Supporting entrepreneurship, innovation and business start-ups in rural Ontario: What role for business incubators?

Headquarters for Communitech, Kitchener, Ontario

Source: Communitech

Generously funded by:

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food / Ontario Ministry of Rural Affairs New Directions Research Program

Meet the research team:

Faculty investigators:

Dr. Tara Vinodrai, Associate Professor, Department of Geography & Environmental Management and School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, University of Waterloo

Dr. Paul Parker, Professor, Department of Geography & Environmental Management and School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, University of Waterloo

Current students:

Joseph (Yo) Wang (Co-op student, Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo)

Past students:

Nancy Huether (Local Economic Development, University of Waterloo)

Advisory committee:

Diana Jedig, Executive Director, Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations (OACFDC)

Iain Klugman, President, Communitech

Geoff Malleck, University of Waterloo

John Regan, Manager, Economic development and tourism, Haldimand County (formerly General Manager, Elgin Small Business Centre)


Understanding how to support entrepreneurism and small business development in rural communities is a critical rural policy priority in Ontario. However, uncertainty remains about how to best achieve this goal, especially since resources and opportunities vary across communities. Business incubators are often suggested as an important mechanism in this regard. Yet, open questions remain: Are business incubators a viable means for supporting entrepreneurship and business start-ups? What models exist? Can these models be replicated in rural communities? There is a need to identify and understand successful, innovative models of business incubation.

 To explore this gap in our knowledge and address a key rural policy priority, this study provides a systematic, evidence-based investigation of business incubators and their associated services in North America. The overall goal of the research project is to provide evidence of innovative and successful business incubation models and the key factors that contribute to their success. Through a systematic review of existing models that support entrepreneurship and business creation, and an in-depth examination of six business incubators, lessons well be drawn together to inform policymakers and practitioners about how to design, implement and operate successful business incubators.

The research will assist policymakers in designing and assessing programs that enable communities and regions in rural Ontario to take action and support entrepreneurship and new venture creation. This is particularly germane in the context of rural communities in Ontario, where the long term prosperity of these regions rests on being able to create new economic opportunities for residents.

For further information:

Research and knowledge transfer/translation activities:

This project is in its initial phases. Currently, the research team is completing and international scan of literature addressing current best practices and programs in business incubation, as well as the academic literature on start-ups, innovation, entrepreneurship and regional development. The research team is also building a database of incubators and accelerators in Canada and the United States.

Recent outputs

Huether, N. 2014. The Business Incubator Landscape: A Canadian Perspective. MAES Major Research Paper, University of Waterloo. (Supervisor: P. Parker)