The Engine Blueprint Program
The program helps the next generation of Tough Tech leaders navigate the commercialization process through tailored programming concerning technology risk mitigation and experimentation planning, market discovery and selection, IP, team building, storytelling, and other topics.
Blueprint provides participants access to The Engine team, Tough Tech founders, investors, policymakers, and representatives from major corporations.
Real opportunities. Real impact.
01 / 09 Identifying the series of milestones that will prepare you for commercialization.
02 / 09 Connecting benchtop science to big picture problems.
03 / 09 Redesigning technologies to maximize benefit for both people and planet.
04 / 09 Leveling up as a founder and leading an early team.
05 / 09 Navigating the transition from research scientist to entrepreneur.
06 / 09 Building on the lessons of others to accelerate the commercialization of specialized technology.
07 / 09 Pushing the business to the next level through strategic mentorship.
08 / 09 Building on the lessons of the community to create a better Tough Tech startup.
09 / 09 Overcoming technical and business uncertainty to become a Tough Tech founder.
|Concept||Increasing the permeability of rock to extract Earth’s natural resources with minimal environmental impact.|
|Background||MIT-WHOI, University of South Carolina|
Eden is building technologies that increase rock permeability to extract Earth’s natural resources without the current negative environmental impacts. We’re starting by de-risking our technology in the legacy energy industries before expanding to geothermal power production and critical mineral recovery.
From the Lab to the Field, with a Mission
After two years of studying for my Ph.D. in Yellowstone National Park, I started developing a new reservoir stimulation technology that utilizes high-voltage electricity as the main mechanism to increase rock permeability. This research is core to the technologies that Eden is currently commercializing. When I brought my developments into the labs at MIT, my intention was to take our experiments from the laboratory to the field scale.
Our first pilot will be conducted in depleted petroleum wells in Oman. We are testing the efficiency of our electric stimulation technology, which can increase fluid flow and permeability in relevant geological environments. The petroleum industry currently has the majority of the infrastructure and resources we need to test our technology in the field. The outcomes from this pilot will provide valuable information on how our technology will work in other relevant industries, including geothermal power production and in-situ critical mineral extraction.
Eden is not a petroleum company. In fact, Blueprint helped me figure out what exactly Eden brings to the greater energy industry. When I first joined the program, Eden was seen by the public as a geothermal company. Through Blueprint, it became very clear that we’re not just a geothermal company; we’re a platform technology that applies to many industries, and these are just the ones that we’re currently focused on.
De-Risking the Technology
The way I used to approach technology development was to go out and try to do the most impactful thing I could. Now I know that we must tell a convincing story to grow the company and raise money. Understanding what parts of your technology you’re de-risking and planning how you’ll hit your next milestone will help formulate that story, even if you don’t have a commercially ready product. It’s not just about hitting one milestone, it’s about identifying the series of milestones that will prepare you for commercialization.
Eden just received a $4 million ARPA-E OPEN grant to utilize our electrical stimulation technology to increase geothermal power production. We wouldn’t have made that step if we didn’t first try to de-risk the technology in the legacy energy industry. We see the bigger picture, but we must first understand where we are right now to determine where we want to go.
From Track Star to
I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. Nobody in my family is an engineer or a scientist, and neither my parents nor my older siblings graduated college. I used to love math and physics when I was a kid, but I decided to focus on running track in high school because I had gotten pretty good. I attended the University of South Carolina to run track, and learned that they had a program encouraging students from border states to major in geophysics by cutting their tuition in half. Since I was good at math, my 18-year-old self took the opportunity to major in geophysics, without thinking that deeply about it. Looking back, I’m surprised that it wasn’t track, but geophysics that is actually taking me through my career.
I’m currently working on my Ph.D. thesis at MIT, but I’m also the principal investigator for the ARPA-E OPEN grant we were awarded. I even received praise from MIT who said they’d never seen a Ph.D. candidate receive this type of award before. People who win these highly competitive awards are typically not students, but tenured white male professors. I think it’s pretty cool that ARPA-E didn’t just see me as a twenty-something year old Ph.D. student; they recognized the technical merit in the concepts we want to develop without having bias in their decision making process. This gives me hope that from now on, as long as ideas solve a real-world problem with technical validity, anybody, regardless of their cultural or societal background, will have the opportunity to innovate.
|Startup Project||FORAY bioscience|
|Concept||Growing plant material in the laboratory as an alternative to deforestation.|
|Industry||Advanced Manufacturing, Biotech & Life Sciences|
|Background||MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering, Draper Labs|
You’ve likely seen with your own eyes that our forest resources are being displaced, driven by factors like fires, land-use change, or forest product sourcing. Today, we’re seeing global forest shrinkage at alarming rates. FORAY’s mission is to reduce demands on our forest supplies by more efficiently producing wood-derived products and materials using alternative technologies.
Planting the Seed: The Start of FORAY
When I was a kid, I watched as the forest in our backyard was torn down to make room for a new housing development. I felt powerless and that experience really sensitized me to the impacts of human activities on our forests.
Today our forests are shrinking at an alarming rate, yet trees remain vital to maintaining our planet’s well-being and our economy. As these resources shrink, the proportional impacts of our activities become increasingly significant on the remaining forest supplies and the wider environment. That’s why it’s important that we utilize tree sources as strategically as possible. FORAY is developing technologies that will enable us to source wood-derived products and materials more efficiently, without harvesting or processing trees.
The Intersection of Biomaterials and Mechanical Engineering
I am a mechanical and biomedical engineer by training. I’ve been working at the interface of cell culture, biomaterials, and manufacturing for a while now. I was initially focused on medical applications, but at the start of my Ph.D., I pivoted to plant cell culture and plant-based materials development.
My journey has involved a lot of self-directed learning on plant cell culture. My advisors and I were all new to the space, so my new focus required a lot of legwork to develop the basic knowledge and techniques that are easily accessible if you already work in the field.
It’s interesting to operate at the interface of these disciplines. It gives us the opportunity to take knowledge from one area and apply it somewhere else where people may not be thinking about things in the same way. That’s where I’ve enjoyed operating for the last decade or so of my professional career.
Growing Roots within the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
I hadn’t considered entrepreneurship as a path for me, but I cared a lot about this project and I wanted to see it continue. Being the oddball in a lab that traditionally focuses on other fields of research, I knew that if I left and dropped the project, it may never get picked back up. I was motivated to continue the work in some capacity, but I wasn’t initially sure how.
This passion led me to the Nucleate Eco program where I began to learn the ropes of building a company. With that early momentum, my business partner that I met during Nucleate and I decided to continue our efforts and start a company. We then spent the following months refining our model and joined the Engine’s Blueprint program to drive this idea forward.
Transitioning from the Academic Mindset to the Founder Mindset
Understanding the big picture problem of deforestation, and identifying promising solutions using our technology, has required a thoughtful iteration process and countless discussions with people across the academic and entrepreneurial spaces. Even now, it’s something that we constantly revisit; we have a problem that we want to solve and we have this flexible technological solution. Now we need to know: how do we make these two meet in the most impactful way? Blueprint was valuable in helping me begin to understand this question and better evaluate the possibility of being a founder.
There are so many unknowns on this journey. Trying to do it in isolation would be incredibly challenging, if not impossible. It has been invaluable being surrounded by a community of like minded folks like that during Blueprint and having a network of people that have walked these steps before. As a founder, there’s still so much that I don’t know. A lot of the time, I don’t even know what I don’t know, but I do know that I have a community willing to help me figure that out.
|Startup Project||Hyfé Foods|
|Concept||Producing low-carb, protein-rich fungi flour.|
|Industry||Food & Ag, Biotech & Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing|
|Background||LanzaTech, ExxonMobil, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern|
Hyfé is taking submerged fermentation technology to the next level by using fungi to upcycle sugar-rich wastewater and turn it into nutritious flour. Alongside diverting waste streams from landfills, we’re introducing an affordable way of producing food that has the power to further food sovereignty around the world.
Combining Skills and Experiences to Fill in the Gaps
We’re a little bit different from a lot of the companies that come out of Blueprint in the sense that our concept didn’t spin out from academic research. My co-founder Andrea and I collectively have 21 years of industry experience. Andrea has a Masters in synthetic biology and has spent quite a bit of time in the lab, but not as a PhD. I used to run a wastewater treatment plant for an oil and gas refinery, so I had experience with less obvious industrial scale fermentation.
Through our collective understanding of gaps in the industry and bringing together our unique skill sets, we decided to start Hyfé with the perspective that there are technologies that could be used for broader applications, and for markets with unmet needs: How can we pool our knowledge to make those technologies successful at a commercial scale, from both a financial and a climate change standpoint?
Connecting the Dots Between Industries
At the wastewater treatment plant, we were producing tons of biomass byproduct that would end up getting sent to the landfill and at our plant, water scarcity was a serious risk we prepared for. That got me thinking, "Hey, wait a minute. The processes that we have to make gasoline are very similar to the processes that you need to refine corn and turn it into sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or corn oil. I would be very surprised if they aren’t facing very similar issues.
In exploring this concept, my co-founder Andrea, and I developed a process to use refined sugars to make fungi flour, which is a flexible, high-protein, low-carb substitute for traditional and alternative flours. Grains and its byproducts tend to have a lot of refined sugars, which are one of the leading causes of chronic illness. This aligned with a personal mission for me because of my family’s history with diabetes. The fungi act as a machine. You put sugar into this machine, pulling a couple of levers, and then the fungi convert these sugars into more useful sources of carbon.
We’re expecting to see a future where food and food supply as we knew it five years ago gets redefined. Right now, it’s getting redesigned, and that’s all as a response to the supply chains that have been very broken, and further exacerbated by reduced yield with climate change, natural disasters affecting production, and political instability.
Hyfé is introducing a way of producing food that could be distributed across the world wherever there is a food manufacturer with these waste streams - really allowing different regions of the world to have further food sovereignty through cheap, nutritious flour (which is in everything). Resources are scarce and climate change is only getting worse, so how do we use what we already have to maximize the benefit for humanity and reduce emissions?
Value Chain and How That Affects Your First Milestones
Coming into the Blueprint program, the first introduction event we went to really helped us build a lot of relationships. We were getting ready to start fundraising, and it was a really good opportunity to meet people in person, especially associates and partners from The Engine.
Throughout the program, it was really cool to meet other founders and hear common questions that we were also asking ourselves. My favorite session was one where we talked about value chains and then really figuring out what the scope of the marketplaces you intersect looks like. I thought it was really interesting to figure out how the overall picture of the value chain guides your strategy when it comes to questions like, ‘What does a pilot scale run look like?’ or, ‘What does a first commercial partnership look like?’ We’re still working through those details and trying to figure out what that means for us, but Blueprint was what kickstarted our thinking on those questions, and laid a strong framework for us to work off of.
Paloma Gonzalez, PhD
|Startup Project||WoodPack by The New Materials|
|Concepts||The New Materials: Platform company for biodegradable new materials, fighting climate change with simple Tough Tech.|
|Industry||Advanced Engineering, Advanced Computing, Advanced Manufacturing|
|Background||MIT Design and Computation Lab|
The construction industry is one of the most wasteful industries in the world and is responsible for half of the global plastic waste. This waste cannot be upcycled or recycled — it just dies. Our aim is to replace plastics for the construction sector worldwide with biodegradable plastic made of recycled wood pulp, among other renewable feedstock.
Democratizing Advanced Materials
In 2019 I won a grant to take MIT and Chilean students to southern Chile, where the majority of Chilean forestry companies are. We were doing research on alternative materials. During this research, I realized that the towns, cities, and industrial sites we were staying in were incredibly fragile. They were dependent on global supply chains that could easily be broken due to the inherent extremes of geography and other factors. It made me think of material systems and technologies that would be possible to develop globally, but with local resources, helping build resilient and sustainable systems.
Building the Team
I met one of my co-founders, José Tomas, at the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in 2019 and started developing Biomaterials 3D printing. In 2020 we invited Jose Antonio, with industry and business experience in Chile. My co-founders and I wholeheartedly believe mass manufacturing green materials for heavy-duty industries is the path to fight climate change.
The Challenges of Scale
When we created our product WoodPack in 2020, we quickly realized that our platform faced a profound Tough Tech problem. Creating the material formula is only one side of the equation. There are enormous challenges scaling up and manufacturing our material at the quantities necessary to have a meaningful impact on the world.
Becoming a Tough Tech leader
I was faced with big questions: who will lead this company? How do we scale effectively and efficiently? How do we create a lasting and massive impact? I applied to Blueprint looking for those answers.
I’m a doer. I go. I research. I create. I always thought I would need a person with a business degree to be the face of my company. Blueprint changed my perspective. I saw so many examples of people that are doers like me — researchers that are also business leaders. I saw how passion drives companies like mine. And I could see myself in those who shared their perspectives during our sessions. Now I see myself as the CEO of my company.
Aaron Hall, PhD
|Startup Project||Intropic Materials|
|Concept||Harnessing novel enzyme-stabilizing nanotechnology to help solve the plastic waste problem from the inside out.|
Plastics are incredibly important to our modern society. They are essential to producing food and medicine. We put rockets and robots on Mars using plastics. But their end-of-life is terrible. They don’t go away. Intropic harnesses the intrinsic properties of enzymes to efficiently to create self-degrading materials that have a better end-of-life.
The Path to Chemistry
I was born in the Bay area and grew up in North Oakland. I was around innovation, sustainability, and environmental activism my whole life. As a first-generation college grad, I wasn’t pushed toward any particular field, but eventually found my way to the world of chemistry. When I started the PhD program at Berkeley, I chose to go into material science and engineering because the field touches everything — food science, polymers, electronics, even coding.
Bringing Your Vision to the World
I joined Ting Xu’s research group at Berkeley doing polymer science and engineering. I didn’t actually go into it thinking, ‘I’m going to be an entrepreneur when I graduate.’ But then I attended a seminar at the business school — something that a speaker said has stuck with me since: ‘Go found something. Bring your vision to the world. Nobody will hold that against you. If it doesn’t go well, you’ll leave with a wealth of knowledge. And if it does go well, then you’ve got a return on an investment.’ From then on I was looking for ways to make my vision a reality.
Connecting the Dots
Prior to Blueprint, I had done the NSF I-Corps so I was familiar with customer discovery. I had seen bits of legal things. I did not have a holistic picture yet. I realized that the Blueprint program could help me get a taste of a variety of topics related to starting a new business.
Blueprint taught me that the journey of a Tough Tech founder is much more than, ‘I’m only in this to make money,’ or ‘I just want to to call myself a CEO,’ or ‘I can’t get a faculty job so I’ll just start a company.’ You need to care about the problems you’re solving.
The program also reassured me that the skills I’ve developed as a scientist translate into entrepreneurship. Blueprint helps consolidate lessons that I’ve heard in other programs, but in a way that truly connects with being a deep tech science founder. It is a translational layer between academia and building a company.
Floris Englehardt, PhD
|Concept||Building critical infrastructure to enable future cell and gene therapy technologies.|
|Industry||Biotech & Life Sciences|
|Background||Technical University of Munich, MIT|
Cell and gene therapy technologies will redefine what we think of as therapeutics. They will usher in an era of individualized medicine, one that focuses on the patient. To do that, they need the right biomaterials. The industry is just beginning to generate this bio-infrastructure — and we’re helping it do that by creating gene-length single-strand DNA, quickly, affordably, and in the quantities needed to help pharmaceutical companies accelerate the development of new therapies.
From DNA Origami to Tough Tech Startup
During my Masters in molecular biotechnology, I found a lab that specialized in DNA origami — a method for creating devices on the nanometer-level by using DNA as a building material. I knew right away that was the place where I wanted to pursue my PhD. I love the idea of combining scientific thinking and creativity — the science of design. We are basically a bunch of DNA architects and nano-engineers.
Still, even nano-devices and molecular robots need a supply chain. My job was to customize the production of an essential building material: long single-stranded DNA. First, I supplied the Dietz lab internally and then started shipping it to collaborators at other universities. And that’s what eventually got me hired at MIT — the demand for this specific type of DNA for fundamental research and in cell and gene therapies.
I started working at Mark Bathe’s lab at MIT as a researcher. At his lab, I had the freedom and opportunity to commercialize the technology for gene-length single-strand DNA production. I would have never imagined that there would be such a demand in cell and gene therapy for this kind of material.
The Power of Partnership in the Boston Ecosystem
Everyone knows that the Boston area is one of the biggest biotech hubs in the U.S. Before moving here I had no idea what that meant on a daily basis. Then you walk through Cambridge and think: there are over 350 biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in this town!
I can meet my industry collaborators for coffee because we are basically neighbors or play pickup with a VC partner. Presumably, I could even deliver product samples personally — on my bike. Looking into the surrounding areas, you see even more potential for growth. Watertown is turning into a new haven for research and development driven by local companies like Cambridge Scientific.
We need both potential customers and partners with in-depth expertise in industrial manufacturing to bring our technology to market. An example of the latter is the New Frontiers Program by MilliporeSigma. It aims to establish strong collaborative relationships with entrepreneurs within academia to accelerate their success as they spin out.
Reading about Boston as a biotech hub is one thing, but experiencing the way people interact and motivate each other to innovate and grow is what makes working here so special.
Learning From Those That Have Done It Before
There is no shortcut to experience but you also don’t want to enter the valley of death blind-sided. I applied to Blueprint because of the opportunity to directly learn from people who have built Tough Tech startups. Their experience and advice helps you push through the upcoming challenges quickly.
In particular, I was interested in the stretch between focusing on internal innovation and building products for customers right away. No matter what technology you’re working on, facing this challenge is universal. How do you act, once you don’t have the resources to do both? Thinking through such scenarios in advance prepares you for the experience that lies ahead. Doing that together with other participants who are all at a similar stage, was an insanely productive experience.
Brendan Smith, PhD
|Concept||Ultra-durable filtration membranes for efficient separations in the harshest environments.|
|Industry||Advanced Materials, Advanced Manufacturing|
|Background||MIT, Grossman Lab|
SiTration is changing the way that industry performs industrial separations. Battery recycling, textiles, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, and chemical production — all these spaces are doing numerous separations of complex liquid and gas mixtures, and largely doing them really, really inefficiently. And so that means massive energy consumption, a huge amount of wasted resources, and extremely high costs.
We’re working on a new membrane filtration technology, which will enable membrane filtration to be utilized in more of these industrial separation cases. For example, the technology could enable separations to use 10 times less energy and consume half the water, at half the original operating cost.
Discovery and Connections
We’re building industrial partnerships to get market traction and move towards a pilot in an industrial environment.
We’re also doing traditional customer discovery to learn how our technology can best provide value to future customers. It helps us internally validate our ideas and prove that we are moving the needle. Simultaneously, we’re constantly thinking about expanding our amazing team and accelerating our impact through fundraising.
The Power of Community
The Engine’s done an incredible job of assembling an awesome group of people — very diverse backgrounds, very diverse goals, but all trying to make a massive impact. And that type of group amplifies the efforts of everyone involved. When you have a strong community, everyone benefits in so many different ways.
At Blueprint, it’s not about competitiveness, it’s more about comradery. And The Engine’s done a great job of fostering that. The value of a community like this can’t be understated. Who knows where all these relationships will lead?
Rachita Navara, MD
|Company||SafeBeat Rx Inc.|
|Concept||Using machine learning to help patients with heart disorders.|
|Industry||Biotech & Life Sciences|
|Background||Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, UT Southwestern Medical School, Stanford School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis|
We are building machine learning technology to expand access to important, often life-saving heart medications. Fortunately, this is an area of healthcare where the priorities of all the major stakeholders are aligned — everyone from patients, to doctors, to insurance companies, to hospitals want easier access to proven medications.
The Unique Path of a Tough Tech Founder
It’s my ultimate life passion to use engineering to solve problems in medicine. Starting SafeBeat Rx was the ideal way to achieve this — using machine learning to improve the lives of patients with heart disorders.
I knew I wanted to be a cardiologist since high school. I remember taking my first anatomy and physiology class and after learning about the heart, I couldn’t sleep that night because I kept thinking about how my blood was pumping through all the chambers of my heart every single moment!
I also knew I wanted to innovate within medicine, and I needed the right tools to do that. That’s why I wanted to do both engineering and medicine. It was humbling to get accepted into every top engineering school (including MIT!), and I chose the new Olin College of Engineering for its focus on entrepreneurship and design in addition to the technical skills. As an undergrad, I consulted with Boston Scientific, Preserve, and Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and I worked on projects from drug-delivering contact lenses to MRSA-detecting microfluidic chips to real-time visual communication systems for paramedics.
After Olin, I went on to med school at UT Southwestern, where I led a substudy of a major clinical trial, debuted as the lead singer in our med school band ‘The Pacemakers,’ and completed a year-long certification in Innovating Healthcare Solutions. This provided a great balance because in my pre-clinical years, I had to do things like memorize the Krebs cycle. So on the opposite end, the innovation curriculum was modeled off courses at MIT and Stanford and taught me how to translate my new medical knowledge into actual technology, and start innovating from the clinical side.
These experiences led me to Stanford for residency, where I got into the first Biodesign Pathway of Distinction. I learned from successful ‘doctorpreneurs’ who, like me, wanted to have an impact on patients beyond their own clinic. I also did research at the Computational Arrhythmia Research Lab, and got to share my work on novel arrhythmia mechanisms at conferences around the world, where I learned from expert physician-scientists on how to think outside the box.
These experiences led me to Wash U in St. Louis, where I came to complete my cardiology training and also research a brand new area in medicine, using radiation therapy to cure abnormal heart rhythms noninvasively. I was honored with various awards for my research and ultimately went on to create my own innovation venture that became SafeBeat Rx. Although in most cases doctors don’t get to apply for independent NIH grants until several years after training, I got to apply for an NIH STTR grant as a PI, and my research team just won a ‘Big Ideas’ innovation grant to develop this technology further. I feel so fortunate to be living my dream already!
The Value of Entrepreneurial Frameworks
I’m honored to be a member of the entrepreneurial community, because I feel that I can learn so much from successful founders that may otherwise be tough to access directly. I’ve done almost 15 years of higher education thus far (good thing I started early), but there’s not really much formal education that can teach you to build something new, until you do it yourself. There’s no courses on how to get people (in my case, often non-medical people) interested in your technology and get excited enough to share your passion and invest their own resources.
Blueprint came at a perfect time for me. I had just developed a detailed research protocol in applying for several grants, so I had a very strong understanding of the research needed to validate the technology. But from a commercialization standpoint, I think that’s the area that’s tough to navigate without direct feedback and learning from others.
I knew that having a structured approach and hearing from prior successful founders, especially those in the early stages, would be incredibly valuable. Learning how they tackle specific things like, in my case, FDA regulation and insurance reimbursement would go a long way.
Entrepreneurship: A Continuing Education
It was so valuable to hear from people just like me — to hear from those who have started from a background that is highly technical, and to hear their successful journey toward commercialization.
Blueprint provided hands-on applications of various principles we were learning in the didactic lectures. The template model helped me think through crucial aspects of my business model that would have not otherwise come up at this stage. I’ve had all of these things in the back of my mind, but having to formalize each aspect of my timeline and revenue model and put it on a slide was extremely helpful. The direct mentoring from technical and business experts at The Engine on SafeBeat Rx was incredibly meaningful and validating as we continued on this journey.
We now have a very clear sense of what the upcoming goals are for commercialization and for phase I and phase II validation, FDA regulation, and more. These steps will all be critical to taking SafeBeat Rx from an exciting research idea to a viable product that directly improves the lives of both patients and doctors.
Paul Le Floch, PhD
|Concept||Making brain implants as soft as the brain for biomedical and research purposes.|
|Industry||Neurotech & Life Sciences|
I’m a material scientist making electronics as soft as the brain. The brain contains about 80 billion neurons, yet we can only interface with a few hundreds to a few thousands of them by using a brain implant. Scaling up such technology to create ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces will open up a breadth of new applications in neuroprosthetics, brain stimulation therapies and neurosciences. The mechanical mismatch between biological tissues and electronics must be leveled by using soft materials if we ever hope to reach high numbers of electrodes in brain implants while maintaining a negligible immune response. Realizing ultra-soft, ultra-high density brain implants is challenging from both the materials sciences and nanofabrication perspectives.
We have the technology. Now what?
I’m a PhD student at Harvard, right now [May 2021] in my fifth and last year. And I’ve been working with Professor Liu in bioelectronics for the past three years. We always had this crazy idea that one day we could make brain implants as soft as the brain.
We have been tackling the problem step by step. First we had to figure out why people could not use soft materials to make brain implants, and then which materials would not obey that rule. While I was stuck at home in the beginning of the pandemic, I had more time to think critically about the engineering issues, and I figured out how to solve them. We’ve been thinking about spinning off the technology for a long time, but nothing was concrete because we were always hands-on doing the research.
I have no experience as a CEO and no experience other than research, so founding a company is quite intimidating, full of many unknowns, but also thrilling!
Making the Leap
When I started my PhD, to me, the only option was to become a professor. And then, as work progressed, I realized that there were other options — I realized that I may want to go into the world of industry and entrepreneurship to translate my research or apply what I had learned during my PhD to real world situations. When you are passionate about your ideas and your research, the best outcome is when you start the company based on your work.
If my research is good enough and if people want to invest in my ideas, why not?
The Power of Peers
At Blueprint, I was able to see and to meet with other founders that have similar backgrounds. I got to see what a success story is made of. It was inspiring to see where the panelists were in their journeys and how they evaluated risk and fostered growth.
I’ve learned that one of the most important things in this journey from researcher to founder is confidence in your ideas. Feeling less anxious and less scared about the path you’ve chosen — knowing that the journey is possible, even if you don’t know exactly where it will lead you at the start. The path to success as a founder is not predictable and linear like academia, and you have to be comfortable with that uncertainty.
Blueprint provides the next generation of Tough Tech leaders with tailored programming.
Technology & Scaling
Scaling a technology from the bench to commercialization: identifying risks, establishing milestones, and putting plans into action.
Market & Regulatory
Understanding and navigating markets and regulations, establishing a business model.
Working towards successful fundraising by identifying possible investors, understanding the market, and doing the homework.
Telling a compelling story and vision of your company that engages and attracts investors, partners, and talent.
- June 30: Applications Open
- July 27: Introduction to Blueprint Event
- August 12: Applications Close
- September 9: Session 1 | Introduction & Overview
- September 16: Session 2 | Technology & Scaling
- September 23: Session 3 | Market and Regulatory
- September 30: Session 4 | Fundraising & Storytelling
- October 7: Session 5 | Final Presentations
Questions for The Engine? Please contact Alex Grant.
Does The Engine take an interest or equity stake in or create a formal business relationship with the Blueprint Founders or their entities?
We do not take an equity stake in or create a formal business relationship during Blueprint. At some point, The Engine may engage in investment conversations with Founders after the program, but that is a separate process.
Who is eligible?
US-based: graduate students (Masters or PhD), postdocs, research scientists currently enrolled in/employed at a university, or founder(s) early in the commercialization process.
Must I have started a company?
No. If you have an amazing technical breakthrough and the passion to see it commercialized, we’d love to hear from you. We are also happy to review applications for those who have already begun the first steps towards formalizing a Tough Tech business.
Do I need a team?
Teams are encouraged to apply, but not required.
Will my application materials be kept confidential?
Yes. Your application materials will be viewed only by members of The Engine selection committee.
How will IP be handled?
Your IP developed through your research is your IP. This program is to facilitate business model and commercialization strategy development. Accordingly, no IP will be developed in this program.
How do I know if I/we are too early or too late?
If you can fill out the questionnaire and have not yet started a company, you’re a perfect fit. If you have already incorporated a company, please email email@example.com.
Does The Engine only accept applicants from Massachusetts?
No. We are accepting applications from across the United States.
What are your selection criteria?
Projects will be selected based on the merits of the technological breakthrough and its potential impact.
How are fellows selected?
The Engine team will review all applications. Applicants will be informed via an acceptance email.
What if I can’t make it for one of the weeks / days / sessions?
If you know in advance that there is a conflict, we can work around it. Please include this in your application.
What if I’m an undergrad researcher?
Sorry, you’re ineligible for this program at this time. We might expand the scope in the future.
Are there certain technology areas that are of interest to The Engine?
We cast a broad net and are open to all scientific and engineering breakthroughs. Areas The Engine has already invested in include: advanced materials, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, energy, food and agriculture, life sciences, robotics, space, quantum and next generation computing, and semiconductors. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we are constantly learning from researchers like you about new areas that are impactful.
What if I decide if a startup is not right for me after the program?
That is OK. Go forth and keep innovating!