PVAMU Incubator Project Feasibility Study

PVAMU Incubator Project


Brief Statement of the Objectives and Goals for the Proposed Project

The objective of the proposal was to address the issue of the role of Minority Colleges and Universities (MCUs) in partnering with their local communities – residents, chambers of commerce and other such economic development organizations, existing and potential labor markets – towards sustainable economic development of their local communities. One of the goals of ETA is “to foster investments in technology and systems to insure that services continue to respond to these structural changes and further enhance their value to the labor market.” A major element of such a strategy is to establish local structures across the nation that will provide the types of service that the local labor market needs as well as attract new industry to the area.

Though there are studies of such incubators, and relevant criteria for siting new facilities are available, however, very little is known about MCUs and their involvement in such activities. This is particularly important for those MCUs in the rural areas, since several characteristics – changing demographics, expansion of industry, incentives regarding lower taxes and start-up efforts in rural areas, rapid change and ability to adapt developing as the norm, the somewhat paradoxical (but real) fact that the competitive advantages of a global economy lie increasingly in local things such as knowledge, relationships and motivation – seem to demand newer approaches and structures, requiring the adaptation of local communities to these characteristics.

While there is a tremendous encouragement for the development of small businesses, figures show undeniably that 4 out of 5 such businesses fail in the first five years. However, 80% of firms cultivated in an incubator continue to operate after the same time period. Incubators provide a number of facilities and services including reduced rent, shared equipment, library resources, labs and workshops, student employees, faculty consultants, assistance with legal, financial, planning and marketing issues. In return, successful companies pay taxes, hire new employees, and contribute to the local economy. As the largest employer in the Waller County, PVAMU is poised to provide the training, connections, and ideas that communities need to successfully navigate the complex path to technology-led economic development.

This project will examine business models currently in existence and the involvement of MCUs. A major activity will be the sponsoring of a gathering of experts and community leaders in a forum for sharing insights, ideas and perspectives, on the future affecting economic developers, private sector and the university community.

Evidence shows that universities have a seedbed effect on their local communities. Technological “spillovers” from the universities benefit industry located within their general vicinity. Affiliation with a college or a university promotes positive interactions between tenants, students, faculty and entrepreneurs, and gives a fledgling business added credibility. PVAMU can provide support for nurturing such new technology firms.


Brief Summary of Results

Activities of the project

  • Perform a general study of technology business incubators across the nation and the world.
  • Document and articulate the relevant parameters that contribute to the successes achieved and challenges posed to the incubators.
  • Take a concentrated look at business structures and practices in the regions surrounding MCUs, in particular, Prairie View A&M University.
  • Develop a questionnaire to collect data from HBCUs/HSIs/TCUs across the US to determine the existing number status of rural area incubators.
  • Sponsor a one-day workshop/symposium at PVAMU to provide a forum for discussion and exchange of ideas, practices and potential collaborations.
  • Develop a Final Report for ETA on the project results of how HBCUs can be instrumental in developing technological business incubators in communities.

Overview of the proposed tasks for each project

(*- completed or nearing completion)


Characteristics of an Incubator

There is a general belief that incubators should be high technology oriented. However, incubators can and should also be developed based on the needs of the region. In enterprises where the physical proximity of an incubator is not necessary, such as for the development of a new software program or providing accounting/financing training over the Internet, the incubator can also be “virtual” (Virtual Business Incubator or Virtual Technology Incubator). However, in the areas being addressed in this project – rural, low economic activity – regional incubators are needed. Such regional incubators have the capability to add wealth to the community.

An incubator should provide the projects with a wide range of services, including:

  • Technical and scientific consultation
  • Alliance/consortia formation
  • Economic consultation
  • Feasibility studies
  • Scenario development
  • Business plan consultation
  • Business plan development
  • Patent registration consultation
  • Contacts with economic and governmental bodies
  • Office and communication services
  • General strategic planning

PVAMU Model of an Incubator

A general model of an incubator is viewed as a four-pronged structure as shown in Figure 2.

The PVAMU model, schematically shown in Figure 3, is comparatively simplified due to the fact that the University has already established an excellent infrastructure, with demonstrably efficient and effective processes for project management. This model can be very easily replicated at the various institutions.


Figure 4 shows a selected listing of services and capabilities available at PVAMU that can provide for the initiation of a technology or business incubator

Comparative Study of Selected Business and Technology Incubators

A comparative study of selected technology incubators is nearing completion. The Final Report, to be submitted at the completion of this project, will have the relevant details.

A major success factor of the existing incubators seems to be that those incubators, which contributed to the sustainable development of wealth along with improvement in the human condition in their community, had better success at their own sustainability. A major limiting factor for economic development in rural areas however, is a lack of a thorough exploration of the region’s needs and capabilities, its structural and cultural aspects, along with a strategic plan.

Figure 4 – Services and Capabilities Available at PVAMU for Incubator Management