Promethean looking for new digs

Promethean looking for new digs

Cambridge’s first cleantech-focused incubator is about to be replaced – by a biotech building. Solar technology developer Promethean Power Systems had been providing shop space for energy startups in a building near Lechmere Square. Now, after less than a year, it is out looking for new digs, after the owner of the building sold it for redevelopment into a biotech facility.

Cambridge Mayor David Maher visited the incubator last week, and put an item related to the incubator’s situation on the agenda for a City Council meeting taking place tonight at Cambridge City Hall. The mayor’s policy order resolution asks the council to examine the feasibility of piloting a city-sponsored incubator on the first floor of a largely vacant city-owned garage on First Street. The mayor himself could not be reached for comment, but Promethean founder Sam White said he is working with Maher’s office on helping establish something in that location.

White said he’s also reached out to MIT for help. Most of the companies that participate have MIT connections, and proximity to the university is important in his real estate search – but so far MIT officials have shown little enthusiasm.

“At the end of the day, there’s one institution that could push a button and this would be resolved and that’s MIT,” White said. “They own tens of thousands of square feet of empty warehouse space, but it’s not worth it to lease out the space to startups for the liability.”

MIT Senior Real Estate Officer Michael Fahey could not be reached for comment.

While coworking spaces and incubators abound for high-tech companies that need only desks and high-speed Internet, it’s harder to find space for cleantech entrepreneurs who need an actual shop floor on which to install machinery and build prototypes, White said.

Promethean moved this summer into shop space on Charles Street in East Cambridge, where the company has been building a prototype of its solar-powered milk cooler, aimed at rural markets in developing countries. It was more space than the company needed, and soon Promethean found itself surrounded by roommates. “There’s no shortage of ideas and people working on cleantech stuff,” White said, “but there certainly is a shortage of having a cement floor to build the prototypes out.” Other tenants of the ad hoc incubator, which doesn’t yet have a name, include wind turbine developer Altaeros Energy, smart grid startup Coincident and natural gas compression system developer Oscomp Systems, according to a Boston Globe report in October.

White said he and his neighbors have until March, when new owner Skanska plans to begin work demolishing the one-story building and replacing it with a new facility it plans to build, aimed at small biotech tenants, White said. Skanska could not immediately be reached to confirm their plans.

Read more: Promethean looking for new digs | Boston Business Journal

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