Together, We Go Further: Incubators’ Strategies and Dynamic Capabilities


  • Maus Amandine
  • Sammut Sylvie


  • Business Incubators
  • Dynamic Capabilities
  • Strategic alignment
  • Strategy

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Objectives: This paper is focusing on the strategic alignment within incubators generate by dynamic capabilities. The aim is to understand how incubators adapt their strategy in order to face a changing environment. Within the literature, if incubators’ strategies have been studied, we still don’t know which organizational capabilities drive their evolution in order to survive in a dynamic environment. This paper tries to fill this theoretical gap. Literature review: Incubators are organizations that support entrepreneurs to improve the chance of young firms’ survival. Within the literature, scholars highlight that these organizations are positioned in a dynamic environment. The latter urges them to evolve. A strategic perspective developed in the literature detailed incubators’ strategies and their transformations. The dynamic capabilities theory can help to deepen the understanding of these transformations. Academic works explain that some strategies help to develop dynamic capabilities, organizational abilities that drive evolutions. In return, these capabilities generate a strategic alignment to create more adapted strategies to face the environment. Method: We did a longitudinal multiple case study (1) to explore the existence of incubators’ dynamic capabilities and (2) the strategic alignment they cause. Four incubators have been studied during almost two years. At the end of this research, we collected data from 125 interviews, 480 hours of observations and documents. Findings: Our findings highlight an unexpected collective strategic alignment. The incubator’s dynamic capabilities drive it thanks to the involvement of incubators’ partners. This collective dynamic generates the adaptation of the incubators’ strategy. Within a resource scarcity environment, incubators studied need financial partners to develop projects in order to adapt. Incubators implement an entrepreneurial strategy, based on the development of entrepreneurial projects (new incubation models). This strategy leads to the creation of dynamic capabilities. They permit to develop entrepreneurial projects with partners. The incubators’ managers offer public or private partners to participate to these projects to acquire new resources (funds, network, human resources). In exchange of these resources, partners obtain advantages (competences development, new source of revenue, new ideas of business). To sustain this partnership initiated by the directors, a partnership strategy is finally implemented at an organizational level within the incubators. This strategic alignment aims to ensure the incubators’ survival. Value and implications: This paper offers theoretical contributions. A first contribution concerns the collective dynamic that structure incubators’ dynamic capabilities and strategic alignment. The literature mainly studies both phenomena as internal phenomena. This paper argues they can also be generated at inter-organizational level. A second contribution deals with the consequences of these dynamic capabilities and the strategic alignment. They lead to an accumulation of new incubation models within incubators. When the literature describes incubators with a unique support program, this accumulation creates a new generation of incubators that multiplicate programs to attract funders. A third contribution concerns the entrepreneurial strategy of this new generation of incubators. It permits to underline that incubators are now entrepreneurial organizations, when the literature defined them as strategic organizations.

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