New program will help cleantech startups move their products from the lab to the factory floor

Manufacturing is the most misunderstood step in launching a new hardware product. It’s also the most complex, time-consuming, and costly phase in commercializing new technologies. New York state’s Manufacturing Corps Pilot Program, or M-Corps, will help startups and manufacturers work closely together to overcome the manufacturing obstacles that keep emerging technologies from fulfilling untapped market demands for cleaner, more efficient, and less-costly energy use.

Backed by $4 million from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, M-Corps will help develop, launch, and scale innovation among startups while helping advance the state’s clean energy and emission reduction goals.

M-Corps is the next generation of a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority program called the Proof of Concept Center, according to Mike Riedlinger, program manager for technology commercialization at NextCorps. He explained that, through the center, entrepreneurs were able produce prototypes of their concepts, with the majority of them going on to launch companies and start to commercialize their technologies.

M-Corps is designed to assist clean energy hardware innovators go a step further and successfully scale their technology from product prototype to mass production. The program will provide entrepreneurs who have already developed a prototype and established a business with a rigorous process, immersive training, and the necessary support over 12 to 18 months. The manufacturing readiness roadmap they develop will allow startup teams to quickly and cost-effectively move their clean energy hardware into production.

Reidlinger noted that often, entrepreneurs don’t know what to do or where to go once they have reached this stage, and that the M-Corps program will provide education and experiential support to help them “go from a benchtop prototype to mass production and scale.”

Erica Ianotti, M-Corps program manager at NYSERDA, described M-Corps as a hardware accelerator. “We're really looking forward to developing the program and learning from what works best for the startups,” she said, adding that the goal is to produce a statewide suite of programs that can attract and support all the cleantech hardware companies in the state. “I think we have a much better chance of meeting our clean energy goals and seeing wider market adoption if we're helping companies that are at this growth stage.”

Because M-Corps focuses on businesses that manufacture products rather than invent apps or sell services, Ianotti believes it will address an unmet need for these startups. “M-Corps is a really fresh new program that addresses startup companies at a different stage than we typically have supported them,” she said.

While the program will be held in Rochester, entrepreneurs from throughout the state may apply by Oct. 12. Eight to 10 businesses will be selected for the first cohort, and a second one is planned for spring. For more information and to apply, contact Mike Riedlinger at mike.riedlinger@nextcorps.org or 585.214.2422.

Read more articles by Jeff Dahlberg.

Jeff Dahlberg is a freelance writer and the author of “Not Just Snow and Chicken Wings: Positive Stories About Buffalo’s Rebirth.” He was born and raised in Western New York. A University at Buffalo and Second City graduate, he longs for the day when both the Bills win a Super Bowl and the Sabres win a Stanley Cup.
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