Call for Papers: Incubators and Accelerators: Integrating evolving incubator models and learning from the past

IEEE Transactions on

Engineering Management

Special Issue: Incubators and Accelerators: Integrating evolving incubator models and learning from the past

Guest Editors

Dr. Brendan Galbraith, Zayed University (

Prof. Rodney McAdam, Ulster University (

Prof. Stephen Cross, Georgia Institute of Technology (



Research-On-Research’ and the origins of incubation

In many of the earliest issues of the IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management (TRANSACTIONS) and under the stewardship of its founding editor, Dr. Albert Rubenstein, there was a concerted drive to explore ‘research on the R&D process’ to derive and test theories about organizational behaviour in the R&D context (Roberts, 1964; Rubenstein, 1964a) and to understand how to resolve the gap between knowledge and its application (Glatt, 1964; Haggerty, 1964). This fledgling work on the management of research, development and engineering became known as “research-on-research” and many of the earliest studies were carried out by social scientists, such as psychologists, sociologists, and economists – some of whom had a prior technical background (Rubenstein, 1959 and 1964b).

The rapid development of post-World War II industrial and research laboratories was the initial focus of this evolving management science (Baumgartel, 1956; Meltzer, 1956; Avery, 1959; Jones and Arnold, 1962). The goal was to advance theory and practice – ‘the art’ – of R&D and engineering management. Rubenstein’s editorial pages were repeated calls for action to management researchers to advance theoretical research to address what he was convinced was the serious lack of understanding of what takes place in the complex process of R&D and engineering management (Rubenstein, 1964a and 1985). At the same, Rubenstein highlighted that in order to make progress there had to be a recognition that this endeavour was a two-way street. It was incumbent on practicing R&D and engineering managers to seize their role in helping to improve the art of management by testing, developing, adopting and implementing changes in R&D management, according to emerging academic management research at that time (Rubenstein, 1964c). Writing in an editorial in December 1966, Rubenstein was unsparing:

“Until sufficient effort is put into these latter aspects of the Management of R, D & E process by the managers themselves, the results of basic research into management will just lie in the libraries and on the shelves, with little effect on the art of managing R, D and E.”

An early research paper by Ed Roberts, at that time an Assistant Professor at MIT, was an agenda setting critique of the research focus that was taking place in this era as well as the dissemination of a novel theoretical contribution “Toward a new theory in research and development” (1962). Of course, it would be very difficult to imagine that this was the case if one reviews the mere five Google Scholar citations affiliated to his 1962 seminal paper “Toward a new theory for research and development” published in Industrial Management Review[1]. Roberts (1962) critiqued that management researchers were working in the wrong areas and with the wrong viewpoints, namely: (1) management research had emphasized pieces rather the process of R&D, and (2) emphasized techniques rather understanding, and (3) those that did attempt to analyse R&D used a framework which hindered rather than helped understanding (Roberts, 1962).

Rubenstein was a trailblazer in how he helped shape the research agenda and he directly communicated the critical part that practicing industrial managers were expected to play. As Ed Roberts (2004) reflected, this occurred in an era were “many of the relatively few managers in the reading audience doubted that academics had a basis for informing them, and they 

certainly questioned how much performance improvement might result from reading the TRANSACTIONS…and some related journals were even outright hostile to academic contributors”. Rubenstein was a proponent of the classic counter argument to this scepticism, in that “nothing is so practical as a good theory” (Lewin, 1945). As Van de Ven (1989) explains: “Good theory is practical precisely because it advances knowledge in a scientific discipline, guides research toward crucial questions, and enlightens the profession of management.”

This research agenda, championed by Rubenstein and others (Roberts, 1962), gained momentum and in particular the TRANSACTIONS reported advancements of Research Laboratories that was occurring at MIT (Roberts, 1964), Northwestern, (Rubenstein, 1964a), the Georgia Institute of Technology (Boyd, 1957), Bell Laboratories (Morton, 1968) and Lockheed (Hawkins, 1969). In the early 1970s we started to see a shift on the field’s focus from R&D and engineering management to innovation management (Tushman, 2004) and some of the most important seminal research came from Rubenstein’s past students, for example, James Utterback’s (1971) work on the process of innovation. Around the same time, the TRANSACTIONS published the seminal research into incubator organizations; charting the characteristics of technical entrepreneurs in incubators in MIT (Roberts and Wainer, 1971) and incubator spin-offs in Stanford and Silicon Valley (Cooper, 1971).

As the R&D and engineering management field evolved and broadened into innovation management, the research foci of government, university and industrial research laboratories transgressed to fledgling incubator organizations. Over the years a wide range of journals provided sustained coverage of incubator and related research, in particular, Research Policy, Technovation, Journal of Business Venturing and The Journal of Technology Transfer.  Other significant outlets included: R&D Management, Journal of Small Business Management, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management and The Journal of Product Innovation Management. Post-Rubenstein, the TRANSACTIONS grew in several other important areas, but with notable exceptions such as Smilor (1987) and a Special Issue by Link (2008) the TRANSACTIONS was less engaged in the incubator research field.

Overall, the historical introductory context for our proposed Special Issue serves four key purposes.

Firstly, with our newly installed editor-in-chief, Tugrul Daim, we feel it is timely that the TRANSACTIONS retrace its roots in incubator research and play a role in steering the most recent evolution of this model, the accelerator. In doing so, this helps align the TRANSACTIONS and to the core objectives of IEEE Technology Engineering Management Society (TEMS), in particular – ‘moving product/services from idea to market’.

Second, by acknowledging the rich, foundational research and practice of “Research-on-Research” in industrial research laboratories led by, Albert Rubenstein – we ask: what can we learn from the past? The Rubenstein era was a period of sustained focus and analysis of the direction of the field and its impact on practice. Alongside new theoretical developments were the efforts of inducing key stakeholders into translating and adopting new practices – all in the pursuit of advancing the art of R&D and engineering management. However, at the closing of Rubenstein’s 25-year editorial reign at the TRANSACTIONS, he observed that compared to other functional areas of in the firm, such as marketing, finance, production and strategic planning, ‘our’ techniques have not advanced – leaving room for much improvement (Rubenstein, 1985). Moreover, the uptake of academic technology transfer and innovation management research and models into management practices is under leveraged (Tushman, 2004). If we turn to the development of the incubator research field, traditional incubator models of research were dominated by configurational-orientated studies and seldom produced managerial insights into their value-added processes (McAdam et al., 2005; McAdam et al., 2010) and so far, the largely descriptive research in accelerators is following the same path.

Third, we are reminded that from its origins, the R&D and innovation management field has developed with scholarly research from many disciplines – often appearing in non-management discipline journals. It is obvious that additional interdisciplinary empirical research studies will be of value. This should cover sub-disciplines in management as well as an increasing number of related disciplines (i.e. economics, psychology, engineering, design, information systems etc.).

Fourth, if we are to learn from the past then researchers must ensure they adopt appropriate research protocols when designing systematic literature reviews. Scholarly research that appears in non-management discipline journals or in a management discipline journal that is not listed as a current ‘top’ journal, is too often, and methodically, omitted from systematic literature reviews. This is a scientific loss of both, new and classic research. Many classic research studies that were reported in older, scholarly journals, that no longer feature in the top tier echelons of various journal ranking lists, are often excluded. As we are reminded of, in numerous reflective commentaries of the field[1] and journal and citation analysis studies, (Cheng et al., 1999; Kocaoglu, 1994), the frequent variance in the titles that are considered to be the most important field journals or a top tier journal, is in itself, a characteristic of our field. We can only learn from the past, if we are adopting literature review protocols (especially systematic reviews of the field) that are inclusive of scholarly research, regardless of domain discipline or current journal ranking index. To qualify this point, a more inclusive and robust approach for reviews of the literature field, would help complement (not replace) systematic and credible research in the field that benefits from a high level of partitioning (Rubenstein, 1994).

The incubator phenomenon and academic literature field, its implications for management practice and truly supportive policy development has burgeoned over the decades. This has prompted the emergence of a wider constituency of incubator and technology transfer models, often with overlapping functions and objectives. In this Special Issue, it is our aim to return to the roots of the incubator research field and the TRANSACTIONS and to critically review the evolution of incubator organizations – in particular, to integrate the apparently new generation of this model, the accelerator.

The Management of Innovation – Incubators and accelerators

The origin of incubators is often traced back to the 1950s, first, with the opening of Stanford Research Park that helped seed the Silicon Valley and the Industrial Center of Batavia, New York, in 1959 (Hackett and Dilts, 2004). Around the same time, both the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory and MIT Lincoln Laboratory, having undertaken substantial defense technological innovations and space technologies, were considered to be major ‘source organizations’ for new high technology enterprises (Roberts, 1991). Faculty entrepreneurship in the MIT labs developed organically, with many MIT researchers electing to “moonlight” on a part-time 

basis, whilst retaining full time faculty positions (Roberts, 1991). Both, the subsequent high-tech clusters of Silicon Valley and Boston-Route 128 were considered to be exemplar environments for the growth of high-technology start-ups and successful university and corporate spin-offs. An interesting variation, was that the Boston-Route 128 model stood out with a much higher degree of regional entrepreneurial dependence upon one major academic institution, namely, MIT (Roberts, 1991). In comparison, an early study found that only 8 out of 243 technical firms in the Palo Alto area had their origins with Stanford University (Cooper, 1971).

Since the 1960s, the Palo Alto area was home to some of the most impactful corporate incubators such as Fairchild Semiconductor and Ampex (Cooper, 1971). As the incubator concept evolved in the 1970s and 80’s, Smilor (1987) reported that two broad strategies began to emerge. The first approach was to renovate older or vacant buildings and lease the space at relatively inexpensive rates, in what was largely a property management endeavour. The second strategy was a more conscious attempt to build companies and leverage resources to help companies grow. Since then, there was a wave of incubators established, initially in the United States, but quickly spreading throughout Europe and Asia. Today, incubators are a worldwide phenomenon and are integrated in most developed and developing nations.  Terms such as Science Parks, Research Parks, Science and Technology Parks, Business Incubators, Technological Business Incubators, University Incubators, Innovation Centers, Enterprise Centers, Business and Technology Centers and Innovation Intermediaries have been attached to these third-party entities in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Often these terms have been used interchangeably, especially, Science Parks and Incubators.

The study of incubators (e.g. Cooper, 1971; Roberts and Wainer, 1971; Smilor, 1987; Allen and McCluskey, 1991; Mian, 1996; Autio and Klofsten, 1998; Rice, 2002; Colombo and Delmastro, 2002; Rothaermel and Thursby, 2005; Bøllingtoft and Ulhøi, 2005; McAdam et al., 2016) and science parks (e.g. Quintas et al., 1992; Westhead, 1997; Löfsten, H., Lindelöf, 2001 and 2002; Siegel et al., 2003; Phan et al., 2005; Diez-Vial and Montoro-Sanchez, 2017; Hobbs et al., 2017) has been the focus of prolific empirical research for several decades. Attempts to cluster this multitude of similar terms have led to several typologies. For example, Grimaldi and Grandi (2005) mapped business incubators into four categories: business innovation centers, university business incubators, independent private incubators and corporate private incubators.  A common denominator of all of these terms or entities is that they, in some manner, exist to play a role to support and harness new technology-based start-ups.

Since then, advancements and offshoots of incubator and technology transfer models have evolved in the form of virtual models (Durão et al., 2005) and matchmaking platforms (Holzmann et al, 2014), niche incubators with a focus on sustainability (Bank et al., 2017) and social impact as well as the arrival of an apparently new type of incubator, the “accelerator.” The accelerator has already generated a number of terms such as “corporate accelerator” (Kohler, 2016), “seed accelerator” (Cohen and Hochberg, 2014) or “technology accelerator”.  The first accelerator, Y Combinator, was founded by Paul Graham in 2005 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before moving to the Silicon Valley in 2007 (Cohen and Hochberg, 2014). Since then, it has become a worldwide phenomenon but the current academic literature on accelerators is scant, and mostly amounts to descriptive studies (Yin and Luo, 2018).  The current research on the accelerator has reported differing interpretations of this latest instantiation. There is the supported analysis that an accelerator is essentially a special type of incubator or new generation incubation model (Pauwels et al., 2016), albeit, with several configurational differences, such as they are cyclical, shorter-duration and cohort-based programs rather continuous, and longer-duration support offered by incubators (Yin and Luo, 2018). In contrast, Goswami et al., (2017) argue that accelerators are a new form of entrepreneurial support organization and different to an incubator. Goswami et al., (2017) report that accelerators contribute to ecosystems in a way that is distinct from, but supportive of, building individual ventures.

Overall, significant recent, worldwide developments of new incubator and accelerator models, from various sponsors, motivate this new Special Issue and we are particularly interested to integrate this within the substantial body of work in the incubator field.

This special issue invites papers on four levels of analysis:

  1. The incubators or accelerator level (g. studies that explore processes, strategies and/or business models of incubators and accelerators, virtual models, intermediation and incubation)
  2. The embryonic start up enterprise (g. design thinking and start-up processes, partnership models (start-ups and corporations, inter-corporations, university-corporations etc., role of matchmaking platforms, sustainability or circular economy start-ups)
  3. The entrepreneur or entrepreneur team level (g. studies that explore leadership and team dynamics, talent requisition, intergenerational and the role of informal team members)
  4. The regional innovation system/district or city level (g. role of key stakeholders within regions, entrepreneurial ecosystem, smart cities, innovation districts and living lab contexts)

Therefore, we invite both theoretical and empirical research papers on incubators and accelerators at any of these four levels. We are interested in an eclectic range of incubator and accelerator models that are derived from the perspective of government, investor, corporate, university or other lead sponsors. We particularly welcome interdisciplinary research studies, critical investigations of new incubator and accelerator models and implications for managerial practices, innovation policy and the research agenda.

Notes for Prospective Authors

Submitted papers should not have been previously published nor be currently under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Conference papers may only be submitted if the paper has been completely re-written and if appropriate written permissions have been obtained from any copyright holders of the original paper.

Manuscripts should be submitted through the publisher’s online system. Submissions will be reviewed according to the journal’s rigorous standards and procedures through double-blind peer review by at least two qualified reviewers.

Submission Process:

Please prepare the manuscript according to IEEE-TEM’s guidelines ( and submit to the journal’s Manuscript Central site 

( Please clearly state in the cover letter that the submission is for this special issue.


Papers should be submitted by June 30th, 2019


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Guest Editor bios

Dr. Brendan Galbraith

Brendan Galbraith is an Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship at Zayed University, UAE. Dr. Galbraith is an editorial board member at IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management Journal and an elected board member at IEEE Technology Management and Engineering Management Society. He previously held management positions in the United States and Ireland and was a faculty member at Ulster University for over a decade prior to arriving in the UAE. In 2016, he was a visiting scholar at the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at University of California, Berkeley.

His research has appeared in Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, Technovation, R&D Management, International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Production Planning and Control, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management and the International Journal of Production Research. He has co-authored and co-edited two books in Social Innovation and Innovation Intermediaries and is a frequent plenary speaker at conferences and industry events. Dr. Galbraith has led the development and exploitation of several prestigious innovation and research projects funded by the European Commission and he has one software invention disclosure. His research has been presented in the European Parliament, European Commission, Committee de Regions, Northern Ireland Parliament and featured on BBC News. He has been the general chair of several international conferences: IEEE International Technology Management Conference, European Conference Innovation and Entrepreneurship and co-chair of European Conference for Knowledge Management. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) Dr. Galbraith was the lead author of the impact case study ‘high-tech innovation adoption’ that was ranked as 4-star ‘world leading’.

Professor Rodney McAdam

Rodney McAdam is a Professor in Innovation Management at the Ulster Business School, University of Ulster. Rodney has received the distinguished research fellowship award from the University of Ulster. He has published extensively on innovation management and his research has appeared in top international peer reviewed journals including: Technovation, R&D Management, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Regional Studies, International Small Business Journal and the Journal of Business Research. He is a regular conference speaker at international conferences and supervises a number of PhD students in this area. Before joining the university, he worked in the aerospace industry.

Professor Stephen Cros

Dr. Stephen E. Cross holds faculty positions in industrial and systems engineering, interactive computing, and business at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, GA (USA).  He conducts research and lectures on leadership, culture change, innovation, technology transition, and applications of machine intelligence.  For the past eight years, he served as the Executive Vice President for Research where he also served as President of the Georgia Tech Research Corporation and the Georgia Advanced Technology Ventures.  Previously, Dr. Cross was at Carnegie Mellon University from 1994-2003 as a research faculty member in computer science and Director and CEO of the Software Engineering Institute.   Earlier he served as a military officer and as a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.


He currently serves on the executive committee of the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR) which is sponsored by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  Dr. Cross is an IEEE Life Fellow, a former Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Intelligent Systems, and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Systems Management.  He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati (1974), his M. S. in Electrical Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology (1976), and his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1983).   He is a Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Engineering of the University of Cincinnati (2002) and the Air Force Institute of Technology (2014).

[1] Industrial Management Review was later retitled to Sloan Management Review

[2] For several examples see (2014) 50 years of engineering management through the lens of the IEEE transactions, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 51, 4

IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management is journal of the Technology and Engineering Management Society of IEEE, published quarterly since 1954. It is dedicated to the publication of peer-reviewed original contributions, by researchers and practitioners, regarding the theory and practice of engineering, technology, and innovation management.

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