Author: Fong, Wai Man Tifanni
Title: Business incubation process for design start-ups : case studies on government-based and university-based business incubators in Hong Kong
Advisors: Liu, Xihui Sylvia (SD)
Ng, Sandy (SD)
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2022
Subject: Design -- China -- Hong Kong
Business incubators -- China -- Hong Kong
New business enterprises -- China -- Hong Kong
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: School of Design
Pages: xix, 273 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: The importance of entrepreneurship in the past 20 years has been recognized as an economic driver to the first-world countries' Gross Domestic Profit (GDP) growth index. Many entrepreneurship programmes, including business incubators, accelerators, innovation hubs and co-working spaces were established in the past 20 years. Business incubator is one of the entrepreneurship programmes that was well established in the past 50 years worldwide. It provided hardware and software, including infrastructure, business services and funding support to entrepreneurs. Most of these business incubators mainly focused on technology start-ups. Considering the incubation process and service supplied by the incubator, previous studies were limited to the incubator's perspective and that of the incubatee was rarely included. This was the research gap to be filled by this study.
In recent years, cultural and creative industries have played a crucial role in the economies of many countries, and so their entrepreneurship became a new topic in the field. However, there have been few studies on design and creative entrepreneurship. This is the main research gap identified in this research, specifically, 'there are no framework of business incubation process for design start-ups'.
Based on the above research gaps, one main research question was defined: 'What is the business incubation process for design start-ups?' Following on from this, three sub-questions were developed. These sub-questions were: (SQ1):'What are the incubator's expectations and perspectives of their design incubatees and the programmes'; (SQ2):'What are the design incubatees' expectations and perspectives on their business incubators in terms of services and support'; and (SQ3): 'What are the key elements of business incubation process for design start-ups'. The first two sub-questions identify the differences of incubators and incubatees' perspectives in the business incubation process. And the third sub-question targets on the key themes of the business incubation process for design start-ups.
Based on these research questions, the three objectives of this study were defined. These were (1) to establish an understanding of government-based and university-based incubation process for design start-ups; (2) to explore the business incubation process for design start-ups from two perspectives, these being, incubator and incubatees; and (3) to develop a framework of incubating design start-ups by incubator with a process-based view.
To explore the answers to the research questions and achieve the objectives, a qualitative approach comprising multiple case studies was selected and applied in this research. Data from two perspectives, incubator and incubatee were collected to fill the previous research gap of the limited perspective based on incubator study. Two cases of business incubators in Hong Kong were explored. They were: Hong Kong Design Incubation Programme by Hong Kong Design Centre as a government-based incubator and HKPolyU Micro Fund as university-based incubator. To obtain a rich description of the cases, data were collected through multiple sources, including semi-structured interviews, site visits and documents. In the semi-structured interviews, representatives of both incubators and incubatees were interviewed. A total of thirty-two semi-structured interviews were conducted. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. Three incubation centres were visited. Data triangulation was applied to explore the individuals' perspectives in a business incubation process. All the collected data were sorted in a dataset.
According to the literature review, six categories of the business incubation process were reported as the result of first code. It supplied a frame to guide the data collection and analysis. Since it was generated based on the previous studies, it also represented the incubator's perspectives and non-design start-ups. Based on the first codes, the researcher highlighted the quotations in data set and the transcriptions by using the software, ATLAS.ti. The second codes were generated as the result of the analysis. Through comparing second code of incubator's perspective in the two cases with the first code, the characteristics of business incubation for design start-up were reported. Through comparing incubatee's perspective of the second codes in the two cases, the opinions of business process from incubatees were identified. The second code results from the two perspectives in the two cases were further synthesized via cross-case analysis to obtain the first themes of the business incubation process. After comparing the first themes with the literature review, the final themes were reported. To validate the results, these findings were reviewed by a group of experts from academia and industry in the fields of business incubation.
Overall, there are four main findings reported in this research. (1) six categories of business incubation process as the summary of existing studies on business incubation process; (2) the views of business incubation process from the incubatees; (3) the characteristics of business incubation process for design start-ups; and (4) the framework of the process of the identified final themes.
Firstly, the six categories of BI process were reported as the first code from literature review in Chapter Two. The six categories were 1) selection criteria, 2) infrastructure, 3) finance support, 4) business service support, 5) networking, and 6) entrepreneurship training. These were limited to non-design start-ups and were only from the perspective of the incubator. The six categories supplied a framework for this research and were applied as an analytical frame of within-case and cross-case analysis.
Secondly, the incubatees' perspectives of the BI process were explored through comparing the second codes of the incubatees' perspectives in the two cases with the first code of six categories from the literature review. A total of 30 second codes were obtained from the incubatees' perspectives, of which 17 codes were reported from Case A and 13 from Case B. The results of the comparison were reported in three groups, 1) two new elements, which were not in the scope of the first code from the incubator's perspective; 2) 15 new content of existing first code from the perspective of the incubator; and, 3) two same contents of existing first code.
Thirdly, the characteristics of the BI process for design start-ups were reported based on the comparison between the BI process from the incubator's perspective in the two cases with the first code of the six categories from the literature review. They included 26 elements of the BI process for design start-ups. The 26 elements were further classified into three groups, 1) new elements, 2) new contents of existing elements, and 3) same content. As a result, only one new element and 6 new contents were found.
Finally, the final themes were obtained through within-case analysis and cross-case analysis of the six categories of BI process. The final framework of BI process was also reported accordingly. It covered all 14 final themes with two perspectives, incubator and incubatees, with a focus on design start-ups.
The four main research findings provide theoretical significance in two areas, 'business incubation process' and 'design start-ups'. Firstly, for the theory of BI process, the first research finding provided the six categories of the BI process based on reviewing previous studies. This research contributes to the BI process through discussion of the incubatees' perspectives. Secondly, for the theory of design start-ups, this research provides the BI process for design start-ups. This is the research gap in design entrepreneurship, since there was no study on the subject of the BI process for design start-ups in the past. Besides the above two points on the subject of theoretical significance, this research indicates the intersection of the two areas. Firstly, the integration of the two perspectives of the incubatees and incubator that was applied to the case study of the non-profit business incubators, one government-based and one university-based incubator. Secondly, this research also contributed a holistic view with identified final themes and frameworks of the BI process and design start-ups. The two cases supplied rich description on the topic with first-hand data collected using data triangulation.
There are three main contributions to the practice of design entrepreneurship and business incubation. The first beneficiary is business incubator. Both government-based and university-based incubators could develop their BI programmes for design start-ups according to the reported findings and framework. The reported final themes, BI process from the incubatees' perspectives and the specific requirements of design start-ups could guide the incubators to extend their services accordingly. The second beneficiary is design start-ups. The reported final themes and framework may help them to review business plans, seek resources and support in different BI stages and select suitable BI programmes. The final beneficiary is policy makers. The research findings identify policy implications for the BI process for design start-ups. The characteristics of the BI process from incubatees' perspectives and design start-ups could be applied as a reference for policy making. This new policy would help to guide incubator's strategy, service, BI process and mechanism of BI programme and enhance their motivation to design an optimal BI programme which incorporates an understanding of design start-ups' perspectives and concerns.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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