It is possible to provide business innovation and incubation services solely to support existing entrepreneurs and to help commercialize existing ideas. However, a more effective and sustainable long-term approach, especially in rural communities that are struggling economically and socially, is to develop a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship which becomes self-perpetuating. Just as there are best practices in business incubation, certain environments and practices are recognized for their ability to foster innovation among communities and institutions. The following are the best practices that we will utilize and encourage our clients and partners to use to foster a culture of innovation within their organizations:
- Recognize that innovation is about co-creation. Teams always go farther than individuals.
- Embrace diversity and seek multiple perspectives. Provide pathways for the entire community to become involved in enterprise development.
- Actively facilitate intersections of and collaboration across community sectors, knowledge domains, and organizational structures. Remaining within formal institutional and learning boundaries limits the involvement of community members and local businesses.
- Commit to identifying and addressing the root causes of apathy, lack of innovation, and entrepreneurship. Judging others is not helpful. Providing encouragement produces results.
- Involve local schools and school children in innovation activities.
- Identify and recruit “change catalysts” to participate in all activities.
- Provide a strong network of experts, contacts, and mentors that entrepreneurs can tap into right away.
- Involve seniors in the network as they often have untapped expertise to share.
- Accelerate idea generation through idea labs and competitions.
- Create spaces that support networking, learning, and interaction. A physical space that encourages collaboration and participation fosters an innovation culture.
- Become a hub for business activity in the region and establish connections locally and nationally.
- Celebrate success.
Note: This information is taken from the StFX Innovation and Incubation Centre Feasibility Study, Final Report, prepared and submitted by StFX Extension Department, 2014