Meeting the enterprise at ground zero
The best time and place to introduce the concepts and practice of innovation and eco-innovation to businesses is when the enterprises are young or in their formative stages. This introduces the concept of business hatcheries, incubators and accelerators. Incubators are one-stop shops where the most promising entrepreneurs are selected to receive business training, advice, mentorship support, an operating space and funding support in a coordinated manner over a fixed period of time. While hatcheries tend to focus upon starting new enterprises, and accelerators focus upon speeding an enterprise along the path to success, both hatcheries and accelerators may be linked to incubator networks.
Incubators have been a feature of large developed countries for decades, and their presence in Latin America is well established, only since the 2008 onwards have incubators been features of the business landscapes in in Barbados, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Within the OCTs, there is a growing incubator movement in Curacao. Since incubators provide multidimensional support, they usually represent the nexus between various government and private sector agencies and specialist lending agencies. Going forward, an incubator type system will be essential to the growth and development new entrepreneurial capacity in the OCTs. It should include training modules emphasising innovation and eco-innovation in particular, for which purpose it will be important to have strategic linkages with international partners. There is also a strong case for alternative forms of funding such as crowdfunding and angel investment which are currently gaining some currency in developing countries.