What is the best way to continue supporting innovation in an age of reduced federal spending? Leading innovation scholars William Bonvillian and Peter Singer highlighted several programs that show a promising method for creating “Innovation Orchards” in their recent ITIF article, “Innovation Orchards”: Helping Tech Start-ups Scale.
The authors of the study are long-time thought leaders from the MIT Washington Office. They cited the Fraunhofer Techbridge model as an example program that “federal and state government programs should recognize the potential benefits of … and [they should] more actively support its replication across the nation.”
Most incubators and accelerators only have the resources to help technology start-ups with the early development stages. The authors point out that Fraunhofer TechBridge helps “fill this gap and focus on later stage support.” TechBridge, a group within the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in Boston (one of the world’s largest nonprofit applied-research and development laboratories), leverages funding from for-profit corporations with venturing or technology prospecting interests to provide extensive lab support for new technology and product validation. “It helps to certify new technologies through industry-driven validation and demonstration projects that Fraunhofer performs, rather than through the innovators themselves.” The most recent data from the 16 technology development projects that TechBridge performed, lead to the beneficiary companies receiving $180 of follow-on investment from the private sector for every $1 spent by TechBridge. A total of was $73M raised, average raise of $4.5M and Funding Rate of 94% of portfolio companies.
ADL partners founded, developed, and led TechBridge from 2008 to 2013. This effort was part of the inspiration for the founding of ADL, and highlighted the potential of deeper engagement with corporate strategic partners in the early stages of technology commercialization.