Providing a Nurturing Environment for Start-up Incubation: An Explorative Study of a University-based Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Purpose: The empirical purpose of the study is to identify the key actors of the local university-based start-up ecosystem and assess the forms of support (substantive, financial and organizational) they provide to create a conducive environment for academic start-ups. Design/Methodology/Approach: The paper draws on a broad management science literature review, covering various approaches to the concept of entrepreneurial ecosystems, using the following methods: exploration, interpretation, comparing, analysing critical factors, and inferring. The empirical research applies the method of in-depth semi-structured direct interview with experts in the field of support services to potential founders and start-ups with academic origin, the case study method, participatory observation, and reflection. The explorative qualitative study uses both descriptive and explanatory techniques. Findings: The research findings provide insight in the real nature of the local university-based start-up ecosystem presenting its key actors (stakeholders), the forms of their support for start-up incubation and ways of creating a conducive environment for potential founders and start-ups, as well as critical factors of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Practical Implications: The synthesis of the current reflections on entrepreneurial ecosystems can contribute to the discussion on the dilemmas associated with increasing the efficiency and sustainability of local start-up ecosystems and the need to build valuable relationships with external stakeholder. The research findings re¬flected here can benefit both employees of business incubators, researchers, and entrepreneurship teachers and become an inspiration for further analysis and extended research on this problem. Originality/Value: The originality of the conducted exploratory research lies in presenting the key actors, their interrelationships, and achievements of the specific university-based start-up ecosystem as well as the supporting activities and formats provided by the university business incubator to create a favourable environment for academic start-ups. The study highlights the mutual relationships within the start-up ecosystem and critical factors which are crucial to stimulate and support ambitious entrepreneurship in the region.