Skip to content ↓

MIT launches new venture for world-changing entrepreneurs

The Engine will provide funding, space, and expertise — powering a network of innovation networks.
Watch Video
Press Inquiries

Press Contact:

Kimberly Allen
Phone: 617-253-2702
Fax: 617-258-8762
MIT News Office
Close
MIT President L. Rafael Reif spoke at an Oct. 26 event celebrating the launch of The Engine.
Caption:
MIT President L. Rafael Reif spoke at an Oct. 26 event celebrating the launch of The Engine.
Credits:
Photo: Andy Ryan
A panel of innovation experts spoke at an Oct. 26 event celebrating the launch of The Engine. (Left to right): Phil Sharp, Institute professor at MIT and co-founder of Biogen; Jay Bradner, president of The Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research; Sue Siegel, CEO of GE Ventures; Antonio Rodriguez, general partner at Matrix Partners; Leslie Dewan, co-founder and CEO of Transatomic Power; Guru Ba...
Caption:
A panel of innovation experts spoke at an Oct. 26 event celebrating the launch of The Engine. (Left to right): Phil Sharp, Institute professor at MIT and co-founder of Biogen; Jay Bradner, president of The Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research; Sue Siegel, CEO of GE Ventures; Antonio Rodriguez, general partner at Matrix Partners; Leslie Dewan, co-founder and CEO of Transatomic Power; Guru Banavar, chief science officer at Cognitive Computing, and vice president of IBM Research; Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab.
Credits:
Photo: Andy Ryan
A panel of innovation experts spoke at an Oct. 26 event celebrating the launch of The Engine. (Left to right): Phil Sharp, Institute professor at MIT and co-founder of Biogen; Jay Bradner, president of The Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research; Sue Siegel, CEO of GE Ventures; Antonio Rodriguez, general partner at Matrix Partners; Leslie Dewan, co-founder and CEO of Transatomic Power; Guru Ba...
Caption:
A panel of innovation experts spoke at an Oct. 26 event celebrating the launch of The Engine. (Left to right): Phil Sharp, Institute professor at MIT and co-founder of Biogen; Jay Bradner, president of The Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research; Sue Siegel, CEO of GE Ventures; Antonio Rodriguez, general partner at Matrix Partners; Leslie Dewan, co-founder and CEO of Transatomic Power; Guru Banavar, chief science officer at Cognitive Computing, and vice president of IBM Research; Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab.
Credits:
Photo: Andy Ryan

Today MIT President L. Rafael Reif announced the creation of The Engine, a new kind of enterprise designed to support startup companies working on scientific and technological innovation with the potential for transformative societal impact.

President Reif made the announcement at an evening event at The Engine’s Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, headquarters attended by entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors, and members of the MIT community.

The Engine is designed to meet an underserved need. In Kendall Square and Greater Boston, many breakthrough innovations cannot effectively leave the lab because companies pursuing capital- and time-intensive technologies have difficulty finding stable support and access to the resources they need.

MIT's new venture, The Engine, will provide funding, space, and expertise — powering a network of innovation networks.

“If we hope for serious solutions to the world’s great challenges, we need to make sure the innovators working on those problems see a realistic pathway to the marketplace,” President Reif says. “The Engine can provide that pathway by prioritizing breakthrough ideas over early profit, helping to shorten the time it takes these startups to become ‘VC-ready,’ providing comprehensive support in the meantime, and creating an enthusiastic community of inventors and supporters who share a focus on making a better world. We believe this approach can offer exponential growth to regions that pursue it successfully — and we want Greater Boston to lead the way.”

To fuel The Engine, MIT will seek to attract hundreds of millions of dollars of support and to make available, for entrepreneurs, hundreds of thousands of square feet of space in Kendall Square and nearby communities.

The Engine will also introduce startups to their entrepreneurial peers and to established companies, in innovation clusters across the region and around the world: It seeks to power a network of innovation networks.

“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,” says MIT Provost Martin Schmidt. “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, whose launch has been led by MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz, will offer startups “patient” capital; affordable workspaces; access to specialized equipment; streamlined business services; and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

“We want highly disruptive entrepreneurs to stay in Greater Boston,” Ruiz says. “This is where the boldest ideas in the world should find their home.”

A startup as different as the startups it will serve

The Engine seeks eventually to support in steady state 60 locally based startups, primarily those that are developing “tough” technologies — breakthrough ideas that require time and patient capital to commercialize — in a range of sectors including biotechnology, robotics, manufacturing, medical devices, and energy.


Accepted startups will participate in The Engine’s incubator for up to 12 months. In that time, they will receive financial investments as well as guidance in business planning and access to shared services such as legal, technology licensing, and administrative assistance. Entrepreneurs will be able to take advantage of specialized equipment, services, expertise, and space through an online marketplace developed for The Engine.

To financially support startups, The Engine will form a venture-investing arm, which will provide significant, long-term capital support to help startups transition from ideation phases to commercial success. The Engine venture funds will demand less equity in startups than is typical, allowing founders to maintain more control over their companies. The Engine is also actively exploring avenues to support nonprofit startups.

To start, The Engine is raising $150 million for a first fund, with $25 million coming from MIT as a limited partner.

The Engine will also provide space to participating startups. Its Cambridge headquarters will offer 26,000 square feet, and MIT seeks to make available in Kendall Square and nearby neighborhoods, as soon as possible, a first wave of additional space, so that participating companies could soon have over 200,000 square feet designed to meet their needs.

As part of The Engine, MIT is starting a pilot program with the City of Cambridge — “Pathways to Invention” — designed to give Cambridge schoolchildren hands-on experiences, at MIT and around the city, that introduce them to the work of invention and to the college and career paths that lead to it.

Acceleration at two vital stages for startups

The Engine will support entrepreneurs during two specific stages of innovation: the early “proof of product” stage, when entrepreneurs initially translate a novel idea into a commercializable venture, and the later stage between advanced prototypes and commercial production.

For the initial stage — which includes initial prototyping and product testing — The Engine will make meaningful investments that will allow participating startups to get off the ground quickly and operate long enough to prove their concepts’ viability. It will also provide shared access to costly infrastructure and resources and foster a community of experts and innovators who can lend expertise to the startups: Building upon lessons learned by the Innovation Initiative in supporting innovation and entrepreneurship on campus, MIT has identified many of the challenges that startups face as they enter these earliest stages.

For follow-up stages — after the startups have advanced prototypes but haven’t yet demonstrated their products at commercial scale — it intends to provide increased support to promising startups.

The Engine will establish a network of existing and forthcoming shared spaces surrounding the MIT campus — including offices, labs, and prototyping and maker spaces — that will enable convenient and cost-efficient sharing of capital-intensive equipment, which is vital to startups aiming to make physical products.

Further linking the new facilities, Engine-sponsored transportation will help entrepreneurs and others move among facilities in Cambridge, Boston’s Seaport District, spaces in MIT’s West Campus, and other nearby areas featuring resources that will best serve the needs of entrepreneurs.

A marketplace for specialized resources

To make sharing space and resources easier, The Engine will create an online marketplace for entrepreneurs. A web-based application called the Engine Room will allow entrepreneurs to use or rent specialized resources from each other and from MIT, including office and conference spaces on and off campus, clean rooms, and other facilities and specialized equipment.  

The application builds on MIT’s recently released Mobius App, which makes the Institute’s labs, makerspaces, and other resources more broadly available to students. The Engine will work with hosts to establish terms of access, instead of leaving negotiation to each startup. The Engine Room will also serve as a portal to a network of experts and mentors. 

In the long run, The Engine aims to link Cambridge, Boston, and other Massachusetts regions and cities as an interconnected network — and to link its activities to those of other centers of innovation across the world, such as MIT’s innovation activities in Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Press Mentions

Scientific American

Scientific American reporter Wade Roush spotlights The Engine as “one bright spot in the world of tech investing.” Ann DeWitt, a general partner at The Engine notes that the researchers The Engine tends to work with are “compelled into entrepreneurship because of what they're trying to achieve.”

Boston Globe

Boston Globe reporter Scott Kirsner explores the growth and impact of The Engine, highlighting how the venture is “revving up the potential” of tough tech startups. Kirsner notes that The Engine has “managed to create a supremely supportive ecosystem for these startups.”

Epoch Times

In an article for The Epoch Times, Emel Akpan highlights how The Engine is focused on supporting startups in fields that require time and patient capital. “We have a focus on tough tech,” explains Katie Rae, CEO and president of The Engine. “We think that’s where the resources are limited. But the opportunities can have a lot of impact.”

Boston Globe

In an article for The Boston Globe’s 2017 “Game Changers” section - which highlights ideas, inventions, people and places making waves in Boston - Robert Weisman spotlights The Engine. “We hope to create world-changing companies that will grow in the Boston region,” explains Katie Rae, The Engine’s President and CEO.

Bloomberg News

President L. Rafael Reif speaks with Cory Johnson of Bloomberg TV about The Engine, a new entity from MIT to support startups tackling humanity’s biggest problems. Reif explains that our innovation ecosystem is geared toward maximizing profits, "but we have a lot of innovation and ideas that are to maximize societal impact and those ought to find a way to the marketplace.”

Xconomy

Xconomy reporter Jeff Engel writes about The Engine, a new venture MIT launched to provide “resources to startups whose technologies typically take lots of time and capital to develop—think biotech, robotics, advanced manufacturing, medical devices, and energy.”

BostInno

BostInno reporter Olivia Vanni writes that MIT is launching a new venture to support startups working on scientific and technological innovations that require time and patient capital. Vanni writes that tech industry leaders see the new effort “as a prime opportunity to retain our local tech talent."

Boston Business Journal

David Harris reports for the Boston Business Journal on MIT’s new venture that will provide space, funding and support to startups focused on developing “‘tough’ technologies — big ideas that require time and long-term capital to commercialize — in a range of sectors including biotechnology, robotics, manufacturing, medical devices and energy.”

Boston Globe

President L. Rafael Reif writes for The Boston Globe about The Engine, a new venture built by MIT to support startups tackling the world’s pressing challenges. Reif writes that The Engine will provide a model of support that nurtures “high-impact ideas and speeds them into the world while helping our regional innovation ecosystem flourish.”

Boston Globe

MIT’s new enterprise, called The Engine, is aimed at supporting startups in research-heavy fields, writes Curt Woodward for The Boston Globe. “We see the opportunity for MIT to start this process and really make a huge difference in driving down the cost of innovation in hard technology and science,” notes Israel Ruiz, MIT’s executive vice president and treasurer.

CNN

CNN reporter Matt McFarland writes that MIT is launching a new entity aimed at providing space, funding and support for startups focused on tackling the world’s biggest challenges. "This is putting a piece in the puzzle that is missing," explains Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz. "There's a deficiency in the ecosystem to support these startups."

WBUR

Zeninjor Enwemeka reports for WBUR that MIT is launching an effort aimed at helping startups bring scientific inventions from the lab to the marketplace. Enwemeka notes that in addition to providing space, funding and support for startups, The Engine “will tap into the region's innovation hubs and aims to create an innovation network across the area.”

Related Links

Related Topics

Related Articles

More MIT News

Photo of Annauk Olin with her husband and baby

Saving Iñupiaq

Linguistics graduate student Annauk Olin is helping her Alaska Native community preserve their language and navigate the severe impact of climate change.

Read full story