MIT plans $150m mega fund to power start-ups and invigorate Boston

27 Oct 2016

MIT is creating The Engine to help bring breakthrough research from the lab to the market. Image: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock

The prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is raising a $150m fund to support over 60 start-ups and bridge the chasm of death between lab project and market roll-out.

Simply known as The Engine, the new venture is designed to support start-up companies working on scientific and technological innovation.

It will provide budding entrepreneurs with funding, space and expertise.

‘We believe this approach can offer exponential growth to regions that pursue it successfully – and we want Greater Boston to lead the way’

The Engine is designed to meet an underserved need in the Greater Boston area because many breakthrough innovations struggle to leave the lab.

Serious solutions to great challenges

MIT is seeking to attract hundreds of millions of dollars in support for entrepreneurs and create 26,000 sq ft of space at its Cambridge headquarters. It also requires working space for start-ups in Kendall Square and nearby communities.

The Engine will introduce start-ups to entrepreneurial peers and established companies.

“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,” said the president of MIT, L Rafael Reif.

“The Engine can provide that pathway by prioritising breakthrough ideas over early profit, helping to shorten the time it takes these start-ups 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.”

Start-ups who are accepted to The Engine will participate in a 12-month incubator period, during which they will receive financial support and guidance on business planning and technology licensing.

In an interesting move associated with The Engine, MIT is starting a pilot programme with the city of Cambridge called Pathways to Invention. This is aimed at giving local schoolchildren hands-on experiences at MIT, with a view to inspiring future careers in science and technology.

MIT, Boston. Image: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years