Business incubators guide starting enterprises through their growth process and as such constitute a strong instrument to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. In this article we sketch the European business incubator landscape. Then we describe screening practices by European business incubators in 2003 and compare these results with the American incubators in the 1980s. In the last phase an exploratory link between screening practices and performance, measured in terms of tenant failure, is established. Most incubators do not screen potential tenants on a balanced set of factors, but concentrate either on the characteristics of the tenant's market or on the characteristics of the tenant's management team. However, we found that the tenant survival rate is positively related to a more balanced screening profile. Based on our study results, we propose some recommendations for the main stakeholders in the field: authorities, incubators and innovative entrepreneurs. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.