In France, there are many stakeholders whose role is to provide support to innovative start-ups. All these stakeholders work together at the local level to create the innovation value chain. Business incubators, important links in this chain, can cover different categories.
Incubators linked to public research (including the Paca-Est Incubator)
These business incubators were created in response to government call for tenders set out in the Act of July 1999 on Research and Innovation (Allègre Act, which also gave rise to the term Allègre incubators). Numbering 30 in France, the primary role of these business incubators is to encourage the transfer of technology developed by governmental research laboratories to the private sector through company startups.
These business incubators can provide support, financing for external services such as market studies or patent applications, the opportunity to join nearby startup networks, and office space. They generally work on the principle of a repayable advance should the project succeed.
Incubators linked with schools or research bodies
Some business or engineering schools and research bodies have set up incubators to support startup projects of their former students or their researchers. These business incubators may offer office space, support and promote ties with network members.
Incubators linked to local economic development
Set up by economic development agencies or competitive clusters, they may target specific audiences (pioneering women’s network, for example).
Private business incubators
These business incubators differ from the first examples due to their profit-based approach.
In general, they operate by taking a stake in the company's capital with the aim of making a profit.
Since their business model barely survived the bursting of the internet bubble, most of these incubators have disappeared or been reconverted into seed funds or management consultants.
Other support structures
Several other bodies (public, private or non profits) are involved in supporting business startups. These bodies are either partly of fully government funded (European centres of business and innovation, CCI, CRITT, etc.), BPI France, or non-profit organisations (Plates-Formes d'Initiative Locale, Réseau Entreprendre, Boutiques de Gestion, etc.)
In France, business incubators target entrepreneurs (before the startup is created) or very recently established companies.
Note that French incubators begin their intervention very early on, at what would be considered a “pre-incubation” phase in the U.S.