With a ribbon-cutting, speeches and tour of its extensive laboratory space, the formal opening of the new high-tech Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs incubator was celebrated Thursday, May 17.
A crowd of more than 100 representatives from Princeton University, the town of Plainsboro, local industries and the center's first tenant companies attended the event at the Forrestal Center in Plainsboro.
Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs offers co-working lab and office space for high-tech startup companies formed by Princeton University faculty, students and alumni as well as members of the wider New Jersey community.
“This dynamic incubator space for high-potential startups and new ventures pursues a vision shared by members of our campus community and others in the surrounding municipalities,” said Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber.
“Increasingly, our students, faculty and researchers seek to make a difference in the world through innovative entrepreneurial ventures that address societal needs," Eisgruber said. “And our best scholars are finding that collaborations with partners outside academia can assist both applied and basic research by helping them to identify interesting questions that matter to our society.
“Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs is one of several initiatives designed to strengthen the innovation ecosystem in central New Jersey and thereby expand the impact of Princeton’s teaching and research,” he said. “We hope that continued partnerships will foster an innovation community that has the potential to catalyze pathbreaking discoveries, contribute to the regional economy, and make central New Jersey an increasingly vibrant and attractive place for all who live and work here.”
The facility is designed to encourage collaboration, with shared work areas and many types of meeting spaces where scientists and entrepreneurs can share techniques and spark new ideas.
“The concept of these [BioLabs] facilities is built around openness, transparency and shared resources,” said University Provost Deborah Prentice. “Those of you who have taken a tour can see that these ideas are manifest in this facility.”
This Princeton facility is the first of its kind, said Johannes Fruehauf, president and CEO of BioLabs. Other BioLabs facilities in the country are exclusively biomedical spaces, but Princeton faculty had different needs, he said, resulting in a “much more multidisciplinary space.”
The 31,000-square-foot entrepreneurial hub includes fully equipped work spaces for biology, chemistry and engineering companies, with 68 lab benches, private offices and shared desks for more than 200 scientists and entrepreneurs. When full, Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs will house 25 or more small companies, most with only a handful of employees.
“We hope to nurture a lot of local, Princeton and New Jersey startups into becoming ‘grown-up,’ successful companies that ultimately graduate from here,” Fruehauf said. “Our success is not to fill this space. Our success is to graduate … five, 10, 12 companies per year.”
Those companies would join a thriving business community in central New Jersey, said Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu, who has served as mayor for 36 years and as a member of the Plainsboro Township Committee for 43 years.
“We are particularly proud of what has become a significant center for health care, wellness and pharmaceutical companies associated with research and development,” Cantu said. “Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs represents a great, important contribution to that community.”
Located 3 miles from the Princeton campus, the new center is designed to support a wide range of research and entrepreneurial activities. In addition to its labs, the facility includes a videoconference room, a café, a freezer room for samples and cultures, as well as machines for running polymerase chain reactions and liquid chromatography. It also provides smaller items like centrifuges, microscopes, scales — and multiple coffee machines.
Two businesses have already started working there, and two more will start June 1, said Nishta Rao, director of Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs. Five more companies have had their applications accepted.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Eisgruber was joined by Cantu, Fruehauf, Prentice, Rao and several others who have played key roles in supporting Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs: Susan Chase, vice president of business development for BioLabs; Paul LaMarche, vice provost for space programming and planning at Princeton and chairman of Princeton Innovation Center; Anne-Marie Maman, executive director of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council; and Sam Rozycki, senior project manager with Princeton’s Office of Design and Construction.