About Student Business Incubation
Business incubation is a proven business support process that accelerates the successful development of start-up and fledgling companies by providing entrepreneurs with an array of targeted resources and services. Business incubators nurture the development of entrepreneurial companies, helping them survive and grow during the start-up period, when they are most vulnerable.
The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) estimates that in 2005 alone, North American incubators assisted more than 27,000 start-up companies that provided full-time employment for more than 100,000 workers and generated annual revenue of more than $17 billion. Many thousands more jobs have been created by companies that have graduated from these programs and now operate self-sufficiently in their communities. An EDA-funded study in the mid-1990s found that 87 percent of all firms that had graduated from NBIA member incubation programs were still in business – and about 84 percent of those graduates remained in the incubator’s community. Jobs created by incubators are enduring, high-paying positions with benefits that contribute to community and U.S. global competitiveness.
Considering the State of Louisiana’s goal to keep Louisiana graduates employed in the state in competitive jobs, it is vital to create a culture of innovation and a spirit of entrepreneurship. If students are exposed early in their college career to the viability of creating their own business, it may encourage them to stay in the community and positively impact local economic development.
According to Dinah Adkins in the August 2011 NBIA Review, “Approximately 20 percent of North American incubation programs are sponsored by universities and colleges, so it should be no surprise that many have developed student incubators and programs." Student incubators nurture entrepreneurial efforts and provide a safe environment for idea generation, business development, and applied learning. New entrepreneurs struggle to learn the skills necessary to ensure success. Most student incubators and innovation/entrepreneurial programs endeavor to help students turn passion for an idea into a reality while enhancing student academic experience. Student incubators are usually constructed in a manner that allows students to feel safe and relaxed yet facilitate personal and professional growth. It is critical to build upon classroom education by bringing together the disciplinary knowledge and the opportunity to develop this knowledge into an offering conceived by a student.
Establishing an interdisciplinary degree program that increases understanding of innovation processes, market analysis, and communicating concepts is vital for students in all disciplines. According to the Journal of Engineering Education, “Typical courses that do exist are either taught within the science/technology department or they are taught as a service course by the appropriate department on that campus. These courses are monolithic in their class composition, being normally populated only by students within the science/technology department or college. In a similar fashion, the courses taught within the business departments on entrepreneurial technology startups and management of entrepreneurial activities in technology companies are also monolithic in their student population. The students in these classes study the application of general business theory to high technology fields with little knowledge of how technology is created or evolves." The authors go on to state that, “What both approaches lack is the exposure of the students from one background (technology or business) to students from the other background.” By offering the Innovation minor, students from different backgrounds enrolled in different degree programs can interact in a team-based structure that exposes them to a real-world environment.
According to the European Journal of Engineering Education, “Students working on an interdisciplinary design project reported that in addition to acquiring technical skills, they gained skills in the areas of teamwork and interpersonal skills, project management, interdisciplinary skills, and confidence. Students also reported a boost in confidence, motivation, inspiration, pride of involvement, high degree of engagement. One drawback was negative team experiences, caused by students who thought they should have been selected as project managers. However, this was described by a student (now in the workforce) as a representation of later office politics and as a good opportunity to develop character strength. Significantly enhanced employment opportunities and extremely positive industry feedback were also noted.” It is also important to charge a minimal fee to ensure that students began thinking about the cost of doing business and that funding is reinvested back into provisions for the student businesses . This requires a student to have “skin in the game” and ensures that a value is placed on the incubator and services.