The Delaware Innovation Space, a nonprofit incubator located in Wilmington, provides lab space, tools and
support to startup companies in the scientific arena to help them grow and reach their goals. Created by the State of Delaware, DuPont and the University of Delaware, the facility is located on the historic Experimental Station and bills itself as the place where “entrepreneurs take research to the real world.”
William Provine, president and CEO of Delaware Innovation Space, talks about how small companies and entrepreneurs benefit from working in the Innovation Space and what’s next.
Q: How much of the roughly 130,000 square feet of space in the Innovation Space is currently occupied? What’s the timeline for other companies moving in?
William Provine: The Delaware Innovation Space has seen especially strong early demand supporting both early-stage companies and anchor tenants. We currently are supporting nine different companies, including six early-stage companies and three anchor tenants. These nine companies are supporting over 160 high-paying jobs resident today in the Delaware Innovation Space. Overall, we are about 75 percent subscribed and are actively evaluating other applications from startups to join our innovation community on a rolling basis.
Q: For smaller companies and entrepreneurs in the chemical space, what are the benefits of working in the Innovation Space?
WP: The Delaware Innovation Space provides entrepreneurs with business and research operations support, including access to modern laboratories with a full suite of operational services, co-located shared and private offices, conference facilities, cafés and collaboration centers scattered across the Innovation Space. We leverage strengths from DuPont and the University of Delaware and put them into service for our startup clients. We also provide access to loaned equipment from our scientific equipment inventory, in addition to access to our leveraged analytical equipment and workshops in the Innovation Space. We also continue to build on our strong network of partners that allows us to connect entrepreneurs and client companies with best-in-class access to industry partners, customers and investors in addition to providing access to expertise (e.g., legal and intellectual property development) and support for developing and refining business models.
Q: In particular, how important is the state-of-the-art lab space and services that you offer?
WP: “Deep Tech” or “Hard Science” entrepreneurs — those driving science-based business concepts exploiting chemistry, material science and biotechnology — require access to modern scientific laboratories and access to an expert team to support their research operations, from technical assistance to safety training and process/lab startup support. They simply cannot initiate or grow their business without it. But also, space is important but not sufficient. Gaining access to the operational and partnership structure of our organization is critically important to turn science inventions into innovations that ultimately will reach the market and enable the products that we all consume, from new electronics to the next treatment or cure for cancer.
Q: Where do you see the Innovation Space in five years?
WP: The Innovation Space will continue its strategic journey to create and grow science-based businesses. In five years, we will have expanded the number of companies that we support by a factor of two to three times of where we are today. We will have created a global center for science entrepreneurship with business-building programs that help the community to better translate ideas into businesses. We will have graduated early clients and brought in new clients in our continuing cycle of company/job creation, growth and ultimate graduation. As companies graduate, we will work in partnership with the state, county and city leaders along with local developers to land these companies successfully in Delaware.
Q: Considering the legacy of the Experimental Station, what does it mean to have the Innovation Space located there?
WP: Delaware as we know it today was built on the shoulders of entrepreneurs. From the early days with E.I. du Pont and the formation of the DuPont Company to the Gore family and formation of W.L. Gore and Associates to Incyte, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Agilent Technologies — strong Delaware-based companies have been built from foundational discoveries and personnel who were inspired or directly supported by working at or with collaborators at the Experimental Station. The Experimental Station is now 115 years old and continues to renew itself as an engine for growth for our great state of Delaware. The location of the Delaware Innovation Space at the Experimental Station allows us to bring this strength to the next generation of entrepreneurs and build on this legacy for the next century and beyond.