20,000 businesses per year benefit from near doubling of startup programmes


  • Business incubator and accelerator programmes have nearly doubled in number over the last five years
  • Over 750 structured business startup programmes are now active across the UK
  • An estimated 19,600 firms are now supported each year – representing one in 20 new firms

UK support for startup companies provided by business incubators and accelerators is thriving, according to The Centre for Entrepreneurs’ (CFE) latest report, Incubation Nation: The acceleration of UK startup support.

The report is the result of a nine-month research effort with over 100 programmes surveyed in-depth supplemented by interviews.

CFE CEO, Timothy Barnes, underlined the importance of this report:

“Incubators and accelerators are critical parts of the support infrastructure for new businesses, particularly those with the potential to scale and create jobs and economic growth for the whole country. The rapid growth in the number and ambition of these programmes is a strong indicator of the health of the UK’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. As we emerge from the economic difficulties of the last few years and look ahead to more turbulent times good quality business support should matter to everyone.”

Dr Christopher Haley, lead author of the report also led the last comparable survey in 2017:

 “The scale of growth is not something we were expecting to see and is very welcome. There are issues ahead for the sector with imminent changes to public sector funding presenting both opportunities for new activities and a potential threat to successful activity that should be protected given the impact and value of business support programmes to UK PLC.”

Key findings:

  • The research team found over 400 incubators, 300 accelerators and 100 other support programmes to help new businesses and SMEs to grow and thrive.
  • Total numbers are almost double those found in the last comparable report, published by NESTA in 2017 which points to a thriving business support sector and indicates a major success factor in the UK’s entrepreneurial economy.
  • Programmes were identified across the UK and while the largest concentration is in London, there are now incubators in every LEP region in England as well as across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the first time such a spread has been identified. Entrepreneurs should now be able to access these forms of support wherever they are in the country, although some of the more specialised programmes are only ever going to be viable on a national footprint.
  • Public funding contributes about one-third of the total funding to the sector and is used by incubator and accelerator managers to leverage considerably more money from the private sector and is thus critical to this important activity.

CFE Incubator and Accelerator Network 

CFE manages the UK’s largest membership group for incubator and accelerator managers that sees leading practitioners sharing best practise, help and peer support. Insights from the report are just one example of the information and expertise shared within the group. The network is open to new members and holds regular conferences and meetings in the autumn each year with the next on 21-22 September 2022. Bookings can be made here.

UK directory of incubator and accelerators 

The list of incubators and accelerators identified in the research is now available as a directory that can be used by entrepreneurs, policymakers and others to see what programmes are available in their area. This is the largest directory of programmes ever made available in the UK. It is published free of charge in the delivery of CFE’s charitable mission to support the entrepreneurial doers and makers who change lives and grow Britain.

Find out more about the Incubator and Accelerator Network and view the directory