Chris Eveleens on his PhD research about business incubation and startups

Entrepreneurial Minds

With seven faculties Utrecht University offers several examples of entrepreneurial minds in all fields of study and research. From teachers and students to alumni and researchers, from Humanities to Bio-Inspired Innovation and often interdisciplinary. The Centre for Entrepreneurship inspires by showcasing the entrepreneurial minds within Utrecht University.

Entrepreneurial Minds Chris Eveleens
dr. Chris Eveleens

Dr. Chris Eveleens recently obtained his doctorate for his research on the influence of business incubation on the performance of startups. After graduating in Science and Innovation Management, he worked in consultancy for a few years. Eventually he started to miss research and found a PhD position at the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development, where he focused his research on entrepreneurship.

What was your research about?

In short, I looked how business incubators work with startups and what the effect of that is (read more about Chris' thesis here). For this purpose, I conducted four studies and used different research methods: literature research, programming, qualitative and quantitative research. It’s the way I look at research: I believe approaching a subject from different perspectives yields complementarity. This gives you a much better picture of the phenomenon you are trying to understand.

Why this subject?

The project was already there, but there was plenty of room for my own interpretation. I had a clear affinity with the subject: innovative entrepreneurship. Business incubation was new to me, but the matter of entrepreneurs - who very often fail and only sometimes succeed - and how to support them structurally, was intriguing to me.

My research was financed by Climate-KIC, the knowledge and innovation community of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology. During my PhD research, I was greatly encouraged to continue to develop myself. Among other things, I followed extra courses and summer schools and attended a number of conferences. Because I was able to conduct my research how I saw fit and had these development opportunities, my PhD really felt like a educational pathway.

Every entrepreneur or startup goes through an uncertain search for the best business model.

Did your research spark you to start your own business?

Not really, haha. I started this summer at AWTI, the government's independent advisory board for science, technology and innovation. I am now working on an advisory report on the role of science, technology and innovation in sustainability transitions, and what the government can do - policy wise - to facilitate or accelerate these transitions.

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurial students?

Utrecht Science Park is home to all kinds of organisations and initiatives that support startups. During my research, I followed ten startups over a period of ten months and saw with my own eyes how incubators influence them. Every entrepreneur or startup goes through an uncertain search for the best business model. An incubator mentors you through this process.

Research among 269 startups showed that incubated startups perform better than startups that did not participate in an incubation programme. As a starting entrepreneur, you can, of course, organise the necessary facilities and development processes in a different way, but with an incubator, everything comes together efficiently. If you have a good idea, please apply - it really helps you to sharpen your ideas and to take your business forward.