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Awareness and Accountability

As Ana Greif pointed out earlier in The Spotlight, Mexican incubators are now at a critical moment. Not surprisingly the new political elections are putting a strain on the incubation industry where the worst case scenario may involve some incubators shutting shop altogether. The only solution lies in reinventing themselves to apply different approaches to better address their sustainability issues.

Mexico is not alone! Elections, in many countries, are potentially dangerous to the incubation industry. And the reasons for this are possibly endemic to the incubation industry itself. Business incubation is of a systemic, long-term nature, while the democratic processes governing most of the world’s nations have a short/mid-term perspective. Certainly, politicians and local administrations are keen to be associated with private sector development as a driver for local job creation and thus as an aid to overall regional economic development. But the endemic longer-term impact of business incubation probably leads them to allocate resources to alternative solutions that have the power to create more jobs over a shorter period (possibly within the electoral term). This, however, may not produce efficient equilibriums.

This mindset probably cannot be changed - it is human nature after all - but it can certainly be challenged through awareness-raising activities, combined with good practices, sound statistics and, last but not least, the possibility of engaging Governmental accountability.

Best practices on business incubation can be found fairly easily. It is worth mentioning the comprehensive news updates from the Spice Group, or Infodev’s iDisc website or the examples set forward by the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) and the European BIC Network (EBN). Statistics, however, are harder to find. Some relevant studies have been carried out by the NBIA and EBN undertakes an annual survey of its Business and Innovation Centers producing useful figures and trends. The Swedish governmental organization, Innovationsbron carries out surveys at the national level, as does the government of New Zealand. These examples, besides providing useful and effective benchmarking tools, also generate interesting figures that can impact the industry. This, however, is far from being enough, as there needs to be a concerted effort from the international incubation community to gather increased and relevant data, building on what is already being done.

Both NBIA and EBN, in different surveys, analyzing different regions of the world, have assessed that the survival rate of companies supported through incubation programs was around 87 percent, indicating that jobs created through incubation processes are highly sustainable and do not easily dissolve. But, are politicians aware of this number? Can their alternative choices of job creation policies show comparable figures? If government procedures and choices were made more transparent (perhaps making use of tools such as the Freedom of Information Acts), maybe political leaders could be held accountable for their investment levels in the incubation industry.

No... Indeed Mexico is not alone...
Published on 14-10-2012 12:04 by David Tee. 1207 page views

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