Incubation facilities are important for innovative start-ups from within higher education institutions. They provide the following:
- A location (an address);
- Access to basic/advanced ICT services;
- Close contacts with co-located companies; and
- Coaching services.
Different models of incubation facilities exist, ranging from facilities on campus, within departments or in separate locations, to off-campus spaces, sometimes within science and technology parks. Alumni-tenants can be important knowledge partners for the incubator and its tenant firms, serving as marketing channels, network intermediaries, tutors, sponsors and investors.
Many HEIs have on-campus incubation facilities that:
- Offer free or subsidised premises for student businesses;
- Access to laboratories;
- Research facilities and IT services; and
- Coaching, mentoring and training.
Those HEIs that have onsite facilities need to ensure that students are aware of them and that they have access to the services they need. To raise awareness about available services, incubators could work with academic staff to raise their profile on- and off-campus and undertake outreach campaigns through the campus media (e.g. newspapers, radio, e-newsletters).
Higher education institutions that do not have on-campus incubators can be effective at supporting student entrepreneurs by building linkages with off-campus incubators and start-up support services. However, HEIs need to promote these relationships on campus so that students are aware of this possibility, and so that academic staff and career centres can direct students to the appropriate support services as they are needed.