What are incubators?

1.1. What is a business incubator?

Before determining how to support incubation, one needs to understand what incubation is. Business incubators are physical and/or virtual facilities that support the development of early stage SMEs through a combination of business development services, funding and access to the physical space necessary to conduct business.

There are three main things to remember when defining incubators: (1) incubators focus on SMEs in the early stages of growth; (2) incubators offer services aimed at strengthening the capacity of SMEs to operate on their own; and (3) incubation is temporary. As Figure 1 illustrates, SMEs in their early stages of growth (idea and pre-seed) have particular needs. Incubators recognise this and target their services to meet these needs so that SMEs can grow independently once incubation ends.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Incubator Focus – Stage of SME Growth

It is important to note that ”early stage” is not a measure of time, but of how much a business has developed. For example, an SME can be five years old, but still struggle to get customers and secure revenues (early stage). At the same time, an SME can be one year old and already be very profitable and financially sustainable (growth stage).

Further, an ”early stage SME” is different from a struggling business that has been started merely to provide a livelihood for its owner. Many people are forced to find their own ways of making a living by starting businesses, many of them informal. While these people may need assistance, incubators are not the organisations to provide it. Incubators focus on entrepreneurs whose businesses were started to grow, not merely survive.

There are many other non-incubator organisations that also aim to “meet SME needs” by using similar services – training, for example. This can create confusion, so here are some examples of the types of things that may look like incubator services, but are not. Among other things, incubators will not:

1.1.1. Offer training other than that required for an entrepreneur to run and grow their own business;
1.1.2. Offer support services indefinitely;
1.1.3. Assist established SMEs that already have secure streams of revenue and customer bases (unless SMEs intend to enter international markets); and
1.1.4. Offer funding only.

It is also important to remember that while incubators are important sources of small business support, they are not the answer to every small business problem. They are only one part of a much larger ecosystem of SME assistance.

Keep the above in mind. As the steps in this document are followed, it is important to maintain a clear idea of what incubation is and what it intends to do.

1.2. What do incubators do?

There are three types of services that incubators offer to SMEs:

1.2.1. Business development services, which aim to strengthen the business systems and strategic direction of SMEs;
1.2.2. Provision of physical space, shared office services and resources required to conduct key business activities; and
1.2.3. Funding required for investment in growth.
Services are typically delivered in one of two ways:
1.2.4. Programme delivery, where SMEs receive a pre-defined set of services delivered in a particular sequence; and
1.2.5. Product delivery, where SMEs access individual services as they see fit and, if charged, pay based on how long and extensively they use these services.

The support that incubators provide is vital to the health of the SME sector in South Africa. As noted, 80% of SMEs fail within five years of operation. This early stage failure is largely due to two issues that incubators explicitly focus on: a combination of poor business strategy; and lack of access to finance. Many SMEs are unable to access early stage funding, either due to an inability to meet funding requirements or because they are unaware of financing sources. Similarly, many SMEs struggle to develop business strategies and systems that allow them to access markets and grow revenues.

Since SMEs account for up to 70% of national employment, and incubation targets the causes of SME failure, incubators are important drivers of economic growth and job creation – so much so that “support for small businesses through public and private incubators” is noted as an important lever for achieving the goals of the National Development Plan.

The figures below provide more detail on the types of support and services offered and how they are delivered.

Figure 4: Services Offered by Incubators

Figure 5: How Incubators Deliver Services

1.3. How do incubators vary?

There are many different types of incubators. They vary across several areas, including how they choose to operate and generate revenue, their sector and geographical focus, and the SMEs they choose to target.

The figure below provides more detail on the different ways in which incubators vary.

Figure 6: Incubator Variation by Type

Incubators in South Africa are most clearly distinguished by geographical focus, mix of public/private support and sector focus.

There are also technology business incubators (TBIs) that foster certain high-tech sectors and the growth of firms involved in emerging technologies. The TBIs have a primary objective of accelerating the commercialisation of technology and promoting the development of technology-based firms. They are characterised by institutional links to knowledge bases such as universities, technology-transfer agencies, research centres and laboratories to leverage entrepreneurial talent and skilled R&D personnel. TBIs are relatively costly, usually located at or near a university or research centre, and provide greater assistance than general incubators.

The figure below shows the approximate distribution of incubators in South Africa by location and mix of public/private

Figure 7: Geographical Distribution and Mix of Public/Private Support of Incubators in South Africa

About 75% of all incubators are in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. Few incubators exist in other provinces. Most incubators are at least partly funded by Government through the Incubation Support Programme (ISP) or seda Technology Programme (stp), with about 25% being privately run.

In terms of sector distribution, most incubators focus on manufacturing (26%), agriculture (20%) and construction (12%). Multi-sector incubators (11%) and those serving ICT (11%) also represent significant shares.

How does one choose the right incubation strategy?

Incubation Strategy
2.1. How does one identify an incubation opportunity?

Incubators address specific market opportunities. Develop a clear idea of exactly what opportunity the incubator will address and which markets or supply chains the incubated SMEs will slot into. This section will explain how to do this.

It is possible to define an incubation opportunity simply as existing when a group of SMEs in a given area require incubation support. For example, if a province has several struggling agriculture-focused SMEs, an agriculture incubator could support them. We might call this a need-driven approach to defining incubation opportunities.

However, a more targeted approach that identifies opportunities for linking SMEs with markets is likely to be more successful. We might call this a market-driven approach to identifying incubation opportunities. A market-driven approach is preferable to a need-driven approach for three reasons:

2.1.1. Without ready markets to sell into, SMEs will have no means of generating revenue and will find it difficult to survive by themselves if they make it through incubation;
2.1.2. The absence of a market may indicate that SMEs are engaging in work that the economy is not suited for; and
2.1.3. The identification of specific markets provides focus and direction to the incubator’s work of preparing SMEs for success.

A market-driven incubation opportunity in a given area arises when three conditions are met:

2.1.4. There is an existing pool of SMEs offering goods or services;
2.1.5. There is an existing market for the goods and services offered by the SMEs; and
2.1.6. There is unmet potential in linking SMEs with markets that incubation can address.

The third point is particularly important. As mentioned, incubation can’t solve every small business problem. Solving some of them will require more than incubation can offer. For example, there may be an incubation opportunity if a business isn’t selling its goods because of a market failure (for example, a lack of information in the market). However, it is unlikely to be an incubation opportunity if it isn’t selling its goods because exchange rate fluctuations are making it too expensive.

To identify a market-driven incubation opportunity, consider the following steps:

Step 1: Identify priority sectors
Provinces and municipalities have a mandate to support certain priority sectors and these should be viewed as a starting point for identifying incubation opportunities:

1.1. Consult internally: Speak with colleagues to identify current areas of focus, for example, sector specialists or Local Economic Development (LED) managers. Further, review the province or municipality’s Integrated Development Plan;
1.2. Identify whether the incubator will focus on strong or vulnerable sectors: Determine whether the sectors identified are a priority because they are (a) performing well, or (b) significant to the economy, but struggling to survive; and
1.3. Narrow sector list: Often, several sectors will be identified as a ‘priority’. Conduct further consultations, including those with industry experts, to further understand which 1-3 sectors represent the most urgent opportunities.

Example: An individual in KwaZulu-Natal is interested in identifying its priority sectors. She consults with an Economic Development manager, who identifies agriculture and tourism as critical sectors. Tourism has experienced strong growth in the province over the last five years; agriculture, however, contributes 20% to the province’s formal employment, but has experienced declining growth over the past five years. There is significant private investment in tourism SMEs, but agriculture is suffering from a lack of investment at all levels. She decides to focus primarily on agriculture.

Step 2: Identify markets
Once priority sectors are identified, the next step is to look at whether they contain viable markets for SME goods and services. For incubated SMEs to be successful, they will need customers to sell to10. This is a particularly important step; see Annexure 1 for more detailed information.

Consider the following steps in identifying markets:

2.1. Identify growing firms: Consult with colleagues, industry experts, academics or civil society actors to identify the major firms involved in priority sectors and which are growing. Growing firms are likely to represent the most promising SME customers;
2.2. Identify ‘upstream’11 industries: This involves understanding the goods and services that the identified firms need to produce their own goods and services. ‘Upstream’ industries provide these. A firm’s supply chain will contain ‘upstream’ industries, for example. Undertake similar consultation as in 2.1;
2.3. Identify ‘downstream’ industries: This involves understanding the processes and services required to transform the identified firm’s goods and services into their final form and deliver them to their final consumers. A furniture manufacturer would be ‘downstream’ of a saw mill, for example. Undertake similar consultation as in 2.1; and
2.4. Identify SME opportunities: Not all identified industries will be appropriate for SMEs. Again, consider consultation as in 2.1 to identify SME opportunities. To qualify as an opportunity for SMEs, the potential good or service should be: small scale; have low capital requirements; and low levels of competition.

Example: Mpumalanga consults one of its economists and identifies that several large paper manufacturing firms have recently been established in the province. After consulting with a local academic, it identifies upstream industries, including timber growing and wood pulping, but most are suited to large firms. One downstream industry, the distribution of paper, seems like an opportunity for SMEs. The manufacturers currently use large trucks to distribute goods to wholesalers, but these are too large to travel to smaller towns and rural areas in the province. Demand in such smaller areas is substantial enough to represent an opportunity for profit for the paper manufacturer.

The figure below further illustrates the above process.

Identifying SME Markets Process

Figure 8: Illustrative Process of Identifying SME Markets

Step 3: Identify SMEs
Knowledge of existing SMEs is key to identifying incubation opportunities. Incubators, after all, need businesses to incubate. Consider the following:

3.1. Consult SME organisations: Try to leverage the networks and expertise of organisations that work with small businesses or relevant sectors in the area, whether these are from academia, the private sector or civil society. Also consider other government initiatives – seda, for example – that may have information on SME distribution in your area;
3.2. Determine whether SMEs are clustered or dispersed: SMEs could be clustered in certain areas or spread out across multiple areas. Their distribution will affect what kinds of opportunities they will be suited for; and
3.3. Draw up a list of SMEs by location and sub-sector: Based on consultations and research, create a list of where SMEs are and in what activities they are engaged.
Example: North West consults internally and discovers that it hosts an initiative that offers grant funding to SMEs in the province. The database of this initiative shows that most SMEs in the province focus on clothing manufacturing, graphic design, logistics and biofuels.

Step 4: Identify potential incubation opportunities
This step involves comparing information on potential markets with information on available SMEs. Essentially, opportunities will exist where: a) there is a match between SMEs and markets in a priority sector; and b) incubation can help bring them together. Consider the following steps:

4.1. Review potential markets considered in Step 2 and Annex 1;
4.2. Review information on SMEs identified in Step 3;
4.3. Identify gaps between identified markets and identified SMEs: Some creativity will be required here. Ways in which existing SMEs can service potential markets may not be immediately obvious; and
4.4. Identify gaps solvable by incubation: Be careful to distinguish gaps between markets and SMEs from gaps between markets and SMEs solvable by incubation. Basically, there needs to be a credible claim that a combination of BDS, physical space and funding will link a group of SMEs to a market they currently cannot access properly.
Example: Limpopo has a potential market in the distribution of paper to rural areas. Clusters of SMEs within the province provide logistical services, many of which are appropriate to the distribution of paper to rural areas.

These SMEs, however, operate at too small a scale and have few vehicles. Two main problems exist: SMEs don’t market their services well and cannot access funding due to a lack of formal business plans. The province determines that these problems could be solved by incubation; specifically, BDS services and
assistance in accessing funding.

If no incubation opportunities have been identified in the area, even after following steps 1.1 to 1.4, resist the urge to create some merely out of a desire for the ‘right’ result. Rather, take the information and insights already gathered and use them to improve other initiatives and policies.

Step 5: Determine existing levels of incubation support in opportunity areas
To avoid duplicating efforts, it is wise to identify what incubation services already exist in your area, whether private or public. Consider the following steps:
5.1. Identify incubators: Consult internally and with key stakeholders and experts involved in the SME sector, as well as the list in Annex 4, to identify incubators in the area;
5.2. Identify incubation-like services: In addition to actual incubators, also identify individuals, organisations and government initiatives that offer incubation-like services – business mentorship, for example. This will help to form a complete idea of what is already out there and how to add to it; and
5.3. Identify gaps: If incubation services exist in the areas in which they are needed, consider if they require strengthening. Certain resources – physical premises, for example – could be lacking.
Example: After an extensive survey, the Northern Cape realises that there are no incubators in the region, but that the local university offers workshops on business development for local SMEs. However, these workshops are infrequent as space at the university is hard to secure.

The Northern Cape decides to collaborate with the university and provides premises for the incubator. The province is able to leverage the educational resources of the university as well as its own assets.

Bear in mind that just because incubation services exist, it does not mean that they should be continued or expanded. The general guidance in Step 4 applies here as well: if there is no credible reason to support existing incubation efforts, even after investigating them, don’t.

Step 6: Identify incubation opportunity
Based on the information gathered during steps 1-5, an appropriate incubation opportunity can now be identified, if one exists.

This opportunity could be:
a. An existing opportunity that is not being served by incubators; or
b. An existing opportunity that is being supported by incubators, but requires additional support to thrive.

2.2. What strategy will best realise the incubation opportunity?

Much work has already been done. It takes a lot of effort to find out what opportunities are out there. But now that these opportunities are known, it is possible to decide what role to play in realising them.

Creating an entirely new incubator is not the only answer. In fact, there are three strategies to consider: (1) expand an existing incubator; (2) adapt an existing incubator business model to suit the opportunity; and (3) start a new incubator. Think of these scenarios as representing a ‘portfolio approach’ to incubation that balances the need to leverage existing resources with the need for new ideas.

Bear in mind that each scenario will have its own combination of benefits and risks. The benefits lie in the potential to increase the amount and variety of incubation support offered to SMEs – for example, increasing the number of sectors served by incubators. Let us then refer to ‘diversity’ as the main benefit.12 The risks lie in the possibility of incubator failure – for example, the insolvency of an incubator through defective management. Let us then refer to ‘risk of failure’ as the main risk.

The figure below outlines the different scenarios, as well as their relative risks and benefits.

Incubation Strategy

Figure 9: A Portfolio Approach to Incubation Support

The choice of which strategy is best will depend on a variety of factors. If an existing incubator in another area is already doing well at providing exactly the type of support that is required, it may not be advisable to start an entirely new incubator. At the same time, if the incubation opportunity is so particular that no other incubator can address it, it may not be advisable to try to adapt another incubator’s model.

Here is some more information on each of the options outlined above:

2.2.1. Expand existing incubators to other locations
This represents a low contribution to diversity, as it involves the expansion of a specific business model that already exists. However, it also represents the lowest risk of failure, since existing incubators have developed and tested their business models and have relevant experience and expertise to rely upon.

Benefits: Low risk of failure, which leads to a larger number of successful businesses
Risks: No significant addition to diversity of incubation services
Actions: Communicating incubation opportunity to existing incubator, facilitating process of expansion

This option is appropriate where the identified incubation opportunity (explained above) has already been met by an effective incubator in another area. For example, the Eastern Cape requires furniture manufacturing incubators; the Western Cape, meanwhile, hosts a successful furniture manufacturing incubator whose services apply to Eastern Cape SMEs.


2.2.2. Adapt existing business models
This enhances the diversity of sectors and/or locations reached, but not the diversity of incubation models. It represents more risk than option (1), since successful business models may not translate perfectly to new sectors or locations, but less risk than starting an entirely new incubation model (the basic elements of incubation have been shown to work in at least some areas).

Benefits: Combines incubator expertise with diversifying incubator services, balances generating successful businesses with enhancing diversity of businesses.
Risks: Business model may not adapt well to other sectors.
Actions: Investigating opportunities for adaptation, communicating incubation opportunity to existing incubator, facilitating process of adapting incubator.

This option is appropriate where an incubation need similar to the one identified has been met by successful incubators, either within or outside of a given area. For example, Tzaneen requires furniture manufacturing incubators; Cape Town, meanwhile, hosts a successful incubator in a sector where SMEs require similar technical skills and specialised equipment.


2.2.3. Start new incubators
This enhances diversity the most because it represents an entirely new incubation idea that is not founded on inputs from existing incubators. However, it also represents the highest risk, as there is no direct precedent or experience to rely on.

Benefits: Large addition to the diversity of incubators and potentially to the diversity of SMEs.
Risks: High risk of failure, with fewer successful businesses incubated.
Your role: Guiding the full process of incubator launch and operations.

This option is appropriate where the state decides it wants to prioritise diversity by launching entirely new incubators or where the incubation need is sufficiently unique to warrant a novel approach.


How does one execute a chosen strategy?

3.1. How does one expand an existing incubator?

If expanding an existing incubator is the right option for the identified opportunity, the first thing that should be done is to review the possible support offered by the dti’s Incubation Support Programme (ISP). Existing incubators can apply for financial support of R10 million per year for a period of three years under the ISP. More information on this is included in Section 4.1.1.

While this handbook does not focus on such expansion, due to it being primarily driven by incubators themselves, it can be facilitated by following these steps:

Step 1: Review incubation opportunity

See Section 2.1.

Step 2: Identify relevant successful incubators

Scan the web or relevant literature for information on existing incubators to identify those whose services match the incubation opportunity and appear to be successful.

Annex 4 of this handbook contains a non-exhaustive list of incubators in South Africa that can act as a starting point. If there are no relevant incubators in this list, consider contacting incubators that operate in a similar sector or area. They may be able to advise on where to go next.

Judging whether the incubators are successful may be more difficult. If an incubator has been identified, again consider reaching out to other incubators involved in similar sectors to get their opinions. Further, review the incubator’s website or publications. Look for some of the following:

a. Clear indicators of success: Incubators with a clear idea of how to track their performance are more likely to be effective in improving it;
b. Clear evidence of success: It is encouraging if incubators present clear evidence or data related to how they are performing according to their indicators of success; and
c. Private sector partnerships: Private sector endorsement, especially if the endorsing firms are actually using the services of the incubated SMEs, is a good indicator that incubation is working.

Example: Gauteng is seeking a biofuels incubator. There is an incubator in the Free State that focuses on renewable energy. Gauteng contacts this incubator, who then directs it to a successful biofuels incubator in Limpopo.

Step 3: Communicate incubation opportunity to incubator
Once there is a clear idea of why the potential incubator will have an opportunity in expanding to the area in question, the opportunity will need to be validated by the incubator itself.

Reach out to the potential incubator via telephone or e-mail to discuss the potential incubation opportunity and whether it is attractive to the incubator. This will not represent a full ‘pitch’, but will rather serve to gauge whether there is any interest in exploring opportunities further. There will likely be multiple rounds of communication as details are discussed and plans made.

Consider tapping into existing networks and contacts that may already be involved with the incubator. This may help ease the process of communication.

Example: A seda branch in Tshwane Municipality has interacted with the incubator the municipality wants to
attract. The seda branch is willing to make introductions; once these are made, the municipality is able to have a telephonic discussion regarding the potential opportunity.
Step 4: Identify levers to create an enabling environment
Much can be done to support the expansion of the identified incubator. Determine what provincial or municipal resources can be offered to incentivise the incubator to expand. Consider things like:

a. Grant funding available;
b. Premises that can be offered at a reduced cost;
c. Linkages with existing SMEs to make outreach easier; and
d. Complementary services, such as BDS offered by a municipality or province.

Inform the incubator of the support available, including that offered by the ISP (see Section 4), during the ongoing discussion process identified in Step 3.

Example: eThekwini Municipality has identified an incubator in Polokwane that it wishes to attract. eThekwini finds out that ISP support is not an option, but has some grant funding available. Further, it can offer premises for the incubator to use at a heavily subsidised rate. This support proves pivotal in securing the incubator’s commitment to expand.

Step 5: Facilitate process and keep promises made
Once buy-in from all parties has been secured, do all that is necessary to ensure that the process of actually establishing the new incubator branch is as easy as possible.
If premises have been promised, make sure they are readily available when needed. If there are administrative procedures to follow, make sure these are as easy as possible for the incubator. Perhaps most importantly, if state funds have been promised to support the incubator’s expansion, ensure they are available when needed.

Consider appointing an individual or small team to take full responsibility for the process of facilitating the incubator’s expansion.

3.2. How does one adapt an existing incubator business model?

Adapting an existing incubator may be the best strategy to realise the identified incubation opportunity. In that case, prepare to play an active role in the process of adaptation. The identified incubator will need to be convinced to enter unfamiliar territory, which may not be easy. Be sure to focus on building a solid case for why a particular incubator model will be successful in the chosen area.

While starting new incubators is the focus of this handbook, the following steps will assist in adapting an existing incubator:

Step 1: Review incubation opportunity

See Section 2.1

Step 2: Identify existing incubators

Scan the web or relevant literature for information on existing incubators to identify a long list of potential incubators whose business models might be relevant.

Annex 4 in this handbook contains a list of incubators that can act as a starting point. Consider contacting some of these incubators and tapping into existing networks to identify other incubators that might be relevant.

Step 3: Identify adjacent successful incubation services

Using the list developed in Step 2, identify incubators whose services and expertise could apply to the incubation opportunity. One way to do this is to determine whether local SMEs have similar needs to those of other incubators. Two groups of SMEs with similar needs are likely to require similar services.
Consider the following as examples of indicators of this similarity:

a. Technical requirements, such as similar education or manual skill requirements;
b. Equipment needs, such as similarly limited access to expensive machinery;
c. Space needs, such as similar types of office space and telecommunications required; and
d. Market structure, such as similar concentrations of large industries in SME markets.

Judging whether the incubators are successful may be more difficult. If an incubator has been identified, consider reaching out to other incubators involved in similar sectors to get their opinions. Further, review the incubator’s website or publications. Look for some of the following:

a. Clear indicators of success: Incubators with a clear idea of how to track their performance are more likely to be effective in improving it;
b. Clear evidence of success: It is encouraging if incubators present clear evidence or data related to how they are performing according to their indicators of success; and
c. Private sector partnerships: Private sector endorsement, especially if the endorsing firms are actually using the services of the incubated SMEs, is a good indicator that incubation is working.

Example: Eden Municipality recalls that the chemical manufacturing SMEs it has decided to prioritise all require technical assistance, equipment and facilities for the processing of industrial chemicals. Research reveals that there is an incubator in Nelspruit that assists SMEs producing chemical fertilizers for large farms. This incubator provides technical training to its clients and rents out highly equipped facilities to them.

Testimonies on the incubator’s website indicate that over a four-year period it has been able to develop more than 30 successful SMEs, each employing an average of 15 people. Furthermore, this incubator is financially sustainable and does not depend on government grant funding. The incubator’s partnership with four large private sector firms also serves as an indication that the incubator has been successful in its community. Eden Municipality decides that it is worth engaging with this incubator.

Step 4: Engage existing incubators

Once an appropriate incubator has been identified, reach out to this incubator via e-mail or telephone to discuss whether it would be at all interested in adapting its business model. This will not represent a full ‘pitch’, but rather serve to gauge whether there is any interest in exploring opportunities further.

Be sure to emphasise that should adaptation be feasible, various avenues of state support will be investigated (see Step 5). There will likely be multiple rounds of communication as details are discussed and plans made.

Consider using existing networks and contacts that have interacted with the incubator before, as they may smooth the communication process.

Step 5: Identify levers to create an enabling environment

Once an incubator whose services and expertise apply to the incubation opportunity has indicated initial interest, work on building a business case to attract it. Much can be done to convince the incubator that adaptation will be worthwhile. Figure out what kinds of support the province or municipality in your area can offer to incentivise the incubator to co-operate in adapting its business model. Consider things like:

a. Grant funding available;
b. Premises that can be offered at reduced cost;
c. Linkages with existing SMEs to make outreach easier; and
d. Complementary services, such as BDS offered by a municipality or province.

Inform the incubator of the support available, including that offered by the ISP (see Section 4), during the ongoing discussion process identified in Step 4.

Example: Eden Municipality recognises it needs to provide incentives for an identified incubator. The municipality decides to provide a grant for programmes that contribute to the development of the chemical manufacturing sector. It also commits to providing premises to the incubator on a long-lease basis and at a subsidised cost. Lastly, its enterprise development unit commits to the training of the new incubator’s staff.

Step 6: Appoint incubator champion
Select an individual or group of individuals to lead the launch of the incubator based on discussions with the relevant incubator(s). This could be: a) a member of the existing incubator; b) the relevant provincial or municipal representative; or c) a local individual.

Step 7: Ensure champion follows outstanding steps in starting an incubator
Depending on how closely the existing incubator business model matches the incubation opportunity, many of the key elements required to start the ‘new’ incubator will already be in place. Still, be sure to play a guiding role in ensuring that the steps in Section 3.3 below are followed by the incubator champion, as far as is necessary.

If there is doubt as to which steps are still necessary, consult with both the incubator champion and the incubator whose business model is being incubated. By now, they will likely have a good idea of which parts should change and which should stay the same.