Donnerstag, 5. Mai 2016

Gründerzentrum Ingolstadt: Yes, but why there?

Quelle: Weiden + Kennedy ad agency 
What is a Gründerzentrum AKA Business Incubator?

A business incubator is, simply put, a small, nurturing space that allows ideas to grow into businesses. The space is usually an office with workstations, meeting rooms, small light to medium manufacturing and/or with other amenities as required (in the case of a digital incubator; specialized workstations and servers). The goal is to transition fledgling businesses to the outside world by offering management and business support, technical and marketing advice, plus access to extensive networks. 

The business will not graduate from the incubator, it will grow in it, and eventually out of it, at an undetermined time. And hopefully the move and transition to independence will be supported and not too expensive.

Here are a couple examples from my many years as a research analyst/product designer at the Technology Centre at BCIT and with various start-up companies:

A doctor was waiting to start the operation and observed the anesthetist struggling to insert a breathing tube into the patient. The anesthetist had less than 2 minutes to finish the job before the patient asphyxiated and it wasn’t going well. The doctor went home and started building a device with a camera. He then went looking for some engineering and business expertise, they then went looking for money from government and investors, and then they went looking for research support and an early business location. In the end they started a large company and employed lots of people.

An engineering student was hired by an inventor to develop his idea, they went looking for space to develop the idea and other researchers to support them. They found space and support in an incubator and brought in other students and professors to help them as needed, eventually they moved locations and in the end licensed their product to a large company. 

And here is an example of a local start-up:

A girlfriend wanted to buy a gift for her boyfriend who lived in another town. The girlfriend wondered if there couldn’t be an easier way to buy gift certificates online from her home for his favourite local shops. She went looking for expertise and space which they found in a shared creative office and with others started a small App company. We are eagerly anticipating the product launch this year in Ingolstadt.

What do all these stories have in common? External problems initiate an inventor spirit, the inventor looks for money, support and space.

What did all these businesses need? Support, risk reduction and access to potential experts... whoever they may be (marketing, management, design, legal, and technical). The expertise is not always the same and not continuously required. 

Presumably the Ingolstadt business incubator will house multiple participants at various stages. Synergy effects are more likely to happen between the fledgling businesses within the Incubator than with the surrounding external resources; people who start these small and vital endeavours  will share ideas, equipment, designers, engineers and the like. The outside expertise will be sought out, found, and brought in periodically.

A business incubator, to be holistic, must also manage the transition of leaving the nest. The city should play a role and understand the needs of these businesses. Entrepreneurship can be vital to the local economy, by hiring locally, renting locally, and investing locally. Therefore, a business incubator must be able to support this transition. Scalability, flexibility, and inexpensive rent are the key. The ability to grow and shrink until the safe zone is reached is critical.

Quelle: Work Hive, Shared Office

What a business incubator does not need is limited space, heritage qualities, or walking distance to professors. It needs room to move, inexpensive rent, shared equipment, meeting rooms, parking for easy deliveries, and financial support through grants, tax relief and subsidies when possible.