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Guide to Incubators and Accelerators

Discover the difference between an Accelerator and Incubator and how you might use these programmes to grow your business.

What are Accelerators and Incubators?

To successfully enable entrepreneurs across the UK, it’s important to create opportunities for direct support. However, we must also foster a supportive environment that celebrates and rewards female founders. The key to supporting female entrepreneurs is providing access to mentorship, education, and information sharing. This helps women to build confidence, overcome barriers to growth, and develop critical skills necessary for success.

One way of achieving this for female entrepreneurs is through Accelerator or Incubator programmes. Entrepreneurs can enter these for a fixed period of time aiming to condense several years of learning into several months, preparing them for the next stage of their business.

A distinction that may be important to you is between cohort-based programmes where a group of businesses go through the incubator or accelerator together, and a more flexible continuous approach which you can join at any time. The cohort-based programmes are usually more intensive and may include an on-site element.

What is the difference between an Accelerator and Incubator?

The terms ‘Accelerator’ and ‘Incubator’ are sometimes used interchangeably which is why we have listed them both in the same database to help you find them.

Incubators tend to focus on very early-stage companies, sometimes when the business is just an idea and the founder team is not yet formed (some incubators specialise in introducing founders to each other). Incubators are more likely to require equity in the business, often a fixed amount for every participant in the programme.

Accelerators focus on scaling existing companies. They are less likely to require an equity stake and are more varied in duration and content. According to this 2022 article from data provider Beauhurst, there are 180 accelerator programmes operating throughout the UK, supporting over 11,000 UK businesses.

How successful are Accelerators and Incubators?

Research has shown that Accelerator and Incubator programmes typically have a positive impact on a business’s growth and investment. Companies that have attended accelerators raise 44% more money than those who have not attended accelerators. Those that have attended Accelerators have ranked mentoring as one of the top benefits of the programmes, in addition to financial investment, business advice and office space.

Should my business apply to an Accelerator or Incubator?

Whilst Accelerator and Incubator programmes are short term, this means programmes are often intense in both depth of learning and time required. If you’re interested in joining a programme, prepare to redesign your workload to be able to fully invest your time and effort in the programme.

Whilst some programmes involve an initial injection of investment, this can often require giving up a noticeable amount of equity from your company. However, overall, companies that have completed Accelerator and Incubator programmes indicate it to be one of the most valuable experiences in enabling their business to grow and scale. 

Find an Accelerator or Incubator Programme

Want to find an Accelerator or Incubator? Search our database of Accelerator and Incubator programmes and see if there is one to suit your business.