What makes NDRC a good incubator?

Sources of Funding

By Piush Vaish

As I was sifting through some research material the following headline caught my eye.

“NDRC ranked no. 2 University Business Accelerator in the world by UBI Global Index (LEONARD, 2015)”

I was motivated to find out about NDRC – What is it and what does it do? In the same way, I was curious about UBI global. What is the methodology used to rank these university associated/university affiliated incubators and how is NDRC doing so well in the ranking? What makes NDRC a good incubator in the eyes of the perspective of an entrepreneur?

Established in 2007, NDRC was formed and known as the National Digital Research Centre. Today, the NDRC does not conduct research and therefore is know as NDRC: Making Ventures Happen. The NDRC was founded by a consortium of third-level institutions. The consortium includes University College Dublin, Dublin City University, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology, the National College of Art & Design and Trinity College Dublin. Each year, they work with c. 1000 individuals and invest in around 20 -30 early stage technology start–ups. To date the NDRC has invested in over 150 ventures at pre-seed stage (NRDC, 2015a). It invests primarily using an accelerator model through its NDRC Launchpad for start-up with a business model innovation, NDRC VentureLab for start-up with a piece of technology and associated IP or NDRC Catalyser for start-up with deep research-based know-how.

My search for UBI Global led me to their website. UBI is a Stockholm-based company which conducts performance analysis of business incubation around the world. UBI Global offers the only rating that compares the productivity of business incubators around the world. In 2015, more than 500 business incubators took part from 73 countries in six geographic regions. Only 330 out of 64 countries were recommended for benchmarking. The main areas of the incubators’ specialization were  IT (39%), social issues (13%), environmental technology (8%) and biotechnology (7%) (Erman, 2015).

Looking at their methodology, UBI ranks incubators productivity by measuring 60 different metrics that fall under three main factors:

  • What kind of impact the incubator has on the local ecosystem?
  • What type of value is given to the client e.g. skill development and access to market and funding?
  • What is the attractive quotient of incubator itself such as income, number of meetings held, etc. and performance of current ventures and alumni e.g. survival rate, jobs created , volume of investments raised, acquisitions etc.

Comparing NDRC’s approach to methodology provides a view as to how successful NDRC is able to meet the requirements for rankings.

The NDRC has a huge impact on the start-up ecosystem in Ireland. For example, in 2014 co-founder of UBI Global, Dhruv Bhatli, said “NDRC is one of the top business incubators in the world that provides good value to its portfolio companies and generates exceptional economic impact on the region”.

As the first and most elaborate benchmark of university business incubators, UBI Index includes incubators affiliated with most of the top Universities in the world, notable participants originate from Columbia, Oxford, University of Pennsylvania and Imperial College. In this context, NDRC performs much better than their peers at the above mentioned top universities. (NRDC, 2014)

In addition, NDRC places importance on intensive mentoring and high touch approach to provide value to start-ups. It provides the following to start-ups to help them deliver results:

  • Micro-seed investment of up to €30k per venture
  • Mentorship in disciplines such as Marketing, Investor Readiness, PR,Company Financials and Business Model Innovation
  • 12 weeks of work with various other start-ups, innovators and investors
  • Weekly networking  workshops with acknowledged leaders (NRDC, 2015b)

Furthermore, NDRC had an excellent track record in 2014. It’s portfolio of start-up ventures secured a cumulative €88m in follow-on investment with a combined market capitalisation of approx. €220m. It had a positive balance sheet and includes a return of more than eight fold financial returns from their investment. There were 311 full-time, 131 part-time and 95 overseas jobs created in the portfolio of NDRC (NRDC, 2015a). Large companies such as Microsoft, State Street and Accenture have partnered with them. Also, NDRC secured a second fund from the Irish Government in 2013 which shows the renewing commitment of the government to fulfil their multi-year agreement.

Following further research of their website leads me to the conclusion that a start-up can benefit a lot by working closely with NDRC. Its excellent mentorship and learning programmes can help a start-up to sharpen their business model and connect them to the right resources. In addition, it can help a start-up to focus on the process and provide a beneficial environment and culture.


ANDERSON, G. 2014. What makes a good incubator? UBI Ranks the world’s university-associated programs [Online]. arcticstartup. Available: http://www.arcticstartup.com/article/what-makes-a-good-incubator-ubi-ranks-the-worlds-university-associated-programs [Accessed 29/11 2015].

ERMAN, M. 2015. UBI Global Ranks HSE Business Incubator One of Europe’s Top 10 Incubators [Online]. hse.ru. Available: http://www.hse.ru/en/news/community/164400672.html [Accessed 29/11 2015].

LEONARD, R. 2015. NDRC RANKED NO. 2 UNIVERSITY BUSINESS ACCELERATOR IN THE WORLD BY UBI GLOBAL INDEX [Online]. http://irishtechnews.net/. Available: http://irishtechnews.net/ITN3/ndrc-ranked-no-2-university-business-accelerator-in-the-world-by-ubi-global-index/ [Accessed 28/11 2015].

NRDC. 2014. NDRC named in top 2.5% of business incubators in the world [Online]. NDRC. Available: http://www.ndrc.ie/news/ndrc-named-top-2-5-business-incubators-world/ [Accessed 29/11 2015].

NRDC. 2015. About NDRC [Online]. NDRC. Available: http://www.ndrc.ie/about-us/ [Accessed 29/11 2015].

NRDC. 2015. INVESTING IN TALENT. DELIVERING RESULTS. ANNUAL REPORT 2013-2014 [Online]. NDRC. Available: http://www.ndrc.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/NDRC-Annual-Report-final.pdf [Accessed 29/11 2015].

NRDC. 2015. NDRC LaunchPad [Online]. NDRC. Available: http://www.ndrc.ie/launchpad/ [Accessed 30/11 2015].

UBI-GLOBAL. 2015. About Us [Online]. ubi-global. Available: http://ubi-global.com/about-us/ [Accessed 29/11 2015].

UCD. 2013. NATIONAL DIGITAL RESEARCH CENTRE [Online]. UCD. Available: http://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/UCD–NDRC.pdf [Accessed 28/11 2015].

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