Business incubators used to be considered an innovative approach to supporting small businesses. Now they are ubiquitous, but some cities are taking the concept a step further and aligning incubators more strategically with their economic development plans. They create incubators that bring together entrepreneurs around a specific industry cluster, such as energy or food.
Clusters refer to a set of closely related and interconnected industries operating within a particular region. Typically, the term cluster is used informally to refer to an economic sector, an industry, or an interconnected set of businesses operating within a defined area. In a new survey of the nation’s 10 largest metro areas, ICIC found that between 2003 and 2011, the “dominant” clusters in aggregate grew roughly three times faster than the ten metro areas in aggregate. Cluster-focused incubators help to create a critical mass of interconnected businesses, thereby helping local clusters thrive.
Image: Cheryl Gerber, The Propeller Incubator in New Orleans