We generally associate the term startup with young and hip professionals, tech-fuelled creatives, people with vision that drive forward innovation and change. Countries and regions with a vibrant startup ecosystem usually experience growth, in the form of investments in new enterprises and a boost to the local or national economy. Today we would like to focus on the tools that startuppers can use to grow, with a specific focus on Italy. We are talking, of course, about the most sought after delegates at any trade show: accelerators and incubators.
Accelerators and incubators: know the difference
If you are not familiar with the difference between accelerators and incubators don’t worry: hardly anyone is. And that includes those whose primary interest is to know how to seek out and talk to both. Let’s unpack both concepts. Accelerators are programs meant to (you guessed) accelerate an early-stage enterprise’s growth. Such programs may or may not be free of charge and they can include a number of services that young entrepreneurs could not normally afford, such as consulting with experts on anything from workflows to human resources, mentoring and tutoring sessions, introductions to key players in the fields and, on occasion, financially measurable resources such as premises and networking opportunities. Incubators, on the other hand, focus on creating a safe environment for an enterprise to grow past the planning stage. This often means a physical space for the team to work and basic facilities, like internet access and the use of conference rooms and, most crucially, access to capital.
The Italian startup ecosystem
Northern Italy currently offers the best overall conditions for startups to grow. Lombardy has the highest concentrations of accelerators and incubators in the Country and Veneto is home to one of the most innovative development hubs in Europe. Central regions are doing well too, with Lazio and Emilia Romagna closely following Lombardy as for number and quality of their startup accelerators and incubators. While some national tax incentives came with a time limit, the overall economic environment is shifting to accommodate new and less traditional entrepreneurial experiences. Here’s a brief description of some of the most interesting Italian accelerators and incubators. Please be aware that this is simply our top-5 selection. For a comprehensive list, be sure to consult official sources.
1. PoliHub – Milan
PoliHub is the Milan Polytech Incubator and it is funded by the City of Milan with the precise mission of supporting innovative and scalable startups and facilitating their cross-collaborations with the Polytechnic Academy and existing enterprises. Originally born as an accelerator in 2000, PoliHub follows the Academy’s main focus on technology and innovation and develops into a network of great connections, that startups can access as they are allowed to grow in a safe and supporting environment. With PoliHub, everything is at hand: outstanding technical expertise, business development consulting of the highest level and direct access to investors and other enterprises that might help boost a startup’s growth.
2. H-Farm – Treviso
H-Farm is a digital platform focusing on growing and accelerating new digital companies and on supporting the digital renovation of pre-existing companies. It was born in 2005 and has grown in size and influence ever since. It currently works as a digital innovation factory, hosting Italian and international companies that focus on digital technologies. H-Farm offers full support to enterprises on their digital-revolution path: from planning to execution, young entrepreneurs are sure to find the right expertise and resources to achieve their goals.
3.Luiss Enlabs – Rome
This accelerator is connected to the prestigious Luiss University, one of the best seats of learning in the Country. Luiss Enlabs is a Government-certified accelerator and venture capital with a straightforward business approach. Startups that are accepted in its program benefit from funding, access to prize facilities and outstanding networking opportunities, which is why, out of the high number of applicants, few make it through the strict selection process that is held twice a year. Luiss Enlabs provides its chosen startups with tutoring and coaching by international advisors, as well as an effective training and growth-checking systems that effectively helps innovative ideas grow into profitable projects.
4. BioUpper – Milan
BioUpper is an acceleration and training platform focusing on startups that operate in the fields of scientific and medical research. It is the product of a multi-level partnership that includes PoliHub, Novartis and Cariplo. It empowers young startuppers, by supporting their training and allowing them to research new technologies and business ideas in the specific fields of biotechnologies, medical technologies (including the development of new equipment) and health-related services.
5. Impact HUB – Rome
Impact Hub is an independent corporation that focuses on supporting social innovation startups. Impact Hub offers startuppers a place in which to grow their ideas, in the firm belief that innovation is needed to meet the social and environmental demands of our complex world and bring about positive change in our collective lives. At Impact Hub, innovation is tackled with a three-pronged approach involving market potential, public funding and the non-profit sector. Each project is analysed, the needs it means to meet are explored and the best business model is found.