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Focusing on startups with world-changing potential, MIT launches The Engine

MIT wants disruptive entrepreneurs to remain in the greater Boston area. Accordingly, the university has started The Engine, an innovation network designed to support startup companies with the potential to change the world, according to an MIT News Office report.

The Engine will provide space, funding, and expertise to scientific and technological innovation startups that can have “transformative societal impact.” According to MIT President L. Rafael Reif, The Engine is responding to an unmet need in the Kendall Square, Cambridge, Boston area. Many companies can’t make it past the ideation stage due to a lack of the funding and other resources required to go further. The Engine’s purpose is to fill that need.

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“If we hope for serious solutions to the world’s great challenges, we need to make sure the innovators working on those problems see a realistic pathway to the marketplace,” said President Reif. “The Engine can provide that pathway by prioritizing breakthrough ideas over early profit, helping to shorten the time it takes these startups to become ‘VC-ready,’ providing comprehensive support in the meantime, and creating an enthusiastic community of inventors and supporters who share a focus on making a better world. We believe this approach can offer exponential growth to regions that pursue it successfully — and we want Greater Boston to lead the way.”

The Engine hopes to find a “steady state” of supporting 60 locally based startups in the innovation incubator for up to 12 months. Headquartered in Cambridge, The Engine will have 26,000 square feet in that building and plans to expand space to more than 200,000 square feet in Kendall Square and adjacent neighborhoods.

MIT is kicking in $25 million as a limited partner and is seeking an additional $125 million in a related venture capital fund. The capital will be used to provide long-term support to assist startups transitioning from initial concept phases to commercial success. According to MIT, The Engine’s venture arm will not demand as much equity as typical VC funds, keeping more equity with the founders.

The innovation support enterprise will also provide access to a network of resources to support and lend expertise and connections to startup companies. Keeping them in the Boston area is a major goal.

MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz led The Engine’s launch. “We want highly disruptive entrepreneurs to stay in Greater Boston,” said Ruiz. “This is where the boldest ideas in the world should find their home.”