Entrepreneurial higher education institutions often provide business start-up and development support for staff and students to convert their entrepreneurial ideas into action. This includes, for example,
- Coaching and mentoring;
- Access to laboratory and workshop facilities belonging to the higher education institution;
- Provision of incubation facilities and temporary business premises;
- Support in developing networks, and facilitating access to finance.
Higher education institutions can provide these through on-campus offerings, or by referring potential entrepreneurs to specialised start-up support services. Some higher education institutions also offer pre-incubation or student incubation services to ventures with lower ambitions and as a generic service for all students and staff. The success of an incubator to generate new growth firms is highly dependent upon the incubator target and selection criteria. If an incubator is highly selective, it will probably perform better than an incubator that is open also to riskier ventures or ventures with lower growth ambitions. Possible questions concern the selection criteria of the incubator include:
- The number of tenant firms and diversity of business ideas;
- Sectoral backgrounds and affiliations of tenants; and
- Graduation rates as well post-graduation performance.
Although the success criteria set for monitoring the impact of start-up support is dependent on the overall target groups and selection criteria, the following areas can be considered for impact measurement, either at the level of the incubator / start up support service or at the level of the start up: Pipeline of start ups to incubate; Business plan generation; Products / services launched; Job created; Financing / VC or investments achieved; Established companies.
The monitoring of networks is also important for the success of entrepreneurial firms. Networks facilitate access to finance and other resources, such as knowledge and human resources. It is important to monitor if the start-ups have access to relevant networks and what role the HEI plays in supporting and developing access.