In the public policy arena, one of the most prevalent components of entrepreneurship promotion consists of the sponsorship of public and university based incubators. Incubators are business support institutions designed to offer an array of services, such as space, infrastructure, advice, training and administrative support meant to accelerate the business start-up process. We estimate the number of incubators in the USA to be 1100, and 150 in Canada (NBIA, 2006 and CABI, 2006).

Comparative work examining the practices of incubators in US, UK, and Canada suggests that developing social networks and promoting social capital are the most important roles of incubators (Collinson & Gregson, 2003). This is congruent with research showing the importance of social capital for entrepreneurs (Davidsson & Honig, 2003; Shane &Cable, 2002). From an entrepreneurial perspective, social capital provides networks that facilitate the discovery of opportunities as well as the identification, collection, and allocation of scarce resources (Birley, 1985; Burt, 1982, 1992; Greene & Brown, 1997; Shane & Cable, 2002; Uzzi, 1999). Social capital also assists with the entrepreneurial exploitation process, by providing and diffusing critical information and other essential resources (Aldrich, 1979). Social capital has been shown to provide information leading to capital investment in new ventures (Shane & Cable, 2002).