The Challenge: Incubating Cleantech Start-Ups
Massachusetts is a hotbed of climate tech and water innovation start-ups, many of whom are eager to participate in business incubators. Incubators need resources to accommodate more startups and provide them with high-quality services and specialized facilities.
Since 2013, IncubateMass has provided funding to Massachusetts incubators with the goal of growing the clean energy innovation ecosystem and commercializing cleantech startups through incubator membership. This funding supports incubator activities such as
- build-out of facilities or infrastructure
- equipment purchases
- networking events and workshops
- growing strategic clusters
- professional development of incubator staff
Grants are up to $175,000 per year and award payments are typically tied to incubator management deliverables and startup member milestones.
IncubateMass' funding schedule for 2023 has yet to be determined.
The timeline at right is subject to change at MassCEC’s discretion.
|RFP released||January 4, 2022|
|Proposals due||February 22, 2022|
|Notification of award||Mid-April, 2022|
Complete contracting/ Eligibility for first payment
- Applicants must be Incubators (as defined in the RFP) capable of providing business incubation services to Cleantech Startups at a location within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- Applicants must have startups that satisfy the definition of Cleantech Startups, as defined in the RFP.
- Applicants are not required to host exclusively Cleantech Startups in their Incubators, but the Incubator must have a partial clean energy focus to its operations and clientele.
For full Program details, please refer to the IncubateMass RFP
What is an Incubator?
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 … 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 and are able to reside in the Incubator for 1-3 years." (InBIA Industry of Terms, Version1.0, Feb. 2017. Pg. 1.)
What is the definition of Cleantech Startups?
“Cleantech Startups” are companies whose primary business meets MassCEC's definition of "clean energy":
“…advanced and applied technologies that significantly reduce or eliminate the use of energy for 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.
Can my incubator be located outside of the Commonwealth?
Incubator applicants must be located within the Commonwealth.
How long after submitting my IncubateMass application should I expect a response from MassCEC?
It typically takes anywhere from two to three months for MassCEC to make a funding decision. Staff may be in touch with follow-up questions shortly after an application is received.
Resources for Clean Energy Incubators
Incubator Best Practices
Examples of business incubator best practices can be found in Incubating Success, a report from the US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration.
MassDevelopment's Collaborative Workspace Program
MassDevelopment's Collaborative Workspace Program - MassDevelopment's Collaborative Workspace Program provides funds to accelerate the pace of new business formation, job creation and entrepreneurial activity in Massachusetts communities, by supporting infrastructure that funds community-based innovation. Eligible collaborative workspace applicants may apply for either Seed Grants for predevelopment and feasibility work, or Fit-out Grants for building improvements and equipment purchases. Eligible Applicants may be the operator of the collaborative space, including but not limited to co-working spaces, venture and innovation centers, maker spaces and artist spaces, or the owner of a building that will host the space.
Association of Clean Tech Incubators of New England
ACTION is the region’s network of cleantech incubators sharing the common goals of accelerating the growth and success of early-stage companies, strengthening the regional cleantech cluster, and adding to green job growth. They match the needs of cleantech entrepreneurs to capabilities within our member incubators. Through the ACTIONetwork, they provide startups with a variety of support services that include the use of specialized technical facilities for R&D, subsidized office space and administrative support, research and patent collaboration, valued programming, quality business mentoring and professional services, and potential funding opportunities to facilitate commercialization. The breadth and diversity of the incubator network offers entrepreneurs a comprehensive hub of knowledge, experience, and resources that is often unavailable from a single incubator organization. ACTION continues to expand its network of incubators nationally and internationally.
The Clean Energy Incubator Network
The Clean Energy Incubator Network is a national network of cleantech incubators, launched by the U.S. Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in February 2015. The program aims to improve the performance of and provide nationwide coordination among existing and new clean energy business incubators. The network also connects critical industry and energy sector partners to advance clean energy startups and their technologies and serves as a portal for identifying industry best practices. The Clean Energy Incubator Network is currently developing additional resources, such as funding, laboratory and event resources, an evaluation toolkit that specifically guides start ups and a program called SmartIncubationTM. SmartIncubation is a clean tech business incubator best practice program that will collect metrics from start-ups and incubators and publish the results to identify and recommend best strategies and practices.
InBIA is a global non-profit organization that has welcomed and supported entrepreneurial organizations for over 30 years. Serving a diverse group of entrepreneurship centers, program managers, directors and policymakers, they help guide, mentor and develop sustainable entrepreneur support programs in every industry and demographic around the globe. Their goal is to enrich the entire ecosystem by providing industry resources, education, events and global programming to help members better serve the needs of their unique communities and regions. InBIA’s mission is to help communities enable their entrepreneurs transform their dreams into innovative businesses that make global prosperity a reality. Business incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces and other entrepreneurship support organizations are critical to entrepreneur’s success because they provide connections to the right mentors, education, partners, community influencers and investors that are essential to their growth.
MassCEC provides InBIA membership to all companies accepted into IncubateMass. MassCEC also supports InBIA through providing stipends to an annual conference. An InBIA membership means joining a global community of your peers and other entrepreneurship support organizations that include a network of mentors, partners, influencers and ecosystem builders. As an InBIA member, you will have direct access to our global network as well as a wide range of industry leadership and resources. They provide a wide range of services to assist entrepreneurial organizations in enabling high-impact programs. InBIA offers a global community membership, education and training, industry news and resources, and designations and accreditations.