Entrepreneurs with truly big ideas need a new kind of machine to accelerate them. That’s the premise of The Engine, an MIT enterprise announced in October that provides “patient capital,” space in Cambridge, and an array of resources to startups devoted to transformative scientific and technological innovation.
The Engine is designed to meet an underserved need. Some of the most visionary ideas for new companies—particularly in such sectors as biotech, robotics, manufacturing, medical devices, and energy—have difficulty finding the stable support and resources their pursuit requires. As President Reif wrote in a Boston Globe editorial: “Our society’s current system for funding and commercializing new ideas—so effective with relatively quick-to-market digital products—leaves many ‘tough technology’ solutions permanently stranded. In that context, we see an exciting opportunity to advance MIT’s mission by investing in a new model of startup support that nurtures such high-impact ideas and speeds them into the world while helping our regional innovation ecosystem flourish and grow through a self-sustaining cycle of success.”
Along with financial support through its venture-investing arm, The Engine will provide selected startups with affordable space in the Central and Kendall Square neighborhoods, access to specialized equipment and business services, and a network of fellow entrepreneurs and established companies that want to support them. “We want highly disruptive entrepreneurs to stay in Greater Boston,” MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz SM ’01 said in the MIT News announcement of The Engine’s launch, which he has led. “This is where the boldest ideas in the world should find their home.”
“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,” MIT Provost Martin Schmidt SM ’83, PhD ’88, told MIT News. “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 plans to open its Central Square headquarters in the spring. “We’ve received very strong interest from startups, investors, and established companies within Greater Boston’s innovation ecosystem,” says Ruiz. “There is a feeling of electricity in this community.”