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Incubator Numbers Grow with Interest in Tech Entrepreneurship as Recession Cure

September 09, 2009

As economists and policymakers debate the details of how and when the nation will recover from the recession, the topic of entrepreneurship and the role it will play in shaping the new economy continually arises. In the coming years, some analysts predict a rise in entrepreneurship both as a result of massive layoffs and an aging workforce not yet ready or able to retire. Highlighting the correlation between joblessness and the uptick in entrepreneurship, several recent news articles have featured stories of the unemployed forgoing disappointing job searches and the corporate environment to pursue business ownership.

At the same time, the U.S. may be on the cusp of an entrepreneurial boom thanks to its aging population. A recent report by the Kauffman Foundation finds the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belongs to 55-64 year olds. The study points to several factors driving this shift, including changes in job tenure, an increase in life expectancy, and the continued decline of lifetime employment and the experience and tacit knowledge such employees carry with them. Additionally, stronger regulations aiming to prevent the rise of giant organizations may help to create a more market-oriented society, the study concludes.

To help new tech entrepreneurial efforts succeed, incubators offer valuable resources such as access to university research, laboratories, mentors, and networking opportunities. The following is an overview of specialized incubators that have emerged over the past several months to support high-tech ventures.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last month the city will expand its sponsored incubator this fall to create up to four additional incubators with space for another 150 startup companies. First announced in February, the 16,000-square-foot Varick Street incubator offers high-quality office space, mentoring services from Polytechnic Institute of New York University, and networking opportunities for tenants. The city provided capital funds and negotiated a three-year lease with Trinity Real Estate as part of an 11-point plan to promote business innovation through entrepreneurial activity, according to a New York City Industrial Development Agency news release.

The bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park will house a new Maryland Clean Energy Technology Incubator@bwtech, or CETI, the first in a planned statewide network of clean energy incubators. A project between bwtech@UMBC, the Maryland Clean Energy Center and the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development, CETI will provide services tailored to the needs of companies working with solar power, wind power, geothermal, hydropower, biofuels, and energy management and storage technologies. The incubator will occupy about 18,000 square feet of office and wet lab space in the Biotechnology Building of bwtech@UMBC's Incubator and Accelerator.

A group of volunteers from engineering and architectural backgrounds are working to renovate a former Model T showroom near Wayne State University into an incubator for sustainable technology, reports Crain's Detroit Business. The Green Garage is an 11,000-square-foot building being renovated to provide office space and resources for green businesses. Construction is anticipated this fall with a goal of 90 percent of construction materials to be reused from within the building.

Construction will be completed in January on a 65,000-square-foot facility at the Arkansas Research & Technology Park to house wet laboratories and low-rent offices for startup businesses specializing in information technology and assembly manufacturing, reports the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Funding for the Enterprise Center will come from an economic infrastructure fund grant and from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, according to the article.

The University of Florida will create a 45,000-square-foot facility to nurture high-tech startup companies funded through an $8.2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration and $5 million in university support. The Florida Innovation Hub, slated to open December 2011, will provide space and equipment to technology startup companies connected to the university.

The Macomb-Oakland University INCubator opened in July in Sterling Heights, MI with the goal of creating jobs and advancing business development in four sectors: defense and security, alternative energy, advanced manufacturing and life science technology. The program provides startup companies with help in developing marketing plans, acquiring funding and gaining access to Oakland University's faculty for market research, reports the Detroit News.

A technology incubator working to promote Colorado's clean-technology industry was launched in July. CleanLaunch Technology Incubator will work with the Governor's Energy Office and the Colorado Tech Industry Association, reports the Denver Post. The incubator will work with both resident and virtual clients at any stage of growth. Services include low-cost office and research space, access to investment capital and advisory services.

During his State of the City Address earlier this year, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter announced the creation of a new business incubator to support local alternative energy startup companies, reports the Idaho Business Review. The 3,500-square-foot Green House incubator will house up to seven startup companies focusing on renewable and alternative energies in a city-owned building.

A new University of Central Florida Sanford business incubator opened this week in downtown Sanford. A joint effort of UCF and the City of Sanford, the business incubator will provide early-stage technology companies with tools, training and infrastructure to create stable, high-growth companies, according to a press release.

The property of an old waste management site in Ft. Collins, CO will house the new Inverness Innovation Park and anchor tenant, the Rocky Mountain Innovation Initiative (RMI2), a business incubator designed to support pre-financed companies with space to research and develop new technologies, reports Coloradoan.com.

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