................................................................ 132 3.5.1. Implications for practice and policy ............................................................................. 134 3.5.2. Limitations and directions for future research ............................................................ 135 Appendix A: Sample representativeness incubator sample ......................................................... 137 Appendix B: Sample representativeness entrepreneurship expert sample................................. 140 Appendix C: Factor analyses .......................................................................................................... 141 Appendix D: Measurement scales ................................................................................................. 143 Appendix E: Plots assumption checks Model 8 ............................................................................. 144 Appendix F: Robustness checks – model without outliers ........................................................... 146 Appendix G: Non-significant interaction plot ................................................................................ 147 Bibliography .................................................................................................................................... 148 ii
  7. 7. Chapter 4: Service co-creation intensity in European business incubators: The impact of the incubator’s human capital and institutional entrepreneurial environment ................................ 157 Abstract ........................................................................................................................................... 157 Highlights ........................................................................................................................................ 157 Keywords ........................................................................................................................................ 157 4.1. Introduction....................................................................................................................... 159 4.2. Theoretical background and hypotheses ......................................................................... 162 4.2.1. Human capital and service co-creation intensity ........................................................ 162 4.2.2. Institutional entrepreneurial environment and service co-creation intensity ........... 163 4.2.3. Human capital, institutional entrepreneurial environment and service co-creation intensity ...................................................................................................................................... 165 4.3. Methodology ..................................................................................................................... 167 4.3.1. Target population ......................................................................................................... 167 4.3.2. Data gathering and sample description ....................................................................... 168 4.3.3. Questionnaire ............................................................................................................... 169 4.3.3.1. Human capital and service co-creation ............................................................... 170 4.3.3.2. Entrepreneurial institutional context .................................................................. 171 4.3.3.3. Control variables .................................................................................................. 171 4.3.4. European context.......................................................................................................... 172 4.3.5. Regression analysis ....................................................................................................... 174 4.4. Empirical results ................................................................................................................ 176 4.5. Discussion and conclusion ................................................................................................ 181 4.5.1. Implications for practice and policy ............................................................................. 183 4.5.2. Limitations and directions for future research ............................................................ 184 Appendix A: Sample representativeness and sample descriptives .............................................. 186 Appendix B: Measurement scales .................................................................................................. 188 Appendix C: Factor analyses .......................................................................................................... 189 Appendix D: Graphs assumption checks........................................................................................ 191 Appendix E: Robustness check – model without outliers ............................................................. 193 Appendix F: Non-significant interaction effects ............................................................................ 194 Bibliography .................................................................................................................................... 195 Conclusion................................................................................................................................ 201 Overall contribution and link between the different chapters .................................................... 201 Implications for practice and policy ............................................................................................... 208 Overall limitations and directions for future research.................................................................. 210 Appendix A: Regulative institutional context as moderator ........................................................ 213 Samenvatting (Nederlands)....................................................................................................... 217 Lacunes in bestaand onderzoek, bijdrage van het proefschrift en link tussen de verschillende hoofdstukken .................................................................................................................................. 217 iii
  8. 8. LIST OF TABLES Chapter 1 Table 1-1: Tenant expectations of service offerings (no sector/technology focus) ............................. 38 Table 1-2: Tenant expectations regarding service offerings (sector/technology focus) ...................... 39 Table 1-3: Competence configuration: generalists ............................................................................... 43 Table 1-4: Competence configuration: specialists ................................................................................ 44 Table 1-5: Characteristics of sample incubatorsa .................................................................................. 54 Table 1-6: Characteristics of sample incubator tenants ....................................................................... 55 Chapter 2 Table 2-1: Output prerequisites for integrated evaluation systems ..................................................... 70 Chapter 3 Table 3-1: Means, standard deviations, maximum, minimum and bivariate correlations ................. 121 Table 3-2: Hierarchical linear regression and path model coefficients............................................... 127 Table 3-3: Hierarchical linear regression for simple mediation, and path model coefficients ........... 130 Table 3-4: Bootstrap quantiles for the conditional indirect effect of the moderated mediation ...... 131 Table 3-5: Sample representativeness: description of incubator samples ......................................... 137 Table 3-6: Sample representativeness: number of tenants and year of operation ............................ 138 Table 3-7: Sample representativeness: description entrepreneurship expert sample ...................... 140 Table 3-8: Component matrix principal component analysis: incubator performance ...................... 141 Table 3-9: Rotated component matrix (VARIMAX rotation) principal component analysis: institutional context ................................................................................................................................................ 141 Table 3-10: Rotated component matrix (VARIMAX rotation) principal component analysis: strategy ............................................................................................................................................................. 142 Table 3-11: Measurement scales for independent variables .............................................................. 143 Table 3-12: Robustness check: hierarchical linear regression for full model without outliers ........... 146 Chapter 4 Table 4-1: Means, standard deviations, maximum, minimum and bivariate correlations ................. 175 Table 4-2: Hierarchical linear regression............................................................................................. 179 Table 4-3: Sample representativeness: description incubator sample ............................................... 186 Table 4-4: Sample descriptives: number of tenants ........................................................................... 186 Table 4-5: Sample descriptives: year of operations, average occupancy rate and inside space ........ 187 Table 4-6: Measurement scales for variables ..................................................................................... 188 Table 4-7: Rotated component matrix (VARIMAX rotation) principal component analysis: institutional context ................................................................................................................................................ 189 Table 4-8: Rotated component matrix (VARIMAX rotation) principal component analysis: strategy 189 Table 4-9: Rotated component matrix (VARIMAX rotation) principal component analysis: human capital .................................................................................................................................................. 190 Table 4-10: Robustness checks: hierarchical linear regression for full model without outliers ......... 193 iv
  9. 9. LIST OF FIGURES Introduction Figure I-1: Overview data gathering........................................................................................................ 5 Figure I-2: Integrative overview of the doctoral thesis ........................................................................... 9 Figure I-3: Map of Brazilian states......................................................................................................... 10 Figure I-4: Number of inhabitants/incubator in the North region of Brazil .......................................... 11 Figure I-5: Number of inhabitants/incubator in the Northeast region of Brazil ................................... 11 Figure I-6: Number of inhabitants/incubator in the Central-West region of Brazil .............................. 12 Figure I-7: Number of inhabitants/incubator in the Southeast region of Brazil ................................... 12 Figure I-8: Number of inhabitants/incubator in the South region of Brazil .......................................... 13 Figure I-9: Number of inhabitants/incubator in Brazil (all states) ........................................................ 14 Figure I-10: Number of inhabitants/incubator in Belgium (Flanders), the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Ireland (contact database) .............................................................................................. 15 Figure I-11: Year incubator started its operations (mean, max, min) ................................................... 16 Figure I-12: Occupancy rate incubators (mean, max, min) a ................................................................. 16 Chapter 1 Figure 1-1: Service-based differentiation strategies ............................................................................. 40 Chapter 2 Figure 2-1: SMEDI: strategy map for nonprofit economic development incubators............................ 83 Figure 2-2: BSEDI and targets: balanced scorecard for nonprofit economic development incubators 87 Chapter 3 Figure 3-1: Conceptual second stage moderation model ................................................................... 111 Figure 3-2: The conceptual models in Figure 3-1 represented in the form of a path model ............. 123 Figure 3-3: Johnson-Neyman region of significance for the conditional effect of service customization strategy given regulative dimension ................................................................................................... 128 Figure 3-4: Interaction service customization strategy and regulative dimension ............................. 128 Figure 3-5: Johnson-Neyman region of significance for the conditional effect of service customization strategy given cognitive dimension..................................................................................................... 129 Figure 3-6: Interaction service customization strategy and cognitive dimension .............................. 129 Figure 3-7: Sample representativeness: number of tenants .............................................................. 138 Figure 3-8: Sample representativeness: year of operations ............................................................... 138 Figure 3-9: Sample representativeness: number of incubator per statea........................................... 139 Figure 3-10: Homoscedasticity and linearity ....................................................................................... 144 Figure 3-11: Normality ........................................................................................................................ 145 Figure 3-12: Interaction service customization strategy and normative dimension .......................... 147 Chapter 4 Figure 4-1: Conceptual moderation model ......................................................................................... 167 Figure 4-2: Johnson-Neyman region of significance for the conditional effect of regulative dimension given human capital ............................................................................................................................ 180 Figure 4-3: Interaction regulative dimension and human capital ....................................................... 180 Figure 4-4: Homoscedasticity and linearity ......................................................................................... 191 Figure 4-5: Normally distributed errors: normal P-P plot ................................................................... 191 Figure 4-6: Normally distributed errors: histogram ............................................................................ 192 Figure 4-7: Interaction human capital and cognitive dimension ........................................................ 194 Figure 4-8: Interaction human capital and normative dimension ...................................................... 194 v
  10. 10. Conclusion Figure C-1: Research questions, main contributions and link between the qualitative and quantitative research............................................................................................................................................... 206 Figure C-2: Johnson-Neyman region of significance for the conditional effect of human capital given regulative dimension........................................................................................................................... 213 Figure C-3: Interaction human capital and regulative dimension....................................................... 213 vi
  11. 11. Acknowledgements The creation and completion of this doctoral thesis would not have been possible without the help, suggestions and willingness to cooperate of a number of people and organizations. There are a number of people from university life that deserve a special “thank you”. I would like to thank my two supervisors, Paul Matthyssens and Arjen van Witteloostuijn. Paul made me enthusiastic about academic research; he showed me the path toward the business incubator topic. His many research ideas and creative insights often helped me at moments when I doubted about the direction this doctoral thesis should take. His reading of the different chapters substantially improved their structure. I would also like to thank Arjen, for his never-ending belief in me as a doctoral researcher. Arjen supervises his Ph.D. students as a true teacher and lives under the motto “stupid questions do not exist”. I want to thank him for always making time for me. Whenever needed, we had weekly meetings, which were always very efficient and effective. I also highly value his experience in model development and testing. Of course, I also want to thank the members of my doctoral jury. Thanks to the insightful comments of Koen Vandenbempt, Marcus Dejardin, Eddy Laveren, Roy Thurik and Tales Andreassi, I was able to further improve the different chapters. There are also a number of people who were involved in my day-to-day life as a doctoral student at the department of Management. First of all, I would like to thank Kim and Eline S., my two roommates. Kim showed me the way in the “doctoral student world” and made me feel at home in our department. Eline S., my current roommate, patiently listened to my talks about the ups and downs of doing a Ph.D. She is one of the most attentive persons I know; I will never forget that she gave me a little flower to encourage me during the last weeks before handing in the doctoral thesis. Of course, not only my roommates gave an extra dimension to my life as a Ph.D. researcher. In particular, I would like to thank all members from the department of Management for the nice moments we spent together. I hope many more will follow! Wouter, thank you for our talks about our research and university life. Tine, Nathalie, Sandy, vii
  12. 12. Eline V.P., Alain, Bruno, Anja and many others, thank you for all the nice lunches we spent together. I really enjoyed getting a breath of fresh air with you. Bruno, Sofie R. and Dendi, you deserve a special “thank you” for your help with statistical problems. I also really enjoyed all moments with the ACED members, such as the ACED workshop. Without Anne, I would probably never have started at the University of Antwerp. She told me about a job opening at the department. Also a special “thank you” to Tanya and Caroline, for their wellorganized administrative and operational support. Next to the University of Antwerp, that supported me throughout the whole doctoral research route, the following organizations and affiliated people deserve an explicit “thank you” for – among others – their financial support. In 2009, the Provinciale Ontwikkelingsmaatschappij (POM) Antwerp financially supported part of our research about nine business incubators in the province of Antwerp, Belgium. Jade Verrept and Luc Broos brought us into contact with incubator managers and experts. Without their support, the qualitative study that forms the basis for Chapters 1 and 2 would not have been possible. I also want to thank Filip for his help during the data gathering process and all tenant, incubator manager and expert interviewees that participated in our research. The Intercollegiate Center for Management Science (I.C.M./C.I.M.) granted me a doctoral fellowship from October 2009 until September 2011. This allowed me to go to Brazil for a research stay at Fundação Getulio Vargas. Françoise Charlez and Dirk Symoens helped me with all operational and administrative aspects during this research stay. From January 2010 until August 2011, Fundação Getulio Vargas – Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo (FGV-EAESP) and specifically the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Center (Centro de Empreendedorismo e Novos Negócios - CENN) provided me support during my research stay in Brazil. Tales, Laura, Claudia, Marcelo, René, Daniel, Chris, Yara, Raffaella, Eliane, Malu, Stela and many others made me feel welcome when I arrived in Brazil. Claudia and Laura, thank you for all our nice lunches, I hope we will stay in touch! Next to Fundação Getulio Vargas, there are a number of other organizations that facilitated the data gathering process in Brazil. For example, SEBRAE (Serviço Brasileiro de Apoio às Micro e Pequenas Empresas) and specifically Renato Fonseca and Maria de Lourdes da Silva brought me into contact with Brazilian incubators and other entrepreneurship viii
  13. 13. organizations. ANPROTEC (Associação Nacional de Entidades Promotoras de Empreendimentos Inovadores) organized a workshop and conference that brought me into contact with many incubators and experts. This was crucial for the start of the Brazilian data gathering process. I also want to thank all Brazilian incubator managers, employees and experts that filled out the questionnaire. I know that you probably get many requests for filling out questionnaires, so thank you for your time. Your input forms the basis of Chapter 3. Also the Vereniging van Educatieve en Wetenschappelijke Auteurs (VEWA) deserves a specific mention. In 2012, this organization provided an Academic Fellowship Fund that enabled me to gather additional Brazilian data after my research stay in Brazil. Thank you for your belief in our research project! For the data gathering process in Europe, I want to thank The Antwerp Management School (AMS). In 2011, they gave us an Applied Management Research Grant that has been used to search for European incubator contact details and finance the sending out of questionnaires in Europe. Eline S., thank you for your help during the data gathering process! I also want to thank all participants that filled out this questionnaire. Your input forms the basis of Chapter 4. Finally, the doctoral thesis would never have been finished without the support from the following people that saw me struggling at home: my family and friends. First, I would like to thank my parents. Mama en papa, you have always supported me. I can call you day and night, which is something that even a 30+-year old “child” appreciates very much. Mama, I really liked our lunches when I was working from home and needed a break. Papa, you are the person that keeps our family together. I want to thank you for always checking whether I needed something. Mama and papa, many children will say this about their parents, but you really are the best! I would also like to thank my lovely sister Pia, and her fantastic family. Pia, I am so happy that we get along so well, and that we spend so many time together. I really love your family: you have a fantastic husband (thank you Tom, for being who you are!) and as you know, I really adore your children. Tijs and Oscar, you are still too young to realize it, but whenever needed, you were the ones who could make me forget the papers that needed to be written and analyses that needed to be done. ix
  14. 14. Thank you to my family-in-law for their support and interest in my job. Joris, I really enjoyed our long talks when Maarten was in Brazil and we were both “home alone” in “de Berkenlaan”. I would also like to thank my friends for just being who they are. I want to thank them for giving me the opportunity to pick up our friendship after stressful periods, and I hope that we can spend many more moments together. There is one particular person who has an important role in all this, and that is Tine. Tine, thank you for organizing so many activities, for our talks, and your little presents to wish me good luck. Last but certainly not least, I would like to thank the most important person in my life: my husband Maarten. Maarten, you were the one who had to deal with me during the most stressful moments. I want to thank you for all the time we spent together, for our long walks and biking trips, for your advice and for your help with the lay-out of this doctoral thesis. But most of all, I just want to thank you for who you are. Antwerp, Belgium, September 2013 x
  15. 15. xi
  16. 16. xii
  17. 17. Introduction Entrepreneurial activities are seen as the engine of economic growth (Audretsch et al., 2007; van Stel et al., 2005) and employment changes (Baptista et al., 2008). Also indirect effects of new business formation for the economy have been widely documented, such as increased innovative activities (Giarratana, 2004), technological development (Licht and Nerlinger, 1998) or increased competitiveness (Fristch and Mueller, 2004).1 Despite the stimulating effects of new businesses for the economy, liabilities of newness and smallness (Freeman et al., 1983; Stinchcombe, 1965) provoke high start-up failure rates. For example, start-ups often lack legitimacy, do not have the necessary connections, and have fewer resources or access to knowledge than their established counterparts. Such externalities lead to market failure (Audretsch et al., 2007). Figures of thirty to forty per cent of start-ups not surviving their first year of existence (OECD, 2002; Shepherd et al., 2000) stimulate government to correct for market failures. For example, information asymmetries between start-ups and financers (Audretsch et al., 2007) and increased hesitance to invest in hightech projects during economic recession (Sauner-Leroy, 2004) often lead to government intervention. One type of government intervention is the nurturing of start-ups2 in business incubators3 (Peña, 2004). Although little is known about the actual incubation process 1 Researchers such as Fritsch and Mueller (2004), van Stel and Storey (2004) and Baptista et al. (2008) argue that time lags explain the often ambiguous research results about the impact of start-up formation on employment or economic growth. Moreover, Anokhin and Wincent (2012) nuance the widely accepted belief that start-up rates positively relate to innovation. Their research shows that this relationship is only positive in developed countries, and that it becomes negative in countries in early development stages. Also van Stel et al. (2005) provide evidence that a country’s economic development stage influences the impact of entrepreneurial activities on economic growth. 2 In the incubator literature, start-up companies located in an incubator are called “tenants” or “incubatees”. These terms will be used interchangeably in this doctoral thesis. 3 Some researchers use the term “incubator” for an entrepreneurial environment (Phan et al., 2005). Within such an entrepreneurial environment, various actors collaborate to stimulate (innovative) entrepreneurial activities. For example, the triple-helix model (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 2000) analyzes how collaboration among research institutions, industrial organizations and government can foster regional development. Although such a “system view” can provide interesting insights into the interaction processes among several actors and the way they jointly stimulate regional development, this is not the topic of this doctoral thesis. Instead, this thesis follows Bergek and Norrman (2008) and reserves “the concept of incubator for organizations [and not systems] dedicated to the support 1
  18. 18. (Hackett and Dilts, 2004a), an incubator’s model components are selection, infrastructure, business support, mediation and graduation (Bergek and Norrman, 2008). Selection refers to the criteria employed to decide whether companies are allowed to enter the incubator or not. Infrastructure consists of office space, administrative services and logistic facilities. Tenants can rent an office and make use of meeting rooms or parking spaces. A common secretary helps them with administrative support such as answering telephone calls. Business support implies that the incubator offers business coaching and/or training. This often occurs through mediation; which means that the incubator brings its tenants into contact with external organizations. For example, offering support during the search for finance can help small companies that suffer from information asymmetries with potential financers. Mediation also implies that the incubator stimulates interaction among its incubatees. Thus, mediation addresses potential network externalities through the stimulation of information or knowledge spillovers and increased potential for collaborations (Audretsch et al., 2007). The final incubator model component is graduation. It relates to the incubator’s exit policy and stipulates the criteria for tenants to leave the incubator. Through service offerings, incubators allow tenants to benefit from economies of scale for office space and shared resources (Bruneel et al., 2012). Moreover, accessible business support and networking opportunities accelerate the tenant’s learning curve and help companies to overcome resource constraints (Bruneel et al., 2012). Tenants can also gain credibility through the incubator’s networking contacts and image (Ferguson and Olofsson, 2004; Studdard, 2006). Although results are not consistent4, studies find that start-up companies located in a business incubator have higher survival (e.g.; Sherman, 1999; Ferguson and Olofsson, 2004) and growth rates (e.g.; Löfsten and Lindelöf, 2001, 2002) than their counterparts not located in a business incubator. Therefore, it is not surprising that the number of incubators grew exponentially throughout the world.5 For example, the National Business Incubation Association reports an of emerging ventures” (p. 21). Thus, it’s level of analysis is the incubator, and not the entrepreneurial system as a whole. 4 The reason for inconsistent findings might be that research often ignores environmental conditions. Amezcua et al. (2013) argue that resource munificence, provided by organizations such as business incubators, does not automatically predict start-up survival. A fit between environmental conditions such as an area’s founding density turned out to be a prerequisite for increased survival rates. 5 Important to note, is that during economic recession market failures might be more present (cfr. the hesitance of financers to invest in projects during economic recession (Sauner-Leroy, 2004)). As a 2
  19. 19. approximate of 1400 incubators in 2006. This is a doubling of the number of North American incubators in only one decade (Knopp, 2007). Also in emerging countries such as Brazil, the amount of incubators grew substantively, from only two incubators in 1988 to 377 in 2006 (Anprotec, 2006). In Europe, figures from the United Kingdom Business Incubation organization and the European Commission also report a doubling of UK incubators in a decade (European Commission, 2002; UKBI, 2011). This exponential growth in the number of incubators contrasts sharply with the state-ofthe-art of research on this topic. Academics started to be interested in the incubator phenomenon in the mid-1980s. At that time, studies were mainly descriptive (e.g., Campbell et al., 1985). Although, since then, scholars also examined relationships among incubator service offerings (Schwartz and Hornych, 2008), strategic positioning (Grimaldi and Grandi, 2005) or external influences (Sofouli and Vonortas, 2007), research is still in its infancy. It is argued that it “just begun to scratch the surface of [this] phenomenon” (Hackett and Dilts, 2004b, p. 55). A better understanding of the incubator-incubation phenomenon is badly needed (Phan et al., 2005). Overarching research goals and data gathering To respond to the quest for additional research on incubator organizations, this doctoral thesis opts for a wide lens. It examines (but not always simultaneously) the relationships between four main building blocks: an incubator’s strategic positioning, its internal characteristics, its environment and its performance. Two overarching research goals are envisioned: (1) mapping the conditions of fit between these building blocks, and (2) getting a deeper understanding of some of the mechanisms influencing these relationships. For this, we rely both on qualitative and quantitative research. Chapters 1 and 2 start off with qualitative research in nine incubators in the province of Antwerp, Belgium. Qualitative research is typically used for “how” and “why” questions (Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007; Yin, 1990) and is useful in complex research domains where little is known about the consequence, the nurturing of start-ups in incubators might be more important than ever to adjust for such market failures. However, evidence shows that during recession, government is more reluctant to invest in business incubators (Almeida, 2005). For example, in Brazil, “a continuing economic crisis led to the demise of the NITs (Nuclei of Technological Innovation) and the science park program was also abandoned” (Etzkowitz et al., 2005, p. 415). Thus, economic recession can (temporally) decrease the number of incubators. 3
  20. 20. phenomenon. In total, we conducted 18 in-depth interviews with incubator managers, 30 indepth interviews with tenants, 3 focus groups with incubator managers and experts, and an overarching discussion meeting with incubator managers and experts. Based on the insights gathered from this qualitative research and an additional literature review, we developed a questionnaire for Brazilian incubator managers, incubator employees and entrepreneurship experts. Through these questionnaires, we assessed aspects from all four building blocks, such as the incubator’s human capital, competitive scope, institutional entrepreneurial environment, and tenant survival and growth. This questionnaire was qualitatively pre-tested in Brazil and forms the basis for Chapter 3. In total, we gathered 187 incubator manager, 113 incubator employee and 184 entrepreneurship expert responses in Brazil (see appendices A and C for a description of some Brazilian business incubators characteristics; location, year of operations and occupancy rate). Based on insights from the Brazilian research, we slightly adapted the Brazilian questionnaire. This version formed the basis for a European questionnaire. Again, we qualitatively pre-tested the survey and sent it out to incubator managers, incubator employees and entrepreneurship experts. We received a total of 140, 18 and 30 responses, respectively.6 The data gathered in Belgium (Flanders), the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Europe forms the basis for Chapter 4 (see appendices B and C for a description of some characteristics of the European business incubators in our study; location, year of operations and occupancy rate). To avoid cultural biases, all questionnaire translations occurred through the collaborative and iterative translation method (Douglas and Craig, 2007). Figure I-1 visualizes the different data gathering stages. 6 Due to the very low number of responses for incubator employees and entrepreneurship experts, we only analyzed the incubator manager data. 4
  21. 21. Figure I-1: Overview data gathering Theoretical anchors This doctoral thesis is anchored into six research domains.7 We briefly summarize their underlying ideas. First, we investigate the importance of an organization’s task and institutional environment. Chapters 1 and 2 focus on the incubator’s task environment and take a strategic constituencies stance (Connolly et al., 1980; Tsui, 1990). Here, we follow research arguing that an incubator’s dominant stakeholders are its tenants (Jungman et al., 2004), taking into account tenant service and incubator functioning expectations. In contrast, Chapters 3 and 4 turn toward the incubator’s institutional entrepreneurial environment. In these chapters, we adopt the institutional theory perspective (Scott, 2001, 2005), arguing that an incubator’s regulative, cognitive and normative environment influence its functioning (Meyer and Rowan, 1977; Zucker, 1987). Second, we employ strategic positioning theory in Chapters 1, 3 and 4. An organization’s strategic position is determined by its competitive scope and competitive advantage (Porter, 1980, 1996; Mintzberg, 1988). These dimensions determine where (scope) and how (advantage) the organization differentiates itself from its competitors. We examine whether incubators opt for a focused or a diversified scope (Plosila and Allen, 1985; Sherman, 1999; 7 Without doubt, other theoretical perspectives can provide additional insights. For example, the theory of planned behavior could form the basis for a study on an incubator managers’ strategic intentions and decisions (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980; Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975) and population ecology theory could form the foundations to explain why some incubators in the incubation market survive and others not (Hannan and Freeman, 1977). 5
  22. 22. von Zedtwitz, 2003), and investigate which is the more favorable strategic option. In these chapters, we also go deeper into the incubator’s competitive advantage. First, we examine which service offerings can lead to differentiation. Then, we turn towards the actual service offering process and investigate the added value of a service customization strategy and focus on determinants of the level of service co-creation. Third, Chapters 1, 2 and 4 adopt the resource-based view. This theory argues that access to valuable, rare, inimitable, and non-substitutable resources leads to a competitive advantage (Barney, 1991; Barney et al., 2001), taking a resource perspective to develop strategic options (Wernerfelt, 1984). In Chapters 1 and 2, we simultaneously incorporate several internal characteristics, such as the incubator’s selection process, its graduation process, and its organizational culture. In these chapters, our qualitative research method allows us to take on a holistic view. In Chapter 4, we turn towards an in-depth understanding of the impact of an incubator’s human capital on the level of service co-creation. Fourth, we recognize multiple viewpoints of organizational performance. In Chapter 2, we examine an incubator’s performance and functioning through four organizational viewpoints (Daft, 2009): the goal (Bluedorn, 1980; Price, 1982), stakeholder (Connolly et al., 1980; Tsui, 1990), system resource (Seashore and Yuchtman, 1967) and internal process approach (Lewin and Minton, 1986; Nadler and Tushman, 1980). In this chapter, we adapt the balanced scorecard and strategy map (Kaplan and Norton, 2000, 2005) and present an integrated evaluation model in which we focus on internal functioning evaluation. Incubator performance and functioning are also examined in Chapters 3 and 4. In Chapter 3, we take on a narrower viewpoint and follow incubator researchers that argue that an incubator’s most important outcome measure is tenant survival and growth (Aerts et al., 2007; Lalkaka, 1996). Hence, we focus on the goal approach, examining how the interplay between an incubator’s strategy and environmental context can impact its tenant survival and growth. In Chapter 4, we turn towards the internal process perspective and focus on the determinants of an internal incubation strategy that proved to be effective: service co-creation (Rice, 2002). Fifth, we employ service-dominant logic in all four chapters. The traditional goodsdominant logic assumes that a supplier produces a product that a customer buys afterwards. There is no interaction between customer and producer during the development process. 6
  23. 23. According to the service-dominant logic, the customer is actively involved “with their supplier in every aspect, from product design to product consumption” (Payne et al., 2008, p. 379). As such, the customer is not the target of value, but the co-creator of value (Vargo and Lusch, 2004). Through co-creation, organizations are pushed to continuous service improvements (Xie et al., 2008). Customers get more realistic expectations of what is possible. This can result in higher appreciations of the end result (Hoyer et al., 2010). We argue that also in incubators, tenants can be involved in the service development and transformation process. Incubator managers that engage in continual, proactive service cocreation closely follow-up individual tenant needs (Rice, 2002). In Chapters 1 and 2, the importance of tenant involvement during service development is stressed to assure tenant value creation. In Chapter 3, we examine the determinants of an incubator’s service customization strategy and its impact on incubator performance. Customization involves both resource preparation and transaction activities (Jacob, 2006). Resource preparation means that an organization’s internal resources such as personnel, equipment or infrastructure offer potential for customization if they are organized and planned. Once this planning and organizing took place, the organization can move on to the second subprocess: the transaction activities. Here, the customer can provide the necessary information so that the organization’s pool of internal resources can be transformed into customized services (Jacob, 2006). This interaction involves service co-creation. In Chapter 4, we take a closer look onto the transaction activities and examine some of the determinants of the level of incubator-tenant service co-creation. More specifically, we investigate its relationship with the incubator’s human capital and the institutional entrepreneurial context. Sixth and finally, all four chapters follow fit theory. In this theory, it is argued that an organization’s optimal functioning and performance are influenced by fit among external, internal, and strategic variables (Naman and Slevin, 1993; Yakamawa et al., 2011). There are three fit perspectives (Heijltjes and van Witteloostuijn, 2003): formulation, implementation and integration. Formulation refers to the match between the organization’s strategy and its environment (e.g., Ceci and Masini, 2011). Chapter 3 follows this perspective and examines the interplay of an incubator’s strategy and institutional context, two aspects which only sporadically have been combined in incubator research (e.g., Amezcua, 2013; Sofouli and 7
  24. 24. Vonortas, 2007). The implementation perspective examines the relationship between the organization’s internal characteristics and its strategy (e.g., Newbert et al., 2007). The relationship between an incubator’s strategy and its internal characteristics such as service offerings has been examined extensively in incubator research (e.g., Bruneel et al., 2012; Schwartz and Hornych, 2008) but there is a lack of understanding of the impact of internal characteristics on internal incubation strategies (Hackett and Dilts, 2008). Therefore, this doctoral thesis examines this relationship in Chapter 4. Moreover, we also go one step further and apply the integration perspective in Chapters 1, 2 and 4. Here, we combine elements from the incubator’s strategy (e.g., competitive scope, competitive advantage), internal characteristics (e.g., organizational culture, selection process, human capital) and environment (e.g., tenant expectations8, entrepreneurial context). Figure I-2 visualizes an integrative overview of the overarching research goals, building blocks, research methods, and theoretical anchors of this doctoral thesis. The subsequent four chapters elaborate upon the relevant theoretical anchors and provide the results of our empirical research. In a conclusion section, we summarize the research questions and most important contributions of the different chapters, highlight the overall contribution to science, practice and policy, explain our studies’ limitations and suggest future research avenues. 8 Important to note, is that the customer (that is, incubator tenant) viewpoint gradually shifts throughout the doctoral thesis. In Chapters 1 and 2, tenant expectations are analyzed from an external perspective. Here, we recognize that an incubator has a large amount of strategic constituencies (e.g., government, university, tenants, etc.), but follow researchers such as Jungman et al. (2004) who argue that the external viewpoint of incubator tenants dominates. Thus, we focus on the tenant as an external actor and take on a traditional dyadic customer view. In Chapters 3 and 4, we go deeper into service customization and co-creation. Here, the tenant is the co-creator of value. Incubator-tenant interaction is central and the tenant is no longer treated as an external stakeholder, but integrated in the incubator’s strategy and functioning. 8
  25. 25. Figure I-2: Integrative overview of the doctoral thesis 9
  26. 26. Appendices Appendix A: Fact sheet Brazilian incubators9 Figure I-3: Map of Brazilian states 9 The information visualized in this Appendix is based on the incubator contact database we developed (see Chapter 3). 10
  27. 27. Figure I-4: Number of inhabitants/incubator in the North region of Brazil Figure I-5: Number of inhabitants/incubator in the Northeast region of Brazil 11
  28. 28. Figure I-6: Number of inhabitants/incubator in the Central-West region of Brazil Figure I-7: Number of inhabitants/incubator in the Southeast region of Brazil 12
  29. 29. Figure I-8: Number of inhabitants/incubator in the South region of Brazil 13
  30. 30. Figure I-9: Number of inhabitants/incubator in Brazil (all states) 14
  31. 31. Appendix B: Fact sheet European incubators (Belgium-Flanders; the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Ireland)10 Figure I-10: Number of inhabitants/incubator in Belgium (Flanders), the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Ireland (contact database) 10 The information visualized in this Appendix is based on the incubator contact database we developed (see Chapter 4). 15
  32. 32. Appendix C: Fact sheet Brazilian and European sample incubators11 Figure I-11: Year incubator started its operations (mean, max, min) Figure I-12: Occupancy rate incubators (mean, max, min) a a For occupancy rate, there are 10 categories; 1=0-10%, 2=11-20%; 3=21-30%; 4=31-40%; 5=41-50%; 6=51-60%; 7=61-70%; 8=71-80%; 9=81-90%; 10=91-100%. 11 The information visualized in this Appendix is based on the incubator samples (see Chapters 3 and 4). 16
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  37. 37. Chapter 1: Service-based differentiation strategies for business incubators: Exploring external and internal alignment 12 13 14 Abstract Strategic positioning and fit theories may inform the service-based differentiation strategies that incubators use to secure external and internal alignment. External alignment relates to tenant service expectations and perceptions; internal alignment involves a competence configuration for each strategy alternative. By implementing the proposed framework, an incubator can achieve service differentiation and ultimately enhanced customer (tenant) value. Qualitative research among nonprofit economic development incubators reveals two service-based differentiation positions: specialists and generalists. Whereas extant research advocates only a specialist stance, the present analysis confirms that service-based differentiation can result from a generalist stance. This study offers the first typology of service-based differentiation strategies for incubators that aligns strategy with external and internal variables. Highlights > This chapter examines service-based differentiation alternatives for business incubators > Tenant service expectations are aligned with strategic service-based positions > A competence configuration is developed for each service-based differentiation alternative Keywords Business incubator; Strategic positioning; Incubator strategy; Strategic fit; Internal alignment; External alignment 12 This chapter is an adapted version from: Vanderstraeten, J. and Matthyssens, P., 2012, Servicebased differentiation strategies for business incubators: Exploring external and internal alignment, Technovation, 32, 656-670. 13 An earlier version of this chapter has been published as a Dutch research paper: Vanderstraeten J. , Matthyssens P., Ledent-De Smet F., 2010, Strategische positioneringsopties voor business incubators, Working paper 2010:1, Antwerp Management School, Antwerp, Belgium [Dutch paper]. 14 An earlier version of this chapter has been presented at the XX Brazilian National Seminar on Science Parks and Business Incubators and the XVIII Anprotec Workshop, Campo Grande, Brazil, September, 20-24, 2010. 21
  38. 38. 22
  39. 39. 1.1. Introduction In the business incubation industry, various challenges constantly force incubators to adopt unique differentiation tactics. First, incubators offer office space, a pool of shared support services, professional business support or advice, and internal/external network provision to start-up firms (Bergek and Norrman, 2008; Hackett and Dilts, 2004). However, they are not the only organizations active in the incubation industry, and many players offer overlapping services (Becker and Gassman, 2006; von Zedtwitz, 2003). In general, five main actors participate in the incubation market: business incubators, logistic infrastructure providers, nonprofit advice organizations, for-profit advice organizations, and finance providers (Becker and Gassmann, 2006; von Zedtwitz, 2003). Logistic infrastructure providers also have working spaces, event spaces, workshop rooms, or creativity rooms (e.g., The Hub, 2011) and advice organizations such as chambers of commerce organize seminars, information sessions, and financing programs for start-up firms. Thus, “business incubator” has become an umbrella term that refers to various initiatives designed to support start-ups (Aernoudt, 2004). Second, the number of incubators also has grown (Bruneel et al., 2012). The National Business Incubation Association estimates that between 1998 and 2006, the number of North American incubators almost doubled to approximately 1400 (Knopp, 2007), and developing and emerging countries showed similar growth. For example, Anprotec (2006) estimates that in 2006, Brazil featured 377 incubators, compared with two in 1988. The United Kingdom Business Incubation organization (UKBI, 2011) also reports about 300 incubators there, compared with 10 years ago, when there were only 144 (European Commission, 2002). These changes in the incubation market have prompted scholars to devote more attention to how incubators can strategically position themselves (e.g., Chan and Lau, 2005; Grimaldi and Grandi, 2005; Schwartz and Hornych, 2008), especially as start-up entrepreneurs seek complementary assets (Wright et al., 2008) and technological, cognitive, or vision proximity (Cantù, 2010) within a geographical region (Pe’er et al., 2008), which likely hosts several start-up support organizations.15 Butz and Goodstein (1996) argue that organizations can attain differentiation and a competitive advantage by creating customer 15 Of course, in geographical regions with few start-up support organisations, competitiveness is much lower or even nonexistent. 23
  40. 40. value, which demands in-depth knowledge about customer expectations. This approach reflects Priem’s (2007, p. 220) encouragement to “learn much about successful strategy through a long-ignored consumer lens on value creation”. In the incubator context, Bruneel et al. (2012) confirm that incubator value propositions must reflect an in-depth understanding of tenant viewpoints. Therefore, we aim to investigate incubator differentiation possibilities, through the function of customer value creation, by answering: how can business incubators, located in the same region, differentiate themselves in the incubation market through customer value creation? Beyond the general need for differentiation, strategic fit scholars stress the importance of external and internal alignment (Venkatraman, 1989; Venkatraman and Prescott, 1990) as a means to attain performance benefits (Naman and Slevin, 1993; Yamakawa et al., 2011). Organizations that undertake a strategic change or repositioning need profound knowledge of both external market and internal organizational factors to ensure strategic fit. Insights into customer needs, organizational capabilities (Brax and Jonsson, 2009), value chain/network partners (Cova and Salle, 2008), and the link between organizational strategy and resources (Newbert et al., 2007) are all critical, which leads us to investigate as well: how can incubators ensure external and internal alignment for any differentiation alternative? These research questions are rooted in strategy literature, where strategy scholars advocate the importance of competitive positions (e.g., Gavetti and Rivkin, 2007; Porter, 1980, 1996, 1998; Wen and Chen, 2011). In particular, academics in the positioning school (e.g., Alipour et al., 2010; Ng et al., 2005; Yamin et al., 1999) assert that strategy formulation requires examining the organization’s competitive scope and advantage (Mintzberg, 1988) to determine where (competitive scope) and how (competitive advantage) the organization can compete (Juga et al., 2008). Li and Tsai (2009) explain that research on sustained competitive advantages mainly draws on two theories. Industrial organization theory focuses on strategic market positions and has an external viewpoint, whereas the resourcebased view (RBV) starts with an organization’s internal resources and capabilities and argues that access to valuable, rare, inimitable, and non-substitutable resources leads to a competitive advantage (Barney, 1991; Chiu et al., 2008; Newbert, 2008). Newbert et al. (2008) also link the RBV to a dynamic capabilities approach and show that both the 24
  41. 41. possession and exploitation of resources through an optimal use of capabilities are necessary to attain competitive advantages. Although strategy scholars thus argue that an organization should try to find a position that gives it a unique competitive advantage (Kalafatis et al., 2000), increased competition and imitation by competitors almost invariably erode differentiation bases and hamper organizational success (Hitt et al., 2007). Organizations must continually find new ways to differentiate themselves (e.g., Cho et al., 1996; Smith and Sharif, 2007). To address the research questions, we conducted an in-depth qualitative study with an embedded research design (Yin, 1990), in which we account for tenant viewpoints, expert and incubator manager opinions on tenant value creation options (Bruneel et al., 2012; Butz and Goodstein, 1996; Huber et al., 2001), and implementation issues, such as the necessary skills, resources, processes, and systems (Bharadwaj et al., 1993; Matthyssens et al., 2009). Accordingly, in the next section, we examine strategic positioning and fit theories to establish our theoretical background. We then explain the methodology for our empirical research before we present and explain our results, particularly in relation to extant literature. Finally, we discuss our main contributions and results, research limitations, and some possible avenues for further research. 1.2. Theoretical background 1.2.1. Strategic positioning theory According to positioning scholars (e.g., Ibrahim and Gill, 2005; Lawton, 1999; Wen and Chen, 2011), an organization’s competitive scope and competitive advantage determine its competitive position. To recognize competitive advantage possibilities in a specific industry, the firm must have insights into the critical success factors that prevail in that industry (e.g., Barbiroli and Focacci, 2003; Sharma, 2003), an analysis that must refer to the strategic group level (Aaker, 2008). Because strategic groups arise from the same generic strategy (Johnson et al., 2011), the competitive scope dimension then provides the basis for such an analysis. Varadarajan (1985) suggests subdividing critical success factors into “failure preventers” and “success producers”: the organization must attain some threshold level of failure preventers, but substantial resources devoted to this area cannot lead to above-average performance. 25
  42. 42. Instead, greater effort, compared with competitors, devoted to success producers might enable the firm to outperform its rivals and thus attain a competitive advantage. Furthermore, a competitive advantage might accrue through customer value creation (Cooper, 2001; Woodruff, 1997). However, the customer value construct is very complex (Jaworski and Kohli, 1993; Khalifa, 2004; Naumann, 1995), which makes it difficult to measure accurately how customers determine the value of a particular product or service (Smith and Colgate, 2007). In this sense, it is pivotal for an organization to develop a deep understanding of what customers seek (O’Cass and Ngo, 2011) and thus the resources it needs to address customer expectations (Srivastava et al., 2001). Prior research has integrated the intuitive viewpoints (Bowman and Ambrosini, 2007) of various industry players, including executives, external experts, and customers, to determine customer value creation possibilities and the potential success that can be attained through such options (e.g., Ibrahim and Gill, 2005; Lawton, 1999; Matthyssens et al., 2009). Research into incubators suggests that sector choices and fields of related technologies define an incubator’s competitive scope (Aernoudt, 2004; Grimaldi and Grandi, 2005; Haapasalo and Ekholm, 2004; Plosila and Allen, 1985; Sherman, 1999; von Zedtwitz, 2003; von Zedtwitz and Grimaldi, 2006). The consensus seems to indicate that incubators opt for either a focused or a diversified scope (Plosila and Allen, 1985; Sherman and Chappell, 1998). Focused incubators only allow entry to companies active in a specific sector or technology field; diversified incubators include tenants from a wide variety of areas. Yet other literature shows that incubators can differentiate themselves and attain competitive advantages in various ways, such as from their unique location (Hu et al., 2005) or their provision of a manager who devotes extensive time to tenants (Rice, 2002). These customer value creation and incubator differentiation possibilities reflect the added value of the incubator’s service offering, “such as shared rental space, shared office services, business assistance [and] inside and outside networking,” (Mian, 1994, p. 523). Despite some agreement that a service offering creates customer value, the perspectives on which types of services do so remain somewhat one-sided: incubators create value by offering industry- or technology-specific services (e.g., Bruneel et al., 2012; Schwartz and Hornych, 2008), including not just sector or technology knowledge but also infrastructure and network connections. Schwartz and Hornych (2008) note that the Mitteldeutsches 26
  43. 43. Multimediazentrum Halle in Germany provides a wide variety of media-related services, featuring specialized infrastructure services, such as television, film, and audio studios with state-of-the-art equipment, as well as sector-specific business knowledge. Thus the services, applicable only to companies in one sector or technology field, create customer value that cannot be easily replicated by other players. In contrast, real-world examples show that many incubators do not choose sector- or technology-specific services. The UK Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO) business centers focus their competitive advantage and customer value creation efforts on the delivery of operational support services to US-based companies willing to invest in the United Kingdom (RiDO, 2011) and the Antwerp Business Center (2011) in Belgium differentiates itself by providing in-depth marketing research for companies active in a wide variety of sectors. That is, though the availability of sector- or technology-related services adds value for tenants, they are not the only route to customer value. 1.2.2. Strategic fit: internal and external alignment Generic strategies often work to link internal and/or external organizational variables to “ideal” strategies. This effort implies the assumption that fit among external, internal, and strategic variables leads to better performance (Naman and Slevin, 1993; Yamakawa et al., 2011). Heijltjes and van Wittelloostuijn (2003) distinguish three fit perspectives: formulation, implementation, and integration. A formulation perspective refers to the organization’s industry structure, such that strategy efficacy depends on the match between the organization’s strategy and its industry structure (e.g., Ceci and Masini, 2011). This viewpoint relates closely to the industrial organization view, which connects external factors to an organization’s strategy (Li and Tsai, 2009). The implementation perspective instead centers on the relationship between an organization’s internal aspects and its strategy (e.g., Newbert et al., 2007; Xu et al., 2006), which reflects the RBV and the strategic importance of internal resources, capabilities, and competences (Barney, 1991; Li and Tsai, 2009; Newbert, 2008) as the roots of systematic competitive advantages (Banerjee, 2003; Prahalad and Hamel, 1990). Finally, the integration perspective combines the former two approaches to focus on the relationship among an organization’s strategy, structure, and environment (e.g., 27
  44. 44. Beer et al., 2005). This latter perspective has not, to the best of our knowledge, been applied previously in incubator literature. In contrast, the formulation perspective considers the relationship between an incubator’s stakeholders16 and its strategy. For example, Sofouli and Vonortas (2007) relate Greece’s external policy context to the (strategic) objectives of its science parks and incubators. Although incubators have a wide variety of stakeholders (McAdam and Keogh, 2006; Mian, 1997), the viewpoint of their tenants tends to be prioritized (Jungman et al., 2004), such as when Abduh et al. (2007) examine tenant service satisfaction and McAdam and Marlow (2007) consider the (dis)advantages of services offered to tenants. Bruneel et al. (2012) also propose that an incubator’s value proposition (and strategy) should be evaluated by its tenants. We accordingly consider tenant service expectations as a measure of external fit. With regard to internal fit from the implementation perspective, von Zedtwitz (2003) lists good incubator management practices and links each of them to an incubator strategy; Allen and McCluskey (1990) argue that the incubator’s value position determines its resource offering. Clarysse et al. (2005) adopt the RBV and link research institution incubation strategies to resource implications, whereas von Zedtwitz and Grimaldi (2006) use it to investigate the relationship between incubator strategies and service characteristics. Yet despite these efforts to link strategy to internal aspects, Hackett and Dilts (2008) conclude that an incubator’s internal functioning remains a black box, without any comprehensive, systematic connection between internal aspects and strategy. Their extensive literature review allows them to propose three dimensions of an incubator’s internal functions: selection, resource munificence, and monitoring and business assistance. During the selection process, the business incubator accounts for the start-up’s market, financial, and team characteristics (Aerts et al., 2007). Resource munificence refers to internal networking and incubator resource utilization, including whether tenants use the services provided. Finally, monitoring and business assistance involves strategic 16 The formulation perspective thus looks at the industry structure as a whole and the organization’s strategy alignment. However, incubator studies mainly focus on one aspect from the incubator’s external environment: stakeholder expectations. Although studying the industry structure as a whole in relation to the incubator’s strategy would provide valuable insights, this is not the topic of this doctoral thesis. For the external viewpoint, we take on a narrower stance and focus on the incubator’s main stakeholder: its tenants (Jungman et al., 2004). By doing so, we employ a traditional dyadic customer view (cfr. introduction of this doctoral thesis). 28
  45. 45. management and the incubator’s monitoring comprehensiveness and quality. We use all three dimensions to examine an incubator’s internal functioning in relation to its strategy, including all relevant processes, systems, assets, knowledge, capabilities, and cultures (Matthyssens et al., 2009). Miles and Snow (2003) and Kaplan and Norton (2008) have established the importance of adequate processes, systems, and organizational factors; Barney and Clark (2007) do the same for assets, knowledge, and capabilities. 1.3. Methodology Our empirical study draws on extensive qualitative research, which is often required when the research domain is broad and complex and the context is important (Dul and Hak, 2008; Yin, 1990). Eisenhardt and Graebner (2007) also find it particularly useful in new research areas or situations in which researchers know little about the phenomenon. Thus, it is typically used to address “how” and “why” questions (Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007; Yin, 1990); both our research questions (see the Introduction section) represent “how” questions—that is, how incubators differentiate themselves while also ensuring internal and external alignment with their differentiation strategy. Thus, qualitative research is highly appropriate for addressing the complex topics we consider (Bryman and Bell, 2007; Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 1990). Between June 2009 and February 2010, we conducted 9 in-depth interviews with incubator managers, 30 in-depth interviews with tenants, 3 focus groups with incubator managers and experts, and then a final presentation and discussion meeting with incubator managers and experts. We briefly discuss this population, before we explain our research design and data collection process. 1.3.1. Population Specifying the population under investigation “is crucial, because the population defines the set of entities from which the research sample is to be drawn” (Eisenhardt, 1989, p. 537). This helps to lower extraneous variation and increase external validity. For this study, we assert that customer value creation demands a good understanding of the needs and expectations of customers (O’Cass and Ngo, 2011), namely, of the tenants who consider incubator value propositions (Bruneel et al., 2012). Therefore, we must investigate incubator 29
  46. 46. tenant service expectations. In turn, we compare these customer viewpoints with manager and expert experiences, to gain insights into differentiation possibilities (see also Ibrahim and Gill, 2005; Lawton, 1999). Moreover, the incubator managers and experts offer information about the internal functioning of an incubator, such as its processes, systems, resources, and capabilities, in reference to tenant expectations on implementation issues (e.g., Mian, 1996; Rice, 2002). Across the varied objectives for incubators (e.g., economic development, research commercialization, integration of social classes; Aernoudt, 2004; von Zedtwitz, 2003), we chose to focus on nonprofit economic development incubators, because worldwide, most incubators match this profile (Bruneel et al., 2012; Knopp, 2007). This focus also aligns our study with previous research (e.g., Grimaldi and Grandi, 2005; von Zedtwitz, 2003) and acknowledges that the profit decision is one of the most important strategic choices an incubator makes, so combining insights from both for-profit and nonprofit incubators might bias the data. We choose economic development incubators specifically, in line with Ratinho and Henriques’ (2010) assertion that business incubators are mostly linked to economic development. Most economic development incubators also focus on local development, which represents our second selection criterion. We sought areas with a relatively large number of incubators in a relatively small space; ultimately, we targeted Belgium, a small country (30.530 km2) located in the economic and political center of Europe. Across its three economically and culturally distinct regions—Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels—Belgium hosted 68 incubators at the time of our study: 9 in Brussels, 13 in Wallonia, and 56 in Flanders. Flanders in turn comprises five provinces: Antwerp (16 incubators), East-Flanders (11), West-Flanders (9), Limburg (10), and Flemish-Brabant (10). Because Antwerp has the most incubators, we chose this province for our empirical research. In Antwerp, nine of the sixteen incubators were nonprofit economic development incubators that worked closely together with the Development Authority of the province. By working with business incubators, this local government organization aims to stimulate economic development in the region (POM Antwerp, 2012). Economic development is an important strategic objective for all nine incubators, so we included them all in the empirical analysis. These nine incubators are located within a 60 km radius; distances less than 80 km 30
  47. 47. are considered geographically close (De Silva and McComb, 2012). Thus, the province of Antwerp offers an appropriate research location. The sample characteristics in Appendix 1 further reveal that five of the nine incubators can be categorized as mixed-use, such that that they did not focus on a particular sector or technology field, whereas four adopted a focus strategy. Specifically, Incubator D focused on the building sector and included sustainable building start-ups; E featured companies active in the creative sector (e.g., architects, designers); G focused on companies in the energy and environmental technology field; and I attracted high-tech companies with a focus on life sciences and information and communication technologies. To avoid the potential for bias that would occur if we incorporated the viewpoints of only one type of tenant (Mian, 1996), our tenant sample represents the total tenant population. Although incubators are designed to stimulate small start-up companies (Bergek and Norrman, 2008) and generally support companies for three to five years (European Commission, 2002), tenants in our target population represent a wide variety of ages (1–35 years), sizes (1–45 full-time employees), and incubation periods (1–18 years). Furthermore, the combination of mixed-use and focused incubators led to a sample of tenants engaged in a wide variety of activities (e.g., air transport, communications, catering). This diversity (see Appendix 2) enabled us to gather rich data while avoiding a bias associated with the opinions of only one type of tenants. 1.3.2. Research design, data gathering process, and study quality Mathison (1988, p. 13) explains that “good research practice obligates the researcher to triangulate, that is, to use multiple methods, data sources and researchers, to enhance the validity of research findings,” which in turn improves reliability and validity (Bryman and Bell, 2007; Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007; Ghauri, 2004; Pratt, 2009). We pursued these benefits in three main ways. First, to achieve data triangulation, we gathered primary data from multiple respondent groups (incubator managers, tenant managers, and experts) and secondary data from various sources, such as websites (of incubators, tenants, incubator partners, and coordinating organizations), internal incubator documents, internal documents from the Development Authority, and incubator and tenant brochures. Second, we attained method triangulation by employing different qualitative research methods. 31
  48. 48. Specifically, we executed in-depth interviews, focus groups, and presentations with open discussions while also analyzing secondary data. Third, to ensure researcher triangulation and minimize researcher bias (Bøllingtoft, 2007), the team of three researchers engaged in regular team meetings (Eisenhardt, 1989). We divided the research tasks as follows: two researchers conducted the data collection and analysis, and a third played a reviewing, consulting, and guidance role. The third researcher also took the lead in the focus groups. To confirm our interpretations, we used member checks (Danneels, 2002), such that we confirmed our intermediary interpretations at several moments throughout the data collection and analysis processes (Hirschman, 1986; Lincoln and Guba, 1985). The incubator managers and external incubator experts who participated in the focus groups, in-depth interviews, and final presentation served as our research auditors. In member checks, we asked the interviewees for approval of our summaries of the in-depth interviews. We also organized focus groups and formal presentation moments to present and discuss the (intermediary) results. 1.3.2.1. In-depth interviews For the in-depth interviews with incubator managers, two members of the research team participated: The first interviewer conducted the interview, and the second took field notes (Eisenhardt, 1989) and confirmed that all questions had been asked. The semistructured interview protocol focused on the incubator’s strategy, its service offering, its internal organization, and external influences. We recorded and transcribed all interviews, then sent the summary to the interviewees, who could make comments. If necessary, we clarified any uncertainties through telephone or e-mail conversations. The tenant interviews were similarly organized, except that for most of these interviews, only one interviewer was present. To ensure consistency, the interviewer who conducted the interviews with the incubator managers also conducted the tenant interviews. These interviews focused on the incubator’s strategy, service offering, internal organization, and external influences. We also pursued a deeper understanding of the service offering by asking tenants which services they found valuable, rare, inimitable, and not easily substitutable (Barney, 1991)—that is, which services led to customer value creation. By 32

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