Ljubljana’s University Incubator (LUI) is an initiative of the University of Ljubljana (UL) that aims to transform the innovative business idea of staff and students into a viable start-up. Although LUI was more focused on merely creating entrepreneurial awareness and spirit amongst the academic community through workshops and other entrepreneurial events, it quickly became apparent that it is critical to marry the awareness creation events with an actual entrepreneurial support. As such, LUI expanded its scope to include activities of practical relevance such as matching of entrepreneurs with prospective partners, personal coaching, and targeted trainings. LUI currently stands as one of the most successful accelerator programs not only in Slovenia but also in Central Europe.
Personalised approach to incubation of ideas
Although an initiative of UL, LUI does not get any funding from the university, as it relies on competitive public tender and the fees it charges for its trainings and lectures. LUI is run by a team of five dedicated employees who serve in different roles. However, depending on the need, external employees are contracted.
LUI provides a 3-month incubation program for staff and students that have a promising business idea. The support includes a dedicated mentorship, workshops, lectures, courses, and networking & collaboration opportunities. Under each cycle, a total of 14 start-ups are selected, with the “quality” of their business project being the sole criterion. Once admitted into the program, groups get continuous guidance and mentorship for up to 50 hours. At the same time, they could participate in the events organized by the centre.
Support is provided in two phases. The first phase focuses on business model development i.e. identifying target customers, designing the appropriate service/product strategy, and market entry strategies. The second phase focuses on actually setting up the company, as such networking and building partnership along with a host of other free or subsidized services are provided to the start-ups.
What is unique about LUI is that attempt is made to personalize the support to the specific needs of the start-up, rather than following a generic approach.
Results so far
The result achieved by LUI has been nothing short of remarkable. In order to have a good understanding of the actual impact of the centre, it is important to classify the results into two groups: intangible and tangible.
On the first category LUI is undoubtedly contributing to the creation of an entrepreneurial culture in Slovenia. This intangible impact is not only limited to staff and students who directly participate in the incubation program and other events but also to companies (over 150), investors, and regional authorities that collaborate with LUI. The incubator has also been successful in quantitative sense. Specifically, LUI has supported 139 start-ups, which managed to raise a capital of around €20 million*. The start-ups have contributed to the creation of over 400 jobs in the region. Lastly, LUI was also a runner up for Central European Start-up Award in 2016 in the category of best accelerator or incubator program.
Going forward, LUI aspires to become a world-class incubator with a global reach. As it is espoused in its strategy document from 2017-2022, internationalization and networking are the key components of LUI’s long-term vision.
This article is based on a case study originally written by Miha Zimšek (University of Ljubljana), developed as part of the WEXHE Project.
©all rights on images used in this article belong to LUI