The IncubateMass program is a resource for incubators that host clean energy and water innovation startups within the Commonwealth through grants. This program funds incubator activities, including but not limited to, operations, management, business development services for members, acquisition of equipment, infrastructure upgrades, hosting events and education workshops, and professional development of incubator staff, with the goal of growing the clean energy innovation ecosystem and commercializing cleantech startups.

Grants range from $25,000 - $150,000 per year and award payments are typically tied to incubator management deliverables and client company (startup) milestones.  

  • Applicants must be incubators (e.g., InBIA definition[1]) capable of providing business incubation services to clean energy and water innovation startups at a location(s) within the Commonwealth.

  • MassCEC seeks to support incubators that include the following components:

    • Shared space or access to other facilities (i.e. academic institutions or research laboratories) that cater to clean energy and water innovation startups

    • Relevant programs and services including, but not limited to, business assistance and support services (e.g. educational workshops, networking events) to specifically to nurture clean energy and water innovation startups

    • Shared equipment (or a plan to acquire necessary items)

    • Mentoring and coaching from a management team with the necessary experience and expertise to effectively support clean energy and water innovation startups through various commercialization stages

  • Applicants are not required to exclusively host clean energy and water innovation startups in their incubators, but the incubator must have a clean energy and water innovation element to its operations and clientele.

  • Applicants may be individual incubators or teams comprised of incubator managers, industry experts, academic institutions, public and private entities, research and development institutions, state, local, and quasi-governmental agencies, and nonprofits.

  • Applicants are encouraged to tailor their funding request to the needs of their regional economy.

  • Applicants should have experienced management teams, a documented track record of providing effective services to cleantech startups and a sustainable incubator model backed up by a credible business plan.  

  • Clean energy startups are defined as “...advanced and applied technologies that significantly reduce or eliminate the use of energy from non-renewable sources, including, but not limited to: energy efficiency; demand response; energy conservation and those technologies powered in whole or in part by the sun, wind, water, biomass, alcohol, wood, fuel cells any renewable, non-depletable or recyclable fuel..." MGL c. 23J s. 1.

  • Water technology startups are defined as technology-driven companies involved in the development, manufacturing, distribution or use of innovative water technology equipment or systems. Specifically, MassCEC seeks to support water innovation technology startups that address significant, persistent water quality challenges such as those in storm water management, water quality (e.g. nutrient remediation) and wastewater treatment.

  • Applicants are encouraged to have a track record of providing effective services to clean energy and water innovation startups (e.g. tech development, fundraising and grant writing, customer acquisition). Examples of best practices can be found at https://inbia.org/ and Incubating Success: Incubation Best Practices That Lead to Successful New Ventures.


[1] “Incubators typically charge monthly program fees or membership dues in exchange for office/desk space and access to program offerings. Incubators offer programs to member companies that typically include mentoring, education/training, and informal learning opportunities. Incubators also host events to provide networking and learning opportunities for both member companies and the local community. Member companies are usually required to apply to ensure they meet the incubator’s criteria or mission (industry, stage of company, founder demographics, etc.). Incubators usually have graduation policies based on achievement of agreed-upon milestones, growth metrics or time-based stipulations. Typically, companies join incubators on a rolling basis (non-cohort), and are able to reside in the incubator for 1-3 years.” (InBIA Industry of Terms, Version1.0, Feb. 2017. Pg. 1. https://inbia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/InBIA-Industry-Terms.pdf?x8...)

 

Interested parties must submit the following documents to kdobbins@masscec.com with the subject line “IncubateMass Application – [Incubator Name]”:

If possible, it is strongly preferred that the application be sent as one document as a searchable PDF file. Applicants should answer the questions as clearly and succinctly as possible.

While it is required to report paid employees, both full time and part time, what about employees or founders who have been compensated with equity?

If the employee is working for the company in any capacity, even for equity, they must be reported in the employee figures. While overall employee payroll must be reported, the amount of equity being paid to employees does not.

Should applicant responses be formatted as tables like those provided, presented in narrative form, or both?

For Section A, the proposed award distribution, please use the Excel spreadsheet template provided.. There should be two distinct sections: one for Operations and Management (“Incubator Deliverables”), and one for Client Company Milestones. All other areas of the application may be addressed as the applicant chooses.

Questions regarding “Payment of Award”:

  • If awarded an IncubateMass grant, is it reimbursement after execution meaning that the incubator has to find a way to fund necessary resources beforehand?
    • Yes.
  • If the incubator needs to hire someone to add to staff, this is still true?
    • Yes. The goal of this grant is not to supply a regular employee’s compensation, but to supplement other incubator income for particular programs or initiatives. For instance, this grant would not cover a new mentoring coordinator’s salary, but it could cover the expenses of a networking event he or she puts on.
  • Will items for which a quote has been provided be pre-funded based on the quote?
    • No expenses are pre-funded by this grant. The structure of these contracts is such that MassCEC only issues payment upon receipt and confirmation of all deliverables for a given milestone. For instance, payment for infrastructure upgrades must be covered up front by the incubator, and MassCEC will pay the contracted amount for that milestone upon completion of the upgrade.The quotes provided in the proposal inform MassCEC’s understanding of the costs associated with running the facilities and, while they may inform milestone payments set up during contracting, MassCEC will not reimburse the exact price of the equipment, but will pay the contracted milestone payment amount determined at contracting between MassCEC and the incubator.

Please explain the budget breakdown and what this means for the funding level for which we are eligible.

Funds requested may be no more than 20 % of an incubator’s total budget in any given year.

If an incubator has a budget of $100K and receives an additional $20K in funding from IncubateMass, a maximum of only $16K of that $20K from IncubateMass funding could be used for “Incubator Deliverables” such as facility upgrades, support for funding diversification, etc. At least $4K must be tied to Client Company Milestones.

In regard to relationships with entities and partners (ex: universities, institutes, municipalities, etc.) are legal documents (ex: memoranda of understanding, partnership agreements, etc.) required? May partners be other public or even private entities?

Although MOUs and formal agreements are preferred, letters of support would be fine at the point of application. If awarded, an incubator milestone may be to execute a formal partnership to provide XYZ benefits to the incubator and its residents. Partners may be non-university public or private entities as well.

How should an Incubator report data when there is more than one year to show?

Please use the template provided (Excel) to submit all required data on client companies.

Use one tab on the provided template to show what each company’s metrics were in Q3 2014, and a second tab to show the metrics for September 2015.

Data reported should be cumulative from client companies’ entrance to the incubator through the present (please note exit dates, where applicable). For example, when first reporting on a company that has raised $50,000 in grants, under the Grants/Awards column enter “50,000.” When submitting data the following quarter, if the company has since received an additional $5,000 award, under the Grants/Awards section the number you should enter would be “55,000.”

If the incubator is already working with and reporting data to MassCEC, can the incubator use that data in the application for their Q3 2015 reporting?

Yes.

MassCEC created the IncubateMass Program in 2013 in response to the growing number of incubators in Massachusetts and their need for increased development and support for clean energy and water innovation startups. Startups and small business represent a critical component of the clean energy innovation ecosystem and economy with demonstrable impacts on job creation and accelerating the commercialization of new clean energy and water innovation technologies across the Commonwealth.

By providing their client companies with targeted business development support services and resources such as office space, mentors, specialized equipment, educational series and networks, incubators often are able to accelerate the development of cleantech and water innovation startups and increase the success rate of member companies.

For information on the incubators that MassCEC has historically and currently supports, please visit the Massachusetts Clean Energy Incubators webpage. 

Program Manager: Katie Dobbins
Massachusetts Clean Energy Center
63 Franklin Street, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02110
617-315-9317