mission / history

Mission:

Since its inception, the Incubation Program's mission has been "giving life to new ideas." It is rooted in the firm belief that ideas both come from the University and are drawn to it. It is the Incubation's goal to augment the University's special role of providing a fertile environment for the growth and development of new ideas, and additionally to create opportunities for the application and further evolution of those ideas into the greater community through the channels of commercial activity. This greater mission encompasses three core objectives:

  1. Enrichment of the Academic Environment
  2. Technology Transfer and Commercialization
  3. Regional Economic Development
 

1. Enrichment of the Academic Environment

A primary motivation of the Incubation Program is to enrich the academic environment by providing an enhanced experience on both the student and faculty level. The Incubation achieves this goal by adding to the academic environment and by bringing together already existent but otherwise disjoined resources within the University. For students and faculty, the Incubation acts as a "living laboratory" where ideas generated in the classrooms and research centers can be tested in a real-world environment. As interns, "consultants," part-time employees or entrepreneurial leaders of their own companies, students and faculty are faced head-on with the challenges of commerce and industry and so are educated in ways not often matched within the halls of academia. At the same time, the demands of enterprise encountered within the Incubation centers serve to generate further intellectual endeavors and spark new interests which can then be brought back into the classroom for additional research and experimentation.

The Incubation also helps to enrich the academic environment by coupling the various resources and strengths of the University. Business students with an eye for commercial opportunity can work with engineering students who unlock the secrets of technology and science. The wealth of Rensselaer's laboratories, equipment, IT networks, and meeting rooms are more fully exploited as new groups, through the Incubation program, find unique applications for resource utilization.

2. Technology Transfer

The Incubation serves as a shelter within which new ideas can be nurtured and developed and as a gateway through which these ideas, as products, can pass safely into the commercial environment. With its experience in enterprise formation including business plan development and market research, along with its connections to the resources of the greater business community of IP attorneys, accountants, and venture capitalists, the Incubation works to add value to University research, transforming classroom ideas into marketable products. As companies with roots in Rensselaer technology succeed, they also serve as examples and models to the University, stimulating additional experimentation and research with a renewed focus on commercial application.

The Incubation Program also serves to draw new enterprises and the technologies they incorporate from the greater community into the University. Approximately one-third of Incubation companies have been started by those beyond Rensselaer, who have come to the Incubation so as to access the visibility and prestige, networking potential, and University resources that the Program offers. These outside ventures bring with them ideas and innovations that once coupled with the skills of Rensselaer faculty and students and often augmented with additional University technology can be re-exported back into the community as a successful product.

3. Regional Economic Development

The Incubation Program has helped launch a revolution in the once novel concept that universities could or should have an economic development role. From the high visibility successes of MapInfo, ILINC, and Albany Molecular Research, Inc. to the hundreds of smaller companies and entrepreneurs it has served, the Incubation now has a 22 year track record of furthering regional economic growth which to this day remains a core program mission. Regional economic growth benefits the University and its community in numerous and profound ways. Students are able to find part-time, summer, or, after graduation, full-time employment in the local community within fields which are dynamic and challenging and match the thirst for knowledge and innovation instilled at Rensselaer. The University's reputation within the local community is also advanced as it is recognized as an active partner in the common goal of regional development. This in turn opens "neighborhood" resources from service providers to political support to both the Incubation Program and the University. Finally, an energized and thriving community provides a safe and exciting environment for our current and prospective students and faculty.


History:

George Low, Rensselaer's President when the Incubation was conceived, said "The educational process of an institution like RPI depends upon the 'laboratory environment' that can only be found in growing, high technology companies. This type of laboratory cannot be duplicated in an exclusively academic situation. Newly spawned companies depend upon innovative ideas, and advice and counsel in science, engineering and management; they depend also on a continuing infusion of new people. Both the ideas and the people come from universities. Finally, RPI's actions will help stimulate the economic growth of the region and the state by attracting, nurturing and keeping high technology companies."

The Incubation has developed in three major phases, coinciding with opening of the three Incubation buildings and the financing for the renovation of each. (The H building opened in 1980 was converted to back to campus administrative offices in 1997.)

  1. Phase One: 1980
  2. Phase Two: 1982
  3. Phase Three: 1992

1. Phase One: 1980

Rensselaer's President and Trustees decided to create Rensselaer's Incubation in 1980 following completion of a feasibility study. During this period, several early Incubation companies operated out of informal Incubation space in the basement of a campus academic building. The first permanent Incubation building was the plainly-named H building, a 3,500 square foot, single-story brick building used by Rensselaer for storage. The H building was renovated into office space using a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) which Rensselaer matched with $50,000 of its own funds.

2. Phase Two: 1982

The H building was filled with Incubation companies immediately following the completion of renovations. It soon became apparent that there was sufficient demand for Incubation space to support a much larger facility. In 1981 Rensselaer's 42,000 square foot J building, formerly a Catholic Church home for "wayward girls," was selected to be the next Incubation expansion. The J building required significant renovation, which was financed by a $600,000 loan from the City of Troy Industrial Development Agency and a $200,000 loan from the New York State Urban Development Corporation. Renovations were completed in 1982 and the J building has been nearly fully occupied ever since. Debt service on the two renovation loans for the J building has been fully supported from the Incubation operating budget. The New York State loan was paid in full in 1997. The City of Troy loan came due in 1991 with a substantial balloon payment, which Rensselaer paid off and refinanced to the Incubation. The Incubation "department" of Rensselaer will continue to service and pay off this debt through an internal transfer of funds from the Incubation operating budget until 2005.

3. Phase Three: 1992

In response to ongoing demand for Incubation laboratory space of a type not available in the original two Incubation buildings, Rensselaer's administration "loaned" unused portions of a laboratory building in the nearby City of Watervliet for Incubation company use. This 1964 vintage building was originally designed for research and had most recently housed an electronics research center complete with Class 100 clean rooms. However, this research was moved to a new state-of-the-art campus facility in 1988, leaving the "Watervliet Facility" largely empty and stripped. The Incubation gradually cleaned and reactivated portions of the building as new Incubation companies needed lab space. Since 1992, the Incubation has expanded in stages and now occupies the entire 32,000 net square feet of this building, housing 7 client companies. In 1997, the building's heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems were renovated for higher energy efficiency. Grant funding for the renovation of the Watervliet Facility was provided by the New York State Science & Technology Foundation ($200,000) and the Empire State Development Corporation ($223,000).