Urban Future Lab Opens Its Doors

On March 13, the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering opened its newest business incubator, The Urban Future Lab, in partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

According to Micah Kotch, director of innovation and entrepreneurship for NYU's incubator initiatives, the lab’s core focus is developing innovative approaches to sustainable infrastructure and urban resilience, "Our central premise is that public-private-academic partnerships are best suited to tackle our biggest problems. Entrepreneurs are our heroes. We believe they are the best chance we have to solve climate and energy challenges which are the defining issue of our generation."

NYCEDC president Kyle Kimball added, “We’ve found that promoting sustainability is not only a sound environmental policy, but it is also a really sound economic policy.” The NYCEDC forecasts that this initiative will create 9,000 jobs in New York City by 2025.

During the ceremony, ADT Security Systems announced a gift of $50,000 to the Urban Future Lab. ADT joins a growing list of supporters which also includes Forest City Ratner Companies and National Grid. The lab also serves as a home to PowerBridgeNY, a collaboration with NYSERDA to move promising energy technologies from university laboratories into businesses.

“We get to punch above our weight,” said James Hendon, Chief Operating Officer of BlocPower, a startup company that finds investors for energy-efficient projects in underserved communities. “This place is almost like being at a Fortune 500 company.”

In addition to providing office space, the incubator also offers mentorship and a sense of community to New York City’s growing network of cleantech startups.

According to Hendon, “The number-one benefit is networking and sharing ideas with other companies at the Urban Future Lab.”

That sentiment was echoed by another incoming tenant, Emelie Westdahl of Regen Energy, “As a company just starting off here, it’s great to get the introductions and referrals.” Regen Energy helps businesses save energy—and money—with smart, wireless consumption monitors, “I am very impressed with the level of support from city and state agencies,” she said. “There’s a lot of passion here.”

The lab plans to facilitate a wide variety of educational programs, from K-12 STEM to adult job training. “Everything we do in Brooklyn,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, “should include the three E’s: energy efficiency, education and employment.”

While the 10,000 square foot incubator features stunning views of the Manhattan skyline from the top floor of 15 Metrotech Center, all eyes were on the important work the lies ahead for the lab’s tenants.

Katepalli Sreenivasan, dean of the School of Engineering, spoke of the creativity and innovation he believes the lab will foster. He concluded his remarks saying, “To our tenants and community partners, I offer this location as your canvas. We will even supply some of the paint and brushes, but it is up to you to create the masterpiece.”