Incubator RoundUp: Top Performing Incubators Named in NBIA Awards

April 28, 2009

The role of a technology incubator or accelerator for supporting nascent firms generally is regarded with the utmost importance by the tech-based economic development community. Tech incubators provide essential resources for startup companies to develop and commercialize new technologies, leading to the creation of high-quality jobs.

With estimates suggesting there could be as many as 5,000 incubators of all shapes and sizes worldwide, finding the latest and best practices for tech business incubation could be a challenge. Fortunately, award programs, such as the currently open SSTI's 3rd Annual Excellence in TBED Award, can help call attention to some of the most successful approaches.

The longest running award program for incubation is offered by the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA), which recently announced its top incubation programs, clients and graduates as part of its 2009 awards competition. San Jose BioCenter was named the 2009 Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year, the organization's most prestigious honor for technology incubators. The BioCenter and the six other award recipients were recognized at a ceremony during NBIA's 23rd annual conference held last week. More information about the 2009 NBIA award winners is available at: http://www.nbia.org/success_stories/awards/index.php.

The estimated count of 5,000 incubators and accelerators keeps growing. Following is an overview of select announcements in new technology incubators from across the world in recent weeks.

Madison (WI) City Council members earlier this month approved funding of $2.6 million for a 31,000-square-foot bio-agriculture business incubator, reports Madison.com. The Midwest BioLink incubator will provide offices, greenhouse space and testing fields for startup companies. More than $2 million in city funds will be provided via tax increment financing, according to the article. The city's funding is part of an application for $4.5 million in federal funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which requires a local match of at least 25 percent.

A new Center for Entrepreneurs opened in March on the Kellogg Community College Campus in Battle Creek, MI. Residents will receive entrepreneur training assistance through a directory of business experts, professors, and mentors and coaches from small business counseling groups, reports the Battle Creek Enquirer. In addition to office space, a new online entrepreneur resource center from Battle Creek Unlimited will offer tools, links, resource contacts, and information that will help entrepreneurs commercialize their ideas, the article states.

The New Zealand Government approved funding to support master planning and establishment work that will provide operating expenses for the first eight years of the New Zealand Innovation Centre . A select group of co-located, fast growth, knowledge-intensive or high-technology companies will receive access to integrated research, development services and business services. Partners include Auckland University and the Auckland City Council.

Ann Arbor SPARK recently opened its third business incubator in its Regional Incubator Network, which is comprised of two business and one wet lab incubator. In addition to office space and conference rooms, SPARK East offers critical startup services, including banking, financing, marketing, sales, human resources and logistics. Incubator tenants can seek one-on-one advice from the SPARK East Entrepreneur Resource Board.

Earlier this year, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) launched SeedSpace, a 1,225-square-foot co-working space within the 35,000-square-foot technology business incubator at Georgia Tech, reports the Atlanta Business Chronicle. SeedSpace, which includes seven offices and eight workstations, will host companies with high potential that have applied to ATDC and entrepreneurs who have had a recent exit and are figuring out their next move, the article states.

New York Gov. David Paterson announced last week a series of initiatives to spur job creation in clean energy, including four small-business incubators that will provide specialized support for the development of early stage clean-energy technology companies. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority selected the University at Buffalo, Rochester Institute of Technology, the Tech Garden in Syracuse and Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn each to receive $1.5 million to establish and operate clean-energy incubators. The four organizations will work with entrepreneurs to commercialize products.

New York's FY10 enacted budget calls for the reappropriation of $138 million approved last year for new construction and relocation of University at Buffalo programs to the Buffalo Niagra Medical Campus, according to a UB press release. Of this funding, $118 million will be used for construction of a Center for Clinical and Translational Research and bioscience incubator within the Global Vascular Institute. Groundbreaking is expected this year with a completion date of 2011.

The WESST Enterprise Center, a business incubator focusing on light manufacturing, technology, service companies, artisan industries and digital media, opened in January in Albuquerque, NM. The 37,000-square-foot building is located on a remediated toxic waste site and is the first LEED-certified building in downtown Albuquerque, reports New Mexico Business Weekly.

The Independence (MO) City Council is considering plans to turn the former Independence Regional Medical Center into a business incubator for both computer-tech entrepreneurs and general business operators, reports The Kansas City Star. Under the proposal, the developer would receive $10 million in tax increment financing (TIF) revenues, which is part of an agreement signed in 2004 that set aside $12 million in TIF funds to help with renovation or demolition of the medical center, according to the article.

The Metro Innovation Center recently opened as a high-tech incubator to support business ideas from students and faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The University Research Park spent $300,000 to renovate the 6,000-square-foot center that will nurture companies grounded in information technology, engineering, medical devices, and computer sciences.

The old city hall of Surprise, AZ will be converted into an incubator marketed toward biotech companies, according to an article in The Arizona Republic. The $8.6 million complex comprising four buildings will be converted in phases, the article states.

Arizona, California, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin