BUSINESS INCUBATORS FOR CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
This paper provides a literature review on the “business incubator” as a new-
business development tool, based primarily on research done on these organizations in
Combining this with numerous interactions with University of Delaware and
other groups from Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Slovakia since 1989, and experience from a
USAID program in Bulgaria since 1991, the author makes recommendations for the
formation and management of business incubators in Central and Eastern Europe.
recommendations in the main body of the paper are for general incubators; the
Appendix makes specific suggestions for technology incubators.
WHAT IS A “BUSINESS INCUBATOR?”
At the awards banquet of the 1994 annual meeting of the National Business
Incubation Association, Frank Mancuso, an individual widely recognized as the “father
of business incubators,” told the story of how the first one got started and how the name
originated: In the 1950's, Watertown, New York, had experienced significant job loss
owing to the movement of many manufacturing industries to the South and the West
Along with this industrial shift, an incubator that had served local poultry
growers closed, since much of the industry was moving (to Delaware, as it turns out).
Left with a vacant building, the city of Watertown decided to clean it and refurbish it,
and Mr. Mancuso, who was then Mayor, decided to allow entrepreneurs to use the
building as a place to get their businesses started.
He charged minimal rent, since his
primary purpose was to stimulate economic activity, and basically provided a heated
space to work and access to a telephone.
Even with such limited resources, a number
of new start-ups emerged from the building, and the program was enough of a success
to attract the attention of the local press.
A reporter who came by to see what was
going on asked Mr. Mancuso what he was doing.
As he tells it, he replied, “I don’t really
know what to call it—we used to incubate chickens in here, and now I guess we’re
The rest, as they say, is history.
A modern “business incubator” is a combination of physical space and facilities,