"The Hatchery" To Provide Lab Space to Emerging Rochester Life Science Startups


Midwestern states are historic dry beds of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding. SBIR and STTR are competitive, federally funded programs for US small businesses to aid in the commercialization of research and development activities to encourage, and in some cases, require collaborations between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions to bring scientific and tech innovations onto the market.

In the approximate thirty-six year history of these programs (SBIR was established in 1982 and STTR in 1992), funding has primarily focused along the coasts, particularly in California (with ~$9.7B in obligations), Massachusetts (with ~$6B in obligations), Virginia (with $2.7B in obligations), and Maryland (with $2.2B in obligations). Only two Midwestern states have garnered over $1B in obligations from these programs over the same amount of time (Ohio leads with ~$1.75B followed by Michigan with ~$1B); the states of Illinois (with ~$839M in obligations), Minnesota (with ~$645M in obligations), and Wisconsin (with ~$519M in obligations) trail closely behind.

Over the past five years (from 2013 to 2017), 4 companies in Rochester were successfully awarded 7 different SBIR/STTR grants, totaling about $5M. For comparison, in these same five years 5 entities in Fargo, North Dakota successfully received 12 different SBIR/STTR grants, totaling about $4.8M. Across this same time span, 55 different companies in Madison, Wisconsin were successfully awarded 162 different SBIR/STTR grants.

Compared to at least some similar Midwestern towns, Rochester is on par. But we can do better to increase the amount of SBIR/STTR grant applications, improve the positioning of Rochester startups, and begin to capture government funds that are leaking to the coastal regions.

One key factor that could fuel the growth of science and tech startups in Rochester, and in turn spur more SBIR/STTR submissions, is wet lab space. Currently, areas for life science startups to build and develop life science technologies in Rochester is slim if not non-existent.

Dr. Stephen Ekker, Director of the brand-new Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship, thinks he may have a solution with “The Hatchery”.

This concept utilizes unoccupied lab space within Mayo Clinic, which would otherwise go unused, to house emerging science startups and fuel biotech innovation in this city. The Hatchery provides some lab equipment including glassware, gloves, water baths, a thermocycler, and incubators along with desk and lab space to startups at low cost: $12/square foot or an equity agreement.

Space is currently available for interested life science startups in Mayo’s Guggenheim building.

Want to learn more about wet lab space and its potential? Check out the suggested stories below.