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Accelerator vs. incubator? What’s the difference and does it matter?

Accelerator vs. incubator? What’s the difference and does it matter?

Home > Blogs > Accelerator vs. incubator? What’s the difference and does it matter?

Read time: 3 minutes

Apr 18, 2019

Confusion abounds, what is the difference between incubators and accelerators?


Outside the industry, the terms are interchangeable. Within, definitions differ between the organisations running them. As the UK’s first and largest life science incubator and accelerator, we at BioCity feel a duty to offer a perspective. And an apology.



Put simply; an accelerator gets you going; an incubator helps you keep going.


An accelerator is a business coaching program. Teaching budding entrepreneurs how to commercialise an idea and start a business with real scalability.


An incubator is a physical space in which those entrepreneurs can operate and grow their business.


Both are forms of business support traditionally employed at different stages in business development.


Simple enough. But (and this is where BioCity strays from the binary definition, our apologies), we believe that although the two are distinct concepts, acceleration and incubation work hand-in-hand. As part of a wider, holistic approach to helping the creation and growth of businesses.


Not constrained by semantics. We surround entrepreneurs and their ventures with the resources, coaching, funding and community they need to grow and to succeed. Helping them get what they need when they need it.



We at BioCity are industry-specific. We work with entrepreneurs creating new medical devices and discovering treatments. Entrepreneurs building technologies to tackle global health and environmental challenges.


Science start-ups have distinct challenges. For example, how to sell innovation to the NHS. How to secure investment (high capital, slow returns). And quirks (we’re too polite to mention).


So, we offer business coaching that is specific to entrepreneurs who are turning science into business. We take contemporary entrepreneurial concepts such as the Lean Start-Up Approach and apply the framework of commercial science.




Crucially, we’re more than just a landlord who makes sure the gas doesn’t get switched off. BioCity provides the infrastructure, essential resources and access to specialist equipment to support the science.



Because we understand that projects come and go, we offer short leases and flexible agreements for labs and write-up spaces. We invest in specialist equipment which can be used on a PAYG basis. And what we don’t have, we call in favours for, so companies can access what they need but can’t afford.


Outside the lab, we’re building communities. We put together perks like on-site coffee houses, free yoga classes and socials that start-ups typically can’t offer.





We are lucky. Our customers are on our doorstep (or vice versa). This proximity allows us to listen. We share their experiences and understand their challenges. Consequently, we’re in a constant state of customer discovery. We test our theories, revise our offerings and make sure we’re providing solutions to the problems that keep our customers up at night.


So, BioCity evolved.  We confuse the notion of accelerator and incubator because our holistic approach sits outside the definition.


Absolutely, we are an incubator. We offer high-quality lab and office space with easy-in-easy-out leases. And we are indeed an accelerator; we deliver programmes of business coaching to entrepreneurs.


But more than this, BioCity is also…

An investor – investing in promising ventures from within our community and invite HNW individuals from our network to co-invest alongside us.

A service provider – offering business and lab services, shared amenities and access to technology on a PAYG basis.

A matchmaker – BioCity is at the centre of a collective of business leaders, investors, seasoned entrepreneurs and commercialisation experts who give their time and their expertise to help the next wave of entrepreneurs. These people make the introductions, open the doors and signpost the opportunities that tangibly help businesses to succeed.




So, in conclusion, yes there is a difference between a life science accelerator and an incubator.  But does the distinction matter? No, not to us.


Above all, BioCity was founded to provide a home to the curious, to the pioneers and the radicals going toe-to-toe with the challenges that affect us globally.  Ultimately, we want to help ideas out of the lab and into the world.


In short and semantics aside, we do all we can to help make it happen.

TAGS: Accelerator, BioCity, Blog, Entrepreneur, Incubator, Life Science, Start-up