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Can Manufacturing Incubators Help Drive the Next Wave of Manufacturing?

Posted By Paul Tate, July 07, 2015 at 6:58 AM, in Category: Factories of the Future

94800342_Glowing_Box.jpgIf you want to start up a new hi-tech software business, all you really need is a powerful laptop, a fast network connection, a desk (and even that’s optional), and a good idea. Easy, right?

But if you want to start up an innovative new manufacturing business, the chances are you’re going to need a lot more space, a lot more complex equipment, and access to a few more like-minded people to make it happen.

That’s part of the motivation behind a number of recent moves to establish dedicated new manufacturing incubators in the U.S.

As Scott Cohen, co-founder of the 84,000-square-foot New Labs incubator hub in the old Brooklyn Shipyard in New York City, stressed in his recent keynote speech at the 11th Manufacturing Leadership Summit, as industries converge and new technologies open up new opportunities for production, it’s important to create physical spaces where engineering and design innovators can collaborate and feed off each others’ ideas to spark true innovation.

This week the city of Seattle announced plans to create its own first manufacturing incubator to help lower the costs of entry and encourage small businesses to pursue their manufacturing dreams.

Modestly funded with just $100,000 so far, the Seattle Office of Economic Development’s business finance specialist, A J Cari, hopes it will help create “a space where like businesses can collaborate, network, partner with each other, and make complementary goods.

“We’re hoping this will help smaller businesses provide the environment where they can get a foothold,” he added.

Meanwhile in upstate New York, there are plans to convert the vacant Schweizer-Sikorsky aircraft building in Chemung County into a new start-up hub for small manufacturers, called IncubatorWorks.

Part of the Southern Tier Start-Up Alliance program, backed by Binghamton University, Corning Enterprises and Cornell University, IncubatorWorks hopes to attract up to 10 new advanced manufacturing businesses in the near future.

"The opportunity of advanced manufacturing is where the future is, pure and simple," believes Chemung County Executive, Tom Santulli. "I think this is the start of a new era for a small Southern Tier county."

While the Obama administration’s network of national manufacturing innovation institutes may be approaching the pursuit of manufacturing innovation on a grander scale, perhaps the creation of local incubator initiatives and collaborative start-up environments like these will be just as important to the future of U.S. manufacturing by helping to attract more young entrepreneurs with great ideas to join the journey to Manufacturing 4.0. 

Written by Paul Tate

Paul Tate is Research Director and Executive Editor with Frost & Sullivan's Manufacturing Leadership Council. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Board of Governors, the Council's annual Critical Issues Agenda, and the Manufacturing Leadership Research Panel. Follow us on Twitter: @MfgExecutive


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