Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Schools = Summer Space for Small Companies?

Ahhh, summer! Time to put your feet up, barbecue, maybe take a long vacation with the family. But while you're away...who's working in your lab space?
"Piled Higher and Deeper" by Jorge Cham -
Long-time readers know I work at a fairly small biotech; we've joked before over whether to call ourselves "micro" or "nano" based solely on full-time employees. Due to our infrastructure limitations, we depend on local universities and off-site collaborations to move projects along. Sometimes, small companies like us will band together in an incubator facility (examples: Seattle, Virginia, Mass), with room to work out their science, and (presumably) access to shared instruments like NMR, MS, or HPLC.

Critical lab equipment
A recent visit to our local Uni revealed another potential angle: unused academic lab space. Despite rumors to the contrary regarding crazy hours grad students work, repeat trips have taught me that this particular school doesn't seem too strict about summer schedules. Perfect storm, right? Here's some fully-functional labs waiting for someone to use them in a down cycle. The staff's there, safety's looked after, police and fire standing by, what more could you want?

I'm certain I'm not the first to voice this idea (examples: UT, Iowa State). I'm sure there's boondoggles to work out with IP transfer and inventorship. But I'm surprised I don't see more universities opening their doors to entrepreneurs full-tilt over the summer months.


  1. I assume you mean teaching labs? Either way, what company would willingly want to uproot some portion of the company every June and September, unless they were temporary contracts or something...

  2. No, I mean normal labs. And they wouldn't, this would just be for startup space. Plenty of folks have an idea, and, say, $10K in capital. If they could take over a few hoods in the back of a functioning lab, with instrument access, they could start things moving fairly cheaply and quickly.

    A similar company grew out of my pdoc school, using lab space no one occupied at the time. 8 months later, they leased more space off-campus, but those summer months were critical.

  3. The biotech I worked at 12 years ago looked into leasing lab space at a local university (not a small institution either), but for a variety of reasons it didn't work out. I would have totally volunteered to work in that space.