Close close


Enter your search term below:



UK university incubators have a lot to learn from SETsquared, claims European research initiative

UK university incubators have a lot to learn from SETsquared, claims European research initiative
A business incubator run by a group of UK universities has been hailed as one of the best in the world in a new report. 
UBI Index has published a 70-page dossier, analysing the top global performing university incubators and what makes them so successful. 
SETsquared’s incubator – run as a partnership of the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Surrey and Southampton – is ranked as the joint best in the UK and the fourth best globally.
The report The Best Practices at Top University Business Incubators has hailed SETsquared’s incubator as a best practice example and those behind it say other UK university incubators would do well to follow its example.
Dhruv Bhatli, Co-Founder, UBI Index, said: “Other incubators could learn from the absolute focus of SETsquared on its clients and its commitment to providing value to its startups. That single-minded focus on the entrepreneur is what makes a champion incubation programme, one that SETsquared clearly is. Another lesson to take from SETsquared is to engage with research-intensive universities. This is something that contributes to the quantity and quality of deal flow, which is the heart of an incubation programme.”
SETsquared was formed in 2002 and runs business incubation centres at the five universities, from which high tech start ups have access to intense business mentoring, networking opportunities and flexible office space.
Over the last 11 years it has helped over 1,000 high tech start ups attract some £1.2b in investment. It offers its network of around 150 investors access to only the highest potential tech start-ups. With around 100 applications to join the incubator programme every year, only 50% make the cut, highlighting the calibre of businesses under the SETsquared umbrella.
Karen Brooks, Project Director at SETsquared, says she believes the key to the incubator’s success has been the way it treats each of its clients as unique.
She said: “A lot of the incubators today are running what I call a sausage machine where if you attend a fixed incubator programme, you’ll come out the other end either successful or not successful. We at SETsquared are not prescriptive that way with any of our companies. Since all of them have very different needs and are in different situations. Our job is to identify those needs and build a customised program to provide them maximum assistance.”
Dhruv Bhatli added: “Sadly the industry is leaning towards a ‘sausage factory’ approach. The important thing to understand is that each startup is different and has distinct requirements. That’s where SETsquared is different – it adapts its offer to fit the entrepreneurs, which is unique and a great way to avoid the ‘sausage factory’ approach. Incubation is undergoing tremendous change, only entrepreneur-centric incubation programmes are going to survive and SETsquared is already leaps ahead in this regard.”
Simon Bond, Director of SETsquared’s centre in Bath, added: “Another thing we found to be successful for us is clearly a close association with research-intensive universities that puts us at the heart of a lot of technology innovation, and in the middle of a cluster of talented engineers, scientists and technologists. Sometimes this leads to the creation of new activities but often it just creates a well of activities that bring entrepreneurs close to us.”
The Best Practices at Top University Business Incubators report provides timely and vital information on how to streamline and optimise university business incubators as it reviews the best university incubators in the market and explains how they achieved their success
UBI Index is a European research initiative established to assist incubators around the world to become more efficient and competitive. Based in Stockholm with an international research team, UBI Index has successfully released the first benchmark study of the best university business incubation program around the world. In the Global Benchmark of 2013, 150 incubators from 22 countries participated in the research.

Close close

Mailing List sign-up

  • By submitting this form you agree to our privacy policy


twitter twitter
Follow Us

SETsquared is a partnership between

  • University of Bath
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Southampton logo
  • University of Surrey