The Current State of Canadian and Ottawa Business Incubators

Business incubation has been identified as a means of meeting a variety of economic and socioeconomic policy needs, which may include:

  • Creating jobs and wealth
  • Fostering a community’s entrepreneurial climate
  • Technology commercialization
  • Diversifying local economies
  • Building or accelerating growth of local industry clusters
  • Business creation and retention
  • Encouraging women or minority entrepreneurship
  • Identifying potential spin-in or spin-out business opportunities
  • Community revitalization

Business incubators typically provide a range of services to clients that may include:

  • Help with business basics
  • Networking activities
  • Marketing assistance
  • High-speed Internet access
  • Help with accounting/financial management
  • Access to bank loans, loan funds and guarantee programs
  • Help with presentation skills
  • Links to higher education resources
  • Links to strategic partners
  • Access to angel investors or venture capital
  • Comprehensive business training programs
  • Advisory boards and mentors
  • Management team identification
  • Help with business etiquette
  • Technology commercialization assistance
  • Help with regulatory compliance
  • Intellectual property management
  • Facilities (e.g. office space, specialized lab space) and associated business services (e.g. security, receptionist, meeting rooms, phone service, photocopiers, printers,  internet service)

Stats Canada released a report in late 2008 “The Business of Nurturing Businesses” which takes a look at business incubators in Canada based on survey data taken in 2005.   Some key findings from the report include:

  • Almost all business incubators are sponsored by economic development organizations, governments, academic institutions, i.e. tax money
  • 1 in 6 incubators offer facilities and on-site support services
  • Almost half of all incubators were focused on professional, scientific and technical services businesses
  • The top three most used services of incubators were: legal consultation, management guidance and assistence in obtaining financing

There are various lists of incubators in Canada, unfortunately none up-to-date, including:

In Ottawa, we have the following business incubators:

Unfortunately, with the exception of Carleton University’s Tony Bailetti, there is little/no information available on the public incubators relative to return on investment of the tax money in the operation of the incubators – which would lead me to believe that compelling results do not exist.

From the perspective of efficiency, it appears that our tax money is being spent a bit recklessly relative to overlapping mandates and services.    The Ontario government and Ottawa Municipal government have both being doing a review of how they are funding and delivering their economic development programs.   I hope that as part of this review, they look towards stronger collaboration and reduced overlap of services between Provincial and Municipal programs.

A future blog entry will examine how business incubators role will evolve/change in the context of Business Ecosystems.



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