Sam White of Promethean Power e-mailed earlier this week to let me know (along with a number of state and local officials) about a new incubator space he'd opened over the summer in unused warehouse space less than a block from the CambridgeSide Galleria.
"It's a beautiful cleantech ecosystem that has been created out of desperation," he wrote, "and [I] thought you'd like to come see the excitement of actually bending metal and building everything from airborne wind turbines to more efficient natural gas compressors to solar milk chillers."
I dropped by the next day to have a look around. Outside the front door, you encounter a small solar panel that Promethean is using to test their sun-powered milk chiller, designed to be used by rural dairy farmers in India, where access to electricity can be unreliable.
White (pictured at left) says that while Boston and Cambridge offer lots of different incubation options for companies that just need cubicles, WiFi and computers, energy-oriented endeavors often need access to a machine shop. They also need space that can get grungy, and his thus-far nameless incubator (I want to suggest calling it the East Cambridge Energy Epicenter) has wires hanging from the ceiling, loading docks, and unfinished concrete floors.
The buildings were once occupied by Kendall Press. White found the 6,000 square-foot space over the summer, with help from realtor Tad Lee at Colliers Meredith & Grew.
Right now there are four tenants at the space, though there's room for more, White says.
Jason Hanna, the founder of Coincident, said he'd recently received a $1 million Phase II SBIR grant from the Department of Energy, to develop a system that will collect information from the various smart appliances and meters that will eventually show up in consumers' homes, and present it all in a Web-based interface. He said he'd moved the company out of his garage in Lakeville into the East Cambridge space.
Jeremy Pitts of Oscomp Systems showed me a prototype compression system the start-up is building, which might one day be used to help extract more gas from what are called "marginal wells" — older wells that can't be efficiently operated using today's technology.
Unfortunately, no one from Altaeros Energies was around when I visited; the company is developing a high-altitude wind turbine that is held aloft by a helium-filled balloon. But I'm told they've been out around Boston recently, flight-testing an early design.
White mentioned that Promethean is working on a second-generation prototype of its milk chiller, after field-testing the first version in Savoi, India. "There are about 600,000 villages that produce milk in India, but only 300,000 can contribute to the organized dairy industry," White says. "We want to change that."
He's also hoping that state agencies such as the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center might consider supporting the incubation space in some way, as a next address for start-ups that spring from university labs. That sounds like a swell idea to me...
In the photo below, from left to right, are Hanna, White, Sorin Grama of Promethean, Pitts, and Andrew Nelson of Oscomp.
About Scott Kirsner
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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