The University has partnered with BioLabs — a national network of shared labs and office facilities — to open a business incubator for science start-ups on the James Forrestal Campus, less than three miles away from the main campus.
Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs will be a 31,000 square-foot-facility that can hold up to 25 startups and contains 68 lab benches, private offices, and hot desks.
The business incubator and coworking space are part of an effort by the University to support innovation and research.
“We believe entrepreneurship enhances our capacity for societal service and global leadership,” said Paul LaMarche, vice provost for space programming and planning.
Co-founder and CEO of BioLabs Johannes Fruehauf explained that coworking spaces attract people who are inspired to develop their idea into something that affects the world with tangible benefits.
“These centers act as catalysts,” Fruehauf continued. “At the very least, they are locations for people to get together who are inspired and who want to create something with the findings that they developed.”
Because of costs of labs and permits, development of these companies is usually expensive, Fruehauf explained. BioLabs’ model relies on sharing space and lab facilities among dozens of users.
“The coworking model can reduce science startup costs by a factor of 10 and accelerate the timeline for setting up a lab facility by six to nine months,” Fruehauf said.
BioLabs’ primary goal, however, is only to get the start-up off the ground. The intention, according to Fruehauf, is to prioritize the project’s start and maximize the start-up’s chances for success. Therefore, the start-ups would be more likely to stay in the area.
Once they prove the science behind their idea, most start-ups at BioLabs eventually raise more money and “outgrow” BioLabs, Fruehauf explained. According to one case study based on a BioLabs location in Cambridge, many of the start-ups launched ended up within four miles of the center.
Fruehauf and Nishta Rao, site director for the location in Princeton, attribute this success to the variety of resources offered to the start-ups that can make staying near a BioLabs location very attractive.
“You don’t need to put the handcuffs on,” Fruehauf said. “You just have to make it easy and logical for them to stay, and then they will stay.”
Working at BioLabs will not only provide access to necessary technology and lab space but will also help cultivate connections between entrepreneurs and start-ups, building a network of mentors and advisers. Entrepreneurs and start-ups can receive help to meet with lawyers and learn more about intellectual property and patent law.
“When we say coworking space and state-of-the-art resources, that’s really just the first layer,” Rao said.
In addition to Cambridge and Princeton, the company also has centers in New York, San Diego, Boston, and San Francisco. The location in Princeton is expected to open in April.
Both the University and BioLabs hope to cultivate and spark innovative ideas. Though the center is partnered with the University, the opportunity to work at the center is open to every qualified applicant in order to grow an “ecosystem” of new ideas. Faculty, students, and alumni of the University are also encouraged to turn their ideas into start-ups.
Applications to the center are evaluated by their underlying science, viability of their business plan, the promise of the team and its members, and the ability of the start-up to attract investors.
Already, the location at Princeton has received attention from pharmaceutical companies and other organizations who may want to capitalize on the developing talent and end products.
Since 2009 — the company’s founding — BioLabs has helped launch over 230 companies and has helped created over 800 jobs.