NYS incubators meet in Albany
That was the highly symbolic site of the Business Incubator Association of New York State's annual meeting today.
About 60 representatives from business incubators across the state attended the association's one-day annual meeting at the Empire State Plaza, to hear what their peers are doing to promote entrepreneurship and innovation across New York State.
Included among the speakers was Mike Shimazu, a project manager for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The state agency has been helping fund research and development for more than 30 years, but in 2009 branched out into the business of incubation.
Over the past two years, NYSERDA has given out nearly $3 million to six clean-energy incubators, says Shimazu:
“We found perhaps that some of these products weren’t quite making it to market as quickly or as effectively because the companies [that] were bringing them to market just needed a little extra business help so that’s what these incubators are for ... to take the start-up companies [and] set them on the right strategic path.”
"A big driver"
NYSERDA’s incubator programs span the state, from Long Island to Buffalo. Four out of the six are located at universities.
“Ultimately, the students, and student entrepreneurship is going to be a big driver, I think, for New York State’s economy” says Shimazu.
Each incubator receives about $1.5 million from NYSERDA over a four-year period. Shimazu says the agency has already seen progress from the programs, even though only about a third of the money has been spent so far.
Some of the innovations out of the NYSERDA incubators include:
- "The modlet," a plug-in product from NYC-based firm, ThinkEco, which helps monitor and reduce the power usage of appliances;
- Rochester-based Sweetwater Energy is turning crop silage into sugar to be used for biofuel;
- NYC-based, Wind Products LLC, helps companies find optimal places for wind turbines.
Shimazu says helping new businesses get started is one of the solutions needed to turn the country’s struggling economy around.
“I think broadly written, innovation is the solution,” he says. “That means R&D, it means business incubation, it means a lot of these other services that people are talking about.”