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Top Lists, #1s, and Top Challengers

Global top league in incubating startups studied by UBI Global

Author :
Angela Olson
Published :
07 Jan 2023

Recognizing Excellence Among Business Incubators and Accelerators from the World Benchmark Study 2021-2022

Can you believe it has been 10 years since UBI Global began with a Swedish student who had a dream of mapping, benchmarking, and recognizing the performance and impact of university-led business incubators around the world? That one-time student, Ali Amin, became the Founder and CEO of what is now UBI Global, and this year marks the release of the sixth edition of what has become the gold-standard study of business incubators and accelerators worldwide.

The pandemic has changed the global innovation industry, much like it has changed the world of business in general. After studying the shifts made by business incubators and accelerators through the Triumph of Innovation impact study in 2021, the UBI Global research team felt ready to conduct this version of the World Benchmark Study for 2021-2022.

There were a few changes to the methodology and the survey along with a shift to the time period that meant a smaller data pool, but thanks to our loyal members sharing their time, knowledge, and data, we are delighted to be able to announce another World Benchmark Study and World Rankings for 2021-2022 are complete and ready for release.

Understanding the World Rankings

Over the years, the World Benchmark Study has evolved to include many new benchmark categories that reflect the evolution of the global innovation community. What began as a fact-finding mission has grown to become the gold-standard study of business incubation and acceleration on a global scale. Consistently updated to reflect the latest research in the field, at its core, the underlying research framework has remained unchanged – the absolute impact and relative performance of a program are the two determining factors of success.

Benchmark vs. Ranking

When it comes to benchmark categories vs. ranking categories the determining factor is the level of focus. While the benchmark categories offer a granular view of the programs, ranking categories are a top-level view. We provide all participating programs with a scorecard infographic that offers an overview of their overall impact and performance relative to their peers.

Ranking categories and the respective top lists reflect differences in setup, funding, and focus between different groups of incubators and accelerators. Benchmark categories and ranking categories are two related outputs of the same data, with benchmark categories finely tuned according to the program’s self-definition

Presenting this Year’s Top Performers

As the benchmark has grown and expanded, it became clear that there was a need to compare like-for-like programs. The ranking system has evolved, moving from a focus on individual programs to a top-list system that spotlights performance and impact. This categorization sets the bar for the rest of the global innovation ecosystem in a fair and concise way.

For the sixth edition of the World Benchmark Study 2021-2022, 1895 programs were assessed to be part of the Study and 356 applications were received, leading to the ultimate 109 programs that were ultimately benchmarked. This resulted in Top Lists among four categories based on the sample size. Each ranking category has a Top List according to the size of the category:

Ranking Category and Top List

    >> Top University Business Incubator – Top 10

    >> Top Public-Private Business Incubator – Top 5

    >> Top University Business Accelerator – Top 3

    >> Top Public-Private Business Accelerator – Top 5

This list reflects a highlight of the groups of high-achieving programs, providing recognition to the group as a whole. Among global peers, these programs are all top performers! The Top Lists and Top Challengers will be announced during the World Incubation Summit Part 1 – Rankings & Recognitions online event on January 24, 2023. Everyone is welcome to sign up to attend free of charge via live stream. Use the link below to register to attend.

Register to attend the World Incubation Summit Part 1 – Online Rankings & Recognitions

Yes, There are #1 Programs

Each Top List has one program in its group that has achieved #1 status as the result of extraordinary impact and performance among top peers. We want to provide the industry with the opportunity to celebrate innovation excellence and highlight a bright focal point to which other programs can aspire.

The number one program for each top list will be announced at the World Incubation Summit Part 2 this May 14-17 hosted by imec and imec.istart in Ghent, Belgium.

Previous Rankings

Developed as a result of the World Benchmark Study, UBI Global offers definitive program rankings from 2013 onwards. These editions of the rankings are still relevant today as they show the evolution of the innovation community around the world. To unlock the previous rankings resulting from the World Benchmark Study from 2013 to 2018, please see our website here.

Top Challengers

In addition to recognizing the top performers, we also highlight and recognize the top challengers in each region. Top Challengers are programs with performance and impact scores resulting from the World Benchmark Study 2021-2022 making it stand out among peers in its region. This edition of the Rankings and Recognitions will highlight programs in the following Top Challenger categories.

    >> Top Challenger – Africa (1)

    >> Top Challengers – Asia Pacific (5)

    >> Top Challengers – Europe (5)

    >> Top Challengers – Latin America (3)

    >> Top Challenger – MENA (1)

    >> Top Challengers – North America (3)

ESG added to the World Benchmark Study

UBI Global, as a company known for its research and benchmarking, has been an active member of the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative’s association with the United Nations to provide rankings, ratings, and assessments interface as a guide to the academic sector and beyond. This work made us understand the importance of Environmental, Social, and Governance to investors and, therefore, our community.

For this reason, and to provide a baseline understanding of ESG to our community and stakeholders, the research team included a set of ESG assessment questions in the World Benchmark Study 2021-2022 for the first time. While this lens of the study does not result in a ranking, it will certainly enable us to highlight impact-makers and early adopters of ESG initiatives around the world and share this information to further our community’s knowledge and strategic planning.

NEW! Global Innovation Studios Benchmark Tool

Released during the WIS23 Part 1, the new Global Innovation Studios Benchmark Tool is set to be a game-changer for business incubators and accelerators around the world. Developed with the UBI Global research framework, the Benchmark Tool is a powerful way to understand your programs’ performance and impact and highlight strategic areas to improve. Users of the GIS Benchmark Tool can take this knowledge a step further and compare themselves to the top-performing programs from around the world and get as granular as they like. To schedule a demo, contact

The Word is Out

If your program gets “the call” that signifies achieving Top List or Top Challenger status, we congratulate you and look forward to announcing your name during the online WIS23 Part 1! Even if you don’t hear from us about your ranking, joining us online for WIS23 Part 1 – Rankings & Recognitions is a great opportunity to learn and grow – through benchmarking, through events such as the World Incubation Summit, and through our community by participating on the Global Innovation Studios portal.

Release of the Rankings

Be there to witness this exciting event by joining the online WIS23 Part 1 Rankings & Recognitions. Visit the World Incubation Summit 2023 website to register and for more information on Parts 1 and 2 of WIS23!

Angela Olson

Head of Communications & Community - Angela has over 30 years of experience in industries such as finance, manufacturing, hospitality, and others. She has been with the company since 2017 and brings a varied perspective and dedication to our team and our member programs.


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