Every wet lab incubator is different, but there are some aspects of life within that are common across most such facilities. For startups who are considering applying to wet lab incubators, it can be helpful to understand what day-to-day life is like so they can decide whether it fits their company’s culture. Read on to discover what happens after a company is accepted into a wet lab incubator.
Once the agreement is signed and the initial fees paid, onboarding of the new member can begin. This will usually require the startup to provide the names and contact information of all employees who will be accessing the space on a regular basis. The incubator usually provides additional documentation at this point that pertains to safety, policies, and conduct. Safety documentation may include a safety manual and/or links to safety courses. Incubators’ policies commonly include the approved methods for purchasing, booking equipment, storing property, and reporting issues. Conduct refers to the behavior of a member company’s employees, which is particularly important in a shared space. Employees may be required to sign that they have read and understood the documentation provided by the incubator.
When onboarding is complete, the next step is for the company to move their property to the incubator. Most incubators prefer this to be scheduled ahead of time so they can have any keys or key cards/fobs ready for the new member. Incubators generally do not provide moving assistance as a service, so new member companies either have to move their property into the incubator themselves or hire an outside moving company. If the member is not moving large equipment into the space, usually a moving company is unnecessary. However, startups should be aware that if they do hire a moving company many will not touch lab equipment or chemicals, in which case the member may need to hire a moving company that specializes in labs.
Common problems for companies to experience during move in are usually related to either the size of the equipment they are bringing in, or its electrical requirements. Even if an incubator does not ask about this during onboarding, it is a good idea for the startup to ask what the size, weight, and electrical limits are for items they bring in.
Some incubators are very hands-off during the move-in and do not make a big deal of it. Others celebrate new company move-ins, make introductions to the other members, or otherwise recognize the event.
Wet lab incubators tend to be relatively quiet spaces to work in most of the time. This is due in part to members requiring both lab and desk space, so if they are in the lab, their desk will be empty. It is also because scientists and engineers often work different hours than the standard 9 to 5. Some arrive at 6am and leave at 2pm, while others arrive at noon and leave at 8pm. Here are 8 things that an incubator member may do or utilize on a normal day at a wet lab incubator.
One important factor to remember about incubators is that each day is unlikely to be exactly the same as the one before. That said, there is a normal range of activities and occurrences that can be expected with some frequency. Outliers will exist, and there are a few that can be expected though with low frequency. Here are 4 abnormal occurrences that might make that day at the incubator less than stellar.
Although wet lab incubators are wonderful places for young companies to get their start, eventually those companies will outgrow the space. Whether because they need to hire more employees, buy more equipment, or move into more highly regulated space, it is expected that members will leave the incubator as they grow.
The timeline for moving out of an incubator, or “graduating,” as some call it, vary from space to space. Because most companies that use wet lab space are in highly regulated industries, they usually need more time than other types of companies to get to the next phase of their development. Generally, though, wet lab incubators expect their companies to graduate within 1-3 years. Some incubators also evaluate milestone achievement.
When a member company is planning to move out, the incubator may be highly involved in the process or may be hands-off. A highly involved incubator might be able to make connections between the member company and real estate brokers or directly with building owners to assist the member in finding new lab space. They may also introduce the members to lab equipment and furniture vendors as needed. Regardless of the level of involvement, all incubators will require certain processes be followed in preparation for leaving. This usually includes planning the best routes for movers to get through the space without disrupting other companies, the time and day of the move itself, where boxes might be staged beforehand, and other such logistics. After the member’s property has been removed from the space, the incubator will inspect the space for signs of damage, collect keys/key cards, and possibly have a celebration to say goodbye to a part of their community.
Life at a wet lab incubator isn’t for every company, but it does confer a sense of community and provide resources that many startups would not otherwise be able to access. Even something as simple as being able to ask a neighboring startup to borrow a reagent can be a valuable part of the experience. Read this post to learn about wet lab incubators in Southern California.