Current and future startups visited the Incubator’s new labs in Scale Space last week, to make connections and plan their futures.
Potential residents of Imperial’s new startup Incubator got a sneak preview of its labs and offices last week, and met with startup founders who have already benefited from its support. Other partners and players in the White City ecosystem also attended the pre-launch social event, which anticipates the formal opening of the new Incubator in April.
Imperial’s White City Incubator was set up in 2016 on two floors of the I-HUB, where it offered startups from Imperial and beyond lab and office space in which their ideas can grow into viable businesses. Over the past seven years it has hosted 30 companies, which have created 481 jobs between them and raised £430 million in venture capital and grant funding.
“And the majority of those 30 startups that have come through the Incubator are still active,” says Graham Hewson, Head of Incubation Spaces at Imperial. Notable alumni include companies such as Puraffinity, Addionics, Polymateria, SMART Respiratory Products, Affinity Biomarker Labs, SIME Clinical AI and MiNA Therapeutics.
Now the Incubator is moving to bespoke premises in the near-by Scale Space, a partnership between Imperial and Blenheim Chalcot that supports technology-based businesses as they enter the growth phase. “Currently the incubator is on two floors that aren’t connected, so moving to Scale Space gives us the opportunity to be in a space that we have configured, with the lab manager and the incubator team at its heart,” says Vicky Kilcoyne, Associate Director for Commercial Development at Imperial.
Building on success
Successful features of the present Incubator will be replicated in the new location, including the shared labs, where startup teams work side-by-side in the same laboratory. This is ideal for student startups and early-stage startups with little money to spend on lab space, but who need to make a start demonstrating the viability of their technology.
“The idea is to lower the barriers of entry to lab space in the Incubator,” Mr Hewson explains. “The shared labs have been really popular, and a number of companies told us this was exactly what they needed.”
Thirteen startups are currently resident in the Incubator, including rising stars such as Multus, Fresh Check and H2GO Power. Some will move to the new laboratories, but most will ‘graduate’ from the Incubator and take over the spaces they presently occupy in the I-HUB. “That further enriches the ecosystem at White City, because otherwise they might have had to move away to find lab space,” says Ms Kilcoyne.
The new Incubator will have ten laboratories, eight for companies to occupy on their own and two fitted out as shared labs, with up to five companies working in each. Around a third of the residents are expected to be Imperial student startups, a third will be startups commercialising research originating at Imperial, and a third will be external companies who want to grow in the Imperial ecosystem.
“We’ve had a lot of interest and we’re keen to fill the new Incubator,” Mr Hewson says. “But it’s not just about filling up, it’s about choosing the right companies, those that can be helped and that want our help.”
Photographs: Panji Kaonga
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