Over the past decade, universities have invested heavily in startup accelerator programs; however, their role in the university entrepreneurial ecosystem is ambiguous. Are university startup accelerators intended to educate or are they created to facilitate business starts and to contribute to regional economic development? In contrast, most private-sector startup accelerators serve a consistent and differentiated role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem—they provide programming and resources to startups to increase the probability of a return on investment. Understanding the role of university startup accelerators is an important precursor to evaluating their impact and whether or not the return is worth the considerable investment. In this study, we poll university accelerator directors to gain their perspective on the role(s) that university startup accelerators play and to identify how they are structured and operated. Our research reveals a fairly uniform structure and mode of operation. While facilitating business starts is a key role for some, it confirms education as the primary role for university startup accelerators. We outline appropriate means of assessing the learning that takes place in accelerator programs, offer insight into how these findings can help accelerator directors deliver on outcomes and demonstrate impact, and propose avenues for future research.


Industrial Technology

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URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/it_fac/106