Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators

Why Incubation and Acceleration?

Incubators and accelerators are structured support programs aimed at building key capabilities and refining business propositions that are generally run by entrepreneurial support organisations (ESOs), sometimes referred to simply as incubators or accelerators.


While definitions and offerings vary, it is generally agreed that incubators support entrepreneurs and early-stage ventures, while accelerators work with more mature ventures.

What Makes Them So Important?

These programs and the organisations that run them play a critical role in the development of entrepreneurship by increasing awareness of entrepreneurial opportunities and pathways, providing vital early-stage support, and facilitating engagement between key stakeholders (i.e. entrepreneurs, investors, corporations, and government).


By supporting incubation and acceleration programs and working with ESOs we can raise the quality and stability of support for entrepreneurs.

This can contribute to the development of more viable ventures, increased investment, and the scaling of valuable products and services.

The Impact of Incubation and Acceleration

If these organisations and the ventures they support have an explicit focus on creating a positive impact through their work, then these efforts can represent a localised, sustainable approach to development. An approach that focuses on supporting local individuals or organisations to address relevant issues in more appropriate ways, and through this, creates both social and economic value.

There are many examples of ventures growing and delivering both financial returns and development outcomes. They are often referred to as either social or inclusive businesses, social enterprises, or impact ventures. There is growing interest in these models from governments, corporations, development organisations, and investors, and as a result, more incubation and acceleration programs are focusing on ‘impact’.


Rural Healthcare Incubator

  • 1.

    An incubation program attracts an application from a group interested in improving rural healthcare.

  • 2.

    Their knowledge of the local dialects and customs could enable them to more easily engage communities, and to understand the nuanced issues with existing services.

  • 3.

    Through this process they could develop a culturally appropriate service model that centres on training young, local women to mediate and translate between doctors and the community, helping to address trust and language issues.

  • 4.

    This model could improve service uptake and health outcomes, while also providing employment.

  • This is exciting, but improving the quality of support is also important.

    This was the aim of the Frontier Incubators program.

The Role of Incubators and Accelerators in Ecosystems

While the growth (in quantity and quality) of impact incubation and acceleration programs is important, so too is the growth of broader support systems, as ventures require many types of support over time to grow.

ESOs can (and often do) also improve the conditions for entrepreneurship by working on a set of complex interdependent factors often referred to as the ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’.

While definitions vary, this generally refers to the various actors, resources, and qualities that shape the environment in which ventures operate.


The vibrancy of the ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’ can be measured by the availability of talent, capital, and other resources required to grow, and the persistence of barriers to growth.

While an ESO might generate many promising ventures, without follow-on financial and non-financial support these are unlikely to grow. Or, even earlier in the process, aspiring entrepreneurs might struggle to even register their business.

By working directly with groups of entrepreneurs ESOs have a ‘finger on the pulse’ of the ecosystem – this is what makes them so well placed to engage in ‘ecosystem building’. This is not something that an ESO (or any actor for that matter) can do alone, as these are complex systems made of many dynamic parts. However, in situations like those above, ESOs can highlight issues and catalyse efforts to address them.


This could involve engaging potential angel investors, building a mentor network, supporting the production of guides that assist with navigating incorporation, or even working with the relevant government departments to simplify the process.

Incubating the Incubators and Accelerating the Accelerators

The Frontier Incubators program and this Guide have both sought to contribute to the development of ESOs, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, by strengthening their operations and supporting their learning.

But they are just a starting point and an invitation to do more. For ESOs to more effectively support ventures and the development of ecosystems, they too need support. Development organisations, corporations, universities, governments, and more can all play an important role in this.

  • Acknowledging the different roles that ESOs can play is an important step towards better supporting them, and leveraging their unique position and capabilities to develop more robust ventures and more vibrant ecosystems.


How to Use

How to get started using and making the most of this guide