MIT launches new venture for world-changing entrepreneurs
The Engine will provide funding, space, and expertise — powering a network of innovation networks.
By Rob Matheson, MIT News Office
Oct 26 2016
Today MIT President L. Rafael Reif announced the creation of The Engine, a new kind of enterprise designed to support startup companies working on scientific and technological innovation with the potential for transformative societal impact.
President Reif made the announcement at an evening event at The Engine’s Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, headquarters attended by entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors, and members of the MIT community.
The Engine is designed to meet an underserved need. In Kendall Square and Greater Boston, many breakthrough innovations cannot effectively leave the lab because companies pursuing capital- and time-intensive technologies have difficulty finding stable support and access to the resources they need.
“If we hope for serious solutions to the world’s great challenges, we need to make sure the innovators working on those problems see a realistic pathway to the marketplace,” President Reif says. “The Engine can provide that pathway by prioritizing breakthrough ideas over early profit, helping to shorten the time it takes these startups to become ‘VC-ready,’ providing comprehensive support in the meantime, and creating an enthusiastic community of inventors and supporters who share a focus on making a better world. We believe this approach can offer exponential growth to regions that pursue it successfully — and we want Greater Boston to lead the way.”
To fuel The Engine, MIT will seek to attract hundreds of millions of dollars of support and to make available, for entrepreneurs, hundreds of thousands of square feet of space in Kendall Square and nearby communities.
The Engine will also introduce startups to their entrepreneurial peers and to established companies, in innovation clusters across the region and around the world: It seeks to power a network of innovation networks.
“The Engine builds on work MIT has undertaken in recent years to stoke innovation on and near our campus — including starting up the MIT Innovation Initiative in 2014,” says MIT Provost Martin Schmidt. “Our faculty, alumni, and student entrepreneurs directly serve the Institute’s mission of using science and technology to make a better world, because the problems they pursue tend to be the hardest ones they can find.”
The Engine, whose launch has been led by MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz, will offer startups “patient” capital; affordable workspaces; access to specialized equipment; streamlined business services; and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.
“We want highly disruptive entrepreneurs to stay in Greater Boston,” Ruiz says. “This is where the boldest ideas in the world should find their home.”
A startup as different as the startups it will serve
The Engine seeks eventually to support in steady state 60 locally based startups, primarily those that are developing “tough” technologies — breakthrough ideas that require time and patient capital to commercialize — in a range of sectors including biotechnology, robotics, manufacturing, medical devices, and energy.
Accepted startups will participate in The Engine’s incubator for up to 12 months. In that time, they will receive financial investments as well as guidance in business planning and access to shared services such as legal, technology licensing, and administrative assistance. Entrepreneurs will be able to take advantage of specialized equipment, services, expertise, and space through an online marketplace developed for The Engine.
To financially support startups, The Engine will form a venture-investing arm, which will provide significant, long-term capital support to help startups transition from ideation phases to commercial success. The Engine venture funds will demand less equity in startups than is typical, allowing founders to maintain more control over their companies. The Engine is also actively exploring avenues to support nonprofit startups.