At Public Radio International, Jason Margolis and Ari Daniel reported recently on a Massachusetts business incubator focused on helping green startups by providing them with inexpensive space and shared tools.
“A few years ago, when Sorin Grama had just finished graduate work at MIT and was looking for a place to build his new solar electricity startup, he came across an old abandoned warehouse.
“ ‘My partner and I were looking at it and said, ‘Well, it’s a lot of space here, maybe others can join, it’s kind of lonely,” Grama says. ‘We put out a call to the MIT community.’
“Within weeks, a handful of startups were sharing that cavernous space.
“ ‘And we bonded. All the companies created a nice community, and we started sharing tools, people and ideas, and reading each other’s proposals for funding, things like that,’ Grama says. ‘We had a great Christmas party one year.’ …
“Today, their home is a massive old mid-19th century pipe factory in Somerville, just outside of Boston. It’s called Greentown Labs, and it’s one of the most successful in a new wave of what are called green business incubators, clusters of startups looking to build a business by helping cut carbon emissions and fight climate change. …
“They’re saving money [by getting started] at Greentown. If you need a power saw or an industrial press, no need to buy your own — just sign up for a time slot in the machine shop. The incubator also brings shared intellectual resources, like software, human resources, even PR help. …
“Outgrowing the incubator is part of the point, showing there’s money to be made tackling the world’s climate and energy challenges.
“It’s a growth area that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is betting on, putting millions in grants and loans toward a network of green tech incubators. Steven Pike, interim CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, says it’s an efficient way to spend.
“ ‘We can try and go out and try to support individually 50 different companies,’ Pike says. Or, Massachusetts can invest in an incubator that supports 50 companies under one roof.
“He says Massachusetts has an audacious goal: ‘We want to be the Silicon Valley of clean energy, renewable energy.’ ”
Photo: Greentown Labs
Shared workspace at Greentown Labs.