Incubating an Illusion? Long-term Incubator Firm Performance after Graduation
Local economic development policies worldwide perceive business incubation as an effective measure to promote regional growth through the support of young and innovative ventures. The common assumption is that incubation promotes firm growth, in particular after these firms graduated from their incubator organizations. This article investigates the long-term performance of 324 graduate firms from five German business incubators (incubated between 1990 and 2006) after they have (successfully) completed their incubation. The present study does not suffer from a survivor bias, meaning that performance data of non-surviving firms is also included. Using employment and sales measures as performance indicators, this study contributes to our knowledge with regard to long-term incubator firm performance after graduation. While in the first years after graduation there is significant growth of formerly incubated firms, further results do not support the presumption of continuous firm growth beyond incubation. A minority of graduate firms exhibits a strong increase in performance, but the majority of firms do not experience considerable growth.