Incubators as catalysts of academic spin-offs: evidence from the Israeli case-study
There is already a respectable body of evidence that connect industrial innovation with knowledge spillovers from academic research, and many suggest that university research units can play a helpful role in small firm innovation, but very few take into account their role in the making of ‘innovation systems’, as promoters of innovative spin-offs. In addition, the theory does not distinguish sufficiently between different patterns that foster the spatial concentration of new activities. Dealing with the processes of knowledge generation and diffusion, this paper explores the behaviour of development agencies, i.e. of incubators, in order to increase interactions between academic research and firms, expressly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Through a survey of Israeli Technological Incubators Programme (TIP), this paper both attempts to individuate specific behaviours and aims at identifying the interdependence of universities, firms and development agencies in stimulating innovative dynamics. Through a questionnaire and on field investigations, it put in evidence ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ interdependences between universities and incubators. In particular, it has been achieved an empirical analysis on a sample of university incubators, in order to reflect on successful experiences and limitations of their methodologies in the entrepreneurial promotion. These “enabling structures” are intended to increase the level of basic education through actions of continuous learning and to develop efficiently a process of networking. The Israeli case-study put in evidence that: 1. information or codified knowledge, as in the collaboration between RTD institutions, but also tacit knowledge, know- how and competencies circulate in the incubators; 2. “soft” infrastructures and institutions can remove those obstacles which usually hinder the diffusion of “technology spillovers” and stimulate the opening of the local district to the external world, thus favouring its relations with research centres and technologically-advanced businesses; 3. such agencies need a necessary institutional background in order to sustain ‘knowledge and innovation networks’ at local and inter-regional level; 4. innovative projects can be supported by action tools based on a “transactive” approach that stimulate cooperation amongst the different actors and facilitate their mutual relations. Finally, it seems to be indispensable the creation of a subject “integrating” the technological relations amongst the businesses in the different sectors thus assuring an unitary governance of the interactive process of technological development.
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