The world of business incubators and accelerators is becoming increasingly important in the Italian entrepreneurial ecosystem: this is shown by the progressive affirmation of Corporate Incubation programs based on the scouting and development of external ideas/startups; furthermore, universities themselves have begun to set up incubation and acceleration activities, as proof of the importance assumed by new business methods.
Given this rapidly growing phenomenon, the Social Innovation Monitor (SIM) has presented and made available the new Public Report 2021 on Italian incubators/accelerators, whose presence in Italy is gradually strengthening: this can be seen by the +7% compared to last year in the number of incubators identified (from 212 to 229 units).
The SIM publication, drawn up annually by the team of researchers and professors of the Politecnico di Torino in collaboration with other Institutional & Research Partners, offers a detailed overview of incubators and accelerators at a national level, with an updated and detailed analysis of their activities and of the startups incubated. In particular, it aims at offering answers to questions related to the role of incubators in Italy, to the operational areas of most of the incubated and/or accelerated startups, as well as to possible future scenarios in this field. The study, carried out on a sample of 37% of the total number of active incubators identified (85 units out of a population of 229 incubators), also intends to focus on the differences that have emerged between the various types of incubators and accelerators, in order to identify the rates of effectiveness in their activities to support businesses.
Getting into more detail, in the 229 incubators identified, there are 38 MiSE-certified incubators, 29 university incubators, and 17 corporate incubators. As of the Report, the year 2016 appears to be the most prolific year for the establishment of incubators, with more than half having been established since 2013.
In terms of the geographical distribution of incubators, around 57% of the total is concentrated in Northern Italy, with a clear prevalence of Lombardy (25% of the total), followed by Emilia-Romagna (13%) and Lazio (8%). The southern and insular areas represent the regions with the lowest number of incubators.
With regard to legal status, the majority of activities are private (65%), while only 14% are managed exclusively by administrations or public institutions.
Beyond legal nature, by using an international classification, the Report distinguishes:
- Business incubator: incubators/accelerators with 0% of incubated organizations with significant social impact compared to the total.
- Mixed incubator: from one to 50% of incubated organizations with significant social impact compared to the total.
- Social Incubator: more than 50% of organizations incubated with significant social impact compared to the total.
The research highlighted that 50% of the sample identified belongs to the Business Incubator category, while the remaining half of Italian incubators and accelerators support organizations with significant social impact, confirming the almost identical data that emerged in 2020. The most represented sectors for incubated organizations with significant social impact are, in this order, those related to the protection of the environment and animals (including agriculture and livestock breeding), health and well-being (including sports) and, finally, culture, arts and crafts. The least represented sectors are those of peace and justice, and services to social enterprises and non-profit organizations, which have also experienced – compared to last year – a significant decrease in the number of incubated organizations operating in this sector.
In terms of revenues, estimates indicate that Italian incubators in 2020 account for a market of about 348 M€. The 2020 turnover estimate is slightly lower than the previous year’s (2019) estimate of 373 M€ due to a decrease in the average turnover of the identified incubator population, despite an increase in the number of identified incubators (from 212 to 229). The average turnover of the total population of Italian incubators is around 1.52 M€, with a slight decrease compared to last year (1.76 M€ average turnover per incubator).
Regarding the number of incubation requests received, it turns out that most incubators (57% of the sample, so 47 incubators) received at most 50 incubation requests. Compared to last year, there is a significant increase in the median number of incubation requests received. Probably this increase (from 30.0 to 38.0) is also due to a growth in the number of entrepreneurial teams and organizations in Italy. With reference to the services to be provided, these entrepreneurial teams appear to have a preference for the following: support for the development of relationships (networking with research centers, universities, government agencies, companies and other incubated businesses); managerial mentoring (which has been given greater importance than in previous years by incubators belonging to all three of the legal natures listed above); support in the search for funding.
Within the research there is also a graphical overview of the income/outflows system: among the major cost items for incubators there are those related to the management of the structure and general services (28%) and to entrepreneurial and technical support services, such as legal, administrative or accounting assistance (31%). On the other hand, revenues depend largely on services provided to entrepreneurial teams and supported organizations (28%), as well as national and international grants and funding (18%). A mere 3% of revenues come from donations. More detailed information and all reports – also referring to incubators/accelerators in France, Germany, UK and Spain – are available at https://socialinnovationmonitor.com/italy-incubators/.