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World Benchmark Study 2021-2022 Preview

The Importance of Digital Services to Business Incubators and Accelerators

A World Benchmark Study 2021-2022 Preview

Thanks to participants of the Triumph of Innovation impact study we conducted last year, the UBI Global research team was given some great stories of digital transformation as told by our community of business incubators and accelerators. When we conduct this year’s World Benchmark Study 2021-2022, we expect to see even more powerful data points on the digital transformation and the effect it has had on the performance and impact of programs around the world. As we prepare for the sixth edition of the WBS, this article will deep-dive into the importance of digital services to business incubators and accelerators.

The pandemic impact

If all had been normal, 2020 would have been a World Benchmark Study year for the UBI Global Community. However, as we all know, 2020 was a year like no other with disruption to the way global citizens work, live, and innovate. The team at UBI Global noticed some data points in the fifth edition of the World Benchmark Study for 2019-2020 that made us pause. 


An excerpt from the World Benchmark Study 2019-2020:



The industry is dominated by physical rather than virtual offerings. The vast majority of client startup teams receive most services on-site rather than offsite (e.g. through webinars or in chat rooms). In fact, 32% of all programs deliver all core services to client startups on location and only 4% deliver such services exclusively on a virtual basis. However, many programs have developed supplementary virtual and digital services to overcome limitations on physical space, resources, and personnel and to cater to increasing client and alumni startup demand for remote support.

When highlighting the trend of digital services and virtual enrollment, the World Benchmark Study 2019-2020 had this forward-looking best practice to share:

As remote work is becoming more mainstream, programs that are capable of location-agnostic service delivery will be better prepared for the future.

From 2019 onward, the Triumph of Innovation study’s look at enrollment types highlighted that physical enrollment shrank dramatically, going from 76% physical enrollment to just 42% over the pandemic period. This was emphasized during the personal interviews conducted as part of the study, underscoring that virtual enrollment of startups is not just a trend but is the new normal and will continue to grow.


Services provided by business incubators and accelerators to their client startups are used to assess the comprehensiveness of the program’s support as part of the World Benchmark Study. Known as KPI number 7 (of 21), services provided, on average, stood at 11 per program while the global top average programs provided 14. This is a key best practice; providing a health portfolio of services in tune with startup needs.

Read more about the sixth edition of the World Benchmark Study 2021-2022, open for applications now with data surveys released at the end of April 2022!

At its most basic level, the main goals of business incubators and accelerators can be categorized as:

     >> Startup survival

     >> Employment growth

     >> Funds raised

While incubators nurture disruptive ideas with the goal of building a business model and company, business accelerators encourage young companies to grow and mature into businesses. For more industry terms and definitions, see The Innovation Landscape from A to Z – A Glossary by UBI Global.

Services provided can be in the form of direct support, with the goal of improving startup outcomes. On the other hand, services can also be identified as indirect, or those that seek to educate and change behavior. Some examples are:

Direct services

     >> Funding

     >> Access to workspace

     >> Legal and operational assistance

     >> Corporate matching

Indirect services

     >> Training

     >> Mentoring

     >> Networking

     >> Alumni support

     >> Peer collaboration

Obviously of key importance to startups, business incubator and accelerator service portfolios could have taken a hit during the global pandemic. But that wasn’t the case, as shown by the Triumph of Innovation study, which showed that:


As a measure of the resilience of (business incubators and accelerators), very few services were withdrawn in response to the pandemic. Services that were withdrawn, including those described as ‘other’, cited health and safety considerations as the reason. The chart below shows the services programs kept active during the pandemic as well as those that programs ceased to offer.

In the true spirit of innovation, business incubators and accelerators used the increased familiarity with technology to their advantage. Some used it for increasing their reach in terms of enrolling startups while others used the increase in virtual communication to recruit domain-specific experts from all over the globe to enhance their service portfolios with world-class mentors, coaches, funding, sponsors, and more.


By participating in the World Benchmark Study in 2021-2022, your program gains valuable data-driven insights to optimize your program design. Additionally, your program’s impact on the ecosystem, your enrolled startups, and the future of the program itself is an amazing deep dive into your efficiency and effectiveness. Your participation is very important, as it helps the UBI Global research team provide a clear picture of the global innovation ecosystem to others around the world seeking innovation intelligence. 

Global Innovation Studios

Global Innovation Studios (GISxStudios) is the digital layer serving the UBI Global community as a portal to education, benchmarking, and growth. It’s through GISxStudios that business incubators and accelerators are guided through 4 data-gathering steps as they apply to participate in the World Benchmark Study 2021-2022. GISxStudios is in its infancy and needs data from the world’s business incubators and accelerators to grow and thrive! Apply for a free account on the GISxStudios portal, join the UBI Global interactive learning community, and apply to participate in the World Benchmark Study 2021-2022 all in one place: Let’s get started in the GISxStudios!

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