Harvard wants its engineering students to turn research into reality.
The University launched an initiative last week that aims to help affiliates translate research into startups by providing funding, work spaces, and mentorship opportunities.
The initiative, called “The Grid,” is a collaboration between the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Office of Technology Development.
The project expands previous funding sources that were available to science and engineering researchers through OTD’s Physical Science and Engineering Accelerator, which has supported at least 16 startups since 2013. The Accelerator program will now be housed under The Grid, which is located in Harvard’s Science and Engineering Complex.
The new program, which will be able to award “more and larger grants,” will offer networking and advising opportunities to early-stage entrepreneurs who are selected, according to a press release announcing its creation.
“What we’re hoping to do is partner with faculty and graduate students and undergrads anywhere along the spectrum to accelerate the flywheel of University research translation,” said Paul N. Hayre, executive director of The Grid.
Sam T. Liss, executive director of strategic partnership at Harvard’s Office of Technology Development, said the initiative seeks to fill “a gap” in support for early-stage startups.
Liss said the program could be “a feeder” to other existing startup initiatives, including the Harvard Innovation Lab.
“We’re building connections to the various complementary programs in our ecosystem,” he said.
SEAS Dean Francis J. Doyle said in the press release announcing the program that it will seek to diversify the population of startup founders by providing greater resources and mentorship opportunities to women and members of other underrepresented groups.
Hayre, The Grid executive director, said the program will reach diverse groups of entrepreneurs by collaborating with student organizations throughout Harvard.
Marko Lončar, a SEAS professor who founded a company with Harvard support prior to The Grid in 2018, said the new program will benefit young entrepreneurs.
“Some students benefit from just a little bit of guidance, and I think a lot of us would learn in the process,” he said.
He said he hopes to see The Grid offer workshops on entrepreneurship and create opportunities for students to meet venture capitalists in order to help with “market discovery.”
“I think it would be nice to have a physical space where people interested in entrepreneurship can go,” he said.
Yaro Tenzer, CEO of Righthand Robotics, a startup that got initial funding from the Harvard OTD accelerator that preceded The Grid, called the new program “fantastic.”
“When you’re starting a company, there are so many ways the company can fail,” he said.
Having “a centralized place that knows how to take entrepreneurs from ideation to prototyping” to receiving funding “really reduces the risk for entrepreneurs,” he added.
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