Should South African Universities open up Business Incubators?
The issue of creating Business Incubators has been highlighted as the surest way of making small businesses succeed. The phenomena is not new at all. It swept America and most of the western world in the last 10 years and in smaller pockets some many years past. However, the new wave of Incubators have swept the South African Universities and most universities in Africa are waking up to this. There has been fierce resistance from academics who have always held the flag of “publish or perish”. The traditional universities have been more resistant to this new breed of thinking, while the technical universities warmed up to this new territory of creativity to which they are most familiar.
Technical universities in South Africa have always encouraged their students through final year projects to create useful gadgets, or methodology to solve certain problems. After graduation some students dusted their coats and joined the employment chain and that sadly ended their natural creative self. This is now being challenged and rethought through. The high unemployment of graduates and young people in general especially in South Africa has challenged universities to take matters seriously around these creative graduates and students. This in my opinion should be encouraged and given much support from within the high corridors of power in universities and governments and private sector should buy into such structures.
My quick survey of the Status quo revealed that a few universities are trying a hand at creating such Business Incubators. The questions we should then be asking is “is this process being managed well, are the incubators well resourced, how should they be run and who should run these within Universities, how many incubators should there be in any university, how will the profits of successful projects be managed? . I assume that many questions should be asked. I have come across a guide produced : . http://ubiindex.com/best-practices-at-top-university-business-incubators/. My advice to all universities trying a hand at creating incubators should read this well written guide and learn good practices. Perhaps another question we can ask is “ is it already too late to be introducing students to concept of creating business at university, or shall we introduce these safe incubators in high schools for those kids with ideas already? Perhaps that is a question for another day.
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Founder & Director: SA Teen Entrepreneur Foundation
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