Delaware’s Lab House Grant Program is Open
Demand for “ready-to-go” laboratory space for growing wet-lab (biology and chemistry) based companies is extremely high throughout the United States. Delaware is hoping to address this issue with a new lab space grant program to ensure that existing small companies are able to grow here and that the state can attract new companies by increasing its inventory of ready-to-go lab space. This is important because these businesses provide great jobs and contribute to the valuable research and development (R&D) activity that drives all innovation economies.
Delaware’s recently launched pilot grant program helps science and tech companies with the expenses associated with building out lab space. The initiative is funded by $3 million earmarked from the Delaware Strategic Fund and helps spur private-sector investment by making lab space construction or renovation more affordable.
To qualify, companies need to partner with real estate developers for a specific project. DPP is vetting prospective applicants to ensure they are at the right phase to qualify for a grant, and the state is reviewing qualified applicants as soon as they clear the vetting process.
A Delaware Prosperity Partnership press release announcing this statewide initiative provides an overview. The following interview with DPP Director of Innovation Ariel Gruswitz offers additional details.
What exactly is “ready-to-go” lab space?
It’s laboratory space that requires complex infrastructure that must meet strict requirements, such as the appropriate drainage and vent systems, chemical fume hoods, special bench tops, and particular types of water, that are different from office space and quite a bit more expensive to build out. The grant program helps companies that don’t have the familiarity or relationships with developers or the up-front cash flow to be able to pay for the creation of such space.
Why is lab space in such high demand?
The nationwide need for lab space has been a trend in recent years, and Delaware began examining the local lab space landscape a couple of years ago to find a solution to what was correctly determined to be an ongoing issue. Then, COVID-19 really accelerated demand because the companies providing solutions to the pandemic are the types of businesses that rely on research and development coming out of wet lab space. So it was very timely that Delaware already had been looking at the situation and was able to come up with a solution.
Why is it so vital to address this issue?
Science and tech companies that use wet-lab space make up such an important sector of Delaware’s economy. It’s a sector that has established so many great jobs here in Delaware already and that promises to give Delawareans many great jobs in the future as well.
How does the grant program help?
Space is the top priority for companies – especially those companies that are lab-based – when they are deciding where to go to expand or relocate. The program ultimately supports the growth of Delaware’s inventory of ready-to-go lab space. A company that is partnering with a developer for a specific project may apply for up to one-third of the cost (up to $150/foot) for building out the lab space. The grant wouldn’t cover all of the cost, but it will help them reserve some of their resources to focus on their research and get their products commercialized – instead of spending it all toward building expensive infrastructure.
What are the goals of the grant program?
First of all, to meet the current demand for lab space in Delaware. Then, making sure that Delaware has additional lab space available where we can we can attract new companies and be able to say that the facilities they need are ready and waiting for them – that their lab space is truly ready-to-go.
How much money is available through the grant program?
The state has approved up to $3 million for this fiscal year, and Governor John Carney has announced an intention to set aside additional money for the grant program starting in fiscal year 2022.
What are the qualifications for a company to apply?
Companies should be at the right growth point where they’re going to be creating more jobs and scaling up their research and development along with the size of their overall operations in Delaware. It could be a young company coming out of one of our incubators at the University of Delaware or the Delaware Innovation Space at the DuPont Experimental Station. Or it could be an older but smaller company that has held back and delayed growth over the years because it hasn’t had the space to expand into.
The primary factor is growth point. Each company may only apply for grant funding for up to 20,000, square feet of lab space. Looking at the market, only certain companies fall into that growth stage.
How can companies interested in applying for the lab space grant program learn more?
They can email me at email@example.com or visit the DPP website at choosedelaware.com.