6th International Summit of Business Incubation and Technology Park Associations
Dortmund, Germany (16 – 18 Nov 2002)
Globalization is a key issue of today's economies and societies. Associations of business incubators and science/technology parks have since their initiation, more than 15 years ago, formally and informally ex-changed information and experience and worked together to identify potential for joint activities and pro-jects. This cooperation has helped to develop the instruments of business incubation, know-how and knowledge transfer, as well as international (small and medium) business cooperation, and it will be ex-panded and intensified for the mutual benefit of participating countries.
The associations represented at the Summit agreed on the following resolutions to further develop the common basis for the business incubation and innovation support industry world-wide. Business Incubators and Science/Technology Parks-henceforth referred to as "BI and STP"-operate in a large number of countries around the world, in many cases for more than two decades. The accumulated experience of these associations/operations provides a basis to further develop this instrument of economic and social devel-opment support and to provide assistance to new projects.
BI and STP are set up to promote local or regional economic development by promoting entrepreneurship, encouraging innovation and technology transfer through supporting the establishment of new (start-up) companies and the development of small and medium enterprises. Based on this general description of the purposes of BI and STP, Summit participants agreed upon the following statements:
- BI and STP have become globally recognized instruments of regional economic development promotion through the support of entrepreneurship and enterprise development in a wide spectrum of environ-ments. An important strength of both "BIs and STPs" is their adaptability to different situations, re-sources, aims and tasks.
- Basic mandatory components of the "business incubator" are (1) entrepreneurship promotion and start-up and business planning support, (2) business development consulting, training and support, (3) networks that provide access to specialized business consulting, technology commercialization and business financing resources, and (4) physical facilities (buildings, rooms to provide office, production or laboratory space for lease, flexibly according to the demand of client). This statement expressly is not meant to rank business incubators without physical facilities lower than business incubators with them; it is aimed at securing the clear understanding of the concept.
- The local and regional environments of BI and STP differ significantly (e.g., national / regional economic situation, political environment, research and development potential, short- and medium-term goals, etc.). The concrete aims, work patterns and evaluation criteria of BI and STP, therefore, should take into consideration specific situations and locations.
Having described the basic components of both BIs and STPs, the Summit participants agreed on working together to secure and develop the operations of BI and STP, as well as to disseminate experiences and to provide support to new projects. For the immediate future, the following main tasks and activities are most important:
- The information base about BI and STP, both nationally and internationally, has to be expanded and developed in quality by creating and maintaining global data to document the process of reaching the "big picture goal" (see Resolutions and Agreements of the San Jose, Toronto and earlier Summits). The associations have made steps toward establishing easier access to this data, for example, through the "SPICA Directory Online" by linking existing information bases and providing a shell for new information. Further development based on the support of the associations will lead toward establishing more and more efficient access to data on BI and STP and their associations world-wide.
- Developing commonly agreed to definitions for the terms used in the BI and STP industries is a basis for expanding the support network for entrepreneurship and for strengthening public understanding for these activities and for widening the support network.
- Improving the level of understanding about BI and STP and about the processes and tools of business incubation and innovation support remains a continuing need. The associations will continue to exchange information and experience, to cooperate and support each other, and to increase knowledge about and public understanding of business incubation.
- The variety of types of BI and STP is decisive for their success. BI and STP do not need standardization. Differentiation is an enriching and necessary feature and needs to be encouraged further. The associations will increase their activities to inform both supporting organizations and the general public about the importance of basing business incubation and innovation support activities on local or regional needs and potentials, to further develop existing centers according to evolving needs, and to formulate individual mission statements as a basis for BI and STP work and the evaluation of their success.
- BI and STP need to continuously improve the quality of their services and to adapt the services provided to the needs of their client firms. The associations will cooperate to support existing BI and STP to develop, and they will provide tools for improving these services and their quality.
- Associations will work together and seek assistance to develop appropriate sets of benchmarks, differentiated according to the different types and environments of BI and STP and reflecting aspects of national culture. These are needed as tools for analyzing and improving a center's performance and may need to be differentiated by geographical (political) regions or individual countries and by different types of BI and STP. It has to be taken into account that not all aspects of BI and STP operations can be quantified and appropriate instruments need to be developed to help in comparing these aspects parties parties.
- For improving quality and developing the range of services of BI and STP "Toolboxes" would be better than benchmarks. Such "toolboxes" would contain descriptions of instruments successfully used for developing BI and STP, combined with concrete examples of centers where the respective instruments were implemented and the conditions under which the instrument can be used with positive results.
- Certification or accreditation of BI and STP can, in principle, be a useful means to help secure and improve the quality of their work but they also bear risks. Associations will cooperate to evaluate the pros and cons of certification and to develop appropriate criteria and procedures.
- Interaction between the local level and local knowledge represented by national associations and the global level and worldwide coordination represented and provided by the international associations is necessary for the success of BI and STP. Cooperative agreements between BI and STP associations have been developed continuously and will be further strengthened to establish the bases for international business-to-business cooperation. Irrespective of all necessary differences between the concepts and work patterns of BI and STP in different countries, there is much common ground to learn from each other. Associations therefore will continue to strengthen their international cooperation as evidenced by the "World Summits", as well as by other formal and informal networks.
10. It is important to make existing information and experience in BI and STP development available to all interested parties. Initiatives taken by national or international institutions to support entrepreneurship and business incubation development and / or to implement such instruments in new regions and countries will be supported by all associations. The associations offer their experience and network to support international institutions and projects, and they seek support from national or international institutions to develop and strengthen the exchange and cooperation between associations.
Participants of the Summit underline the importance of further developing the knowledge about regional economic development, innovation support and business incubation mechanisms. Strengthening international cooperation between associations, as well as between individual science / technology parks or business incubators, also will benefit innovative small companies in their efforts to access new markets. National and international associations (for example, the International Association of Science Parks (IASP), through its global network) already have proven the effectiveness and potential of such cooperation.
The Summit participants express their gratitude to the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) for having taken the initiative to organize fiver earlier International Summits and to Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutscher Technologie- und Grunderzentren (ADT) and the Science Park and Innovation Centre Expert Group (SPICE) for having hosted the first European Summit. Results of this event will be distributed through the networks of all participating associations to encourage all associations to join this cooperation and to host future Summits.