By Michael Kearney, Principal at The Engine & Ally Yost, Chief of Staff at Commonwealth Fusion Systems

For those of you who don’t know us, introducing ourselves might sound like the start of a bad joke. “An economist and a materials scientist walk into a room…” But that’s exactly what happened. We met by chance four years ago, Ally on a listening tour at MIT related to the launch of The Engine, working to find the best ways to support future innovators, and Mike in the depths of his PhD work documenting opportunities for such support.

After that meeting, and…

A Proposal to Scale-Up the Deployment of Innovative Technologies Across the U.S.

By Katie Rae, CEO & Managing Partner, The Engine

The Endless Frontier Act was unveiled in May 2020 to, “solidify the United States’ leadership in scientific and technological innovation through increased investments in the discovery, creation, and commercialization of technology fields of the future.” These investments are vital to solving the world’s biggest challenges in climate, health, and computing. We should build upon this Act in order to ensure even more successful translation of breakthrough science. We have a series of suggestions to maximize its economic benefits and also scale-up the deployment of innovative technologies across the U.S.

Advice for Tough Tech Founder-CEOs

By Ann DeWitt, General Partner at The Engine & Fran Barros, Operating Partner & Chief Design Officer at The Engine

Founder-CEOs of Tough Tech companies face an unusual challenge while building their companies. Aside from their creativity and intellect, these founder-CEOs have achieved success due to their ability to communicate their work to truth-seeking, scientifically and technically rigorous audiences. But translating an academic breakthrough into a Tough Tech company requires a different, but complementary communication framework — one that first-time Tough Tech founders often have difficulty reconciling. …

The world has radically changed since I founded my first company in 2004, but the fundamental challenges of building a cutting-edge technology company remain the same.

By Phil Inagaki, Operating Partner at The Engine

At The Engine, we don’t shy away from investing in Tough Tech companies at foundational stages, and we often work with technical first-time founders. These are people at the forefront of science, engineering, and technology wrestling with solutions to pressing global challenges: What does the next generation of zero-emissions energy look like? How can we use cellular engineering to cure diseases like Parkinson’s? How do we build faster, more flexible, and more efficient computing systems? The list goes on.

Out of the 27 companies in our first fund, the majority of founding…

How the incoming administration can spark nascent strategic industries and cement the United States as the global Tough Tech leader.

By Katie Rae, CEO & Managing Partner; Michael Kearney, Senior Associate & Orin Hoffman, Venture Partner

A downloadable PDF of this proposal can be found at the Day One Project.

The history of the United States is replete with examples of how foundational new technologies can transform the economy and create jobs. From the automobile to the transistor to recombinant DNA, foundational technologies have enabled an expanding middle class and prosperity for millions of Americans. The U.S. federal government has played a vital role in providing and enabling early market development and applications for these technologies. …

The role of Tough Tech in Ensuring Shared, Sustainable Prosperity

By Katie Rae
CEO & Managing Partner,
The Engine

Nearly four years ago, we founded The Engine alongside MIT because we recognized the need for new models to launch transformative breakthroughs out of the labs and on to the path of commercialization. Many of these breakthroughs hold the potential to impact our most fundamental global challenges such as climate change, human health, and the transition to a 21st-century economy that creates shared prosperity and sustainability for all.

What we learned from the collapse of investment in Cleantech 1.0 and how we can ensure the success of Cleantech 2.0.

By Michael Kearney, Senior Associate, The Engine

Numerous accounts have documented the collapse of venture investment in the clean-technology sector during the first fifteen years of the 21st century. Retrospectively known as Cleantech 1.0, investors piled $25 billion into cleantech startups from 2006–2011, funds that resulted in little return on capital. [1]

The subsequent flight of capital from cleantech increased commercialization challenges for the struggling sector. In the latter part of the 2010s, however, the tide turned once again for cleantech startups. With $4 billion invested in the space since 2017, investors clearly have renewed interest in supporting cleantech companies.

So, what have we learned from Cleantech…

Creating world-changing energy storage tech is tough. Doing it during a pandemic is even tougher. Here’s how The Engine’s portfolio company Form Energy is pushing forward amidst global uncertainty.

By Ted Wiley, Co-Founder, President & COO of Form Energy

We founded Form Energy with the assumption that the R&D of our core technology must be done by a team in the same space — shoulder to shoulder in the lab. In the beginning, none of us thought remote or distributed teams could deliver novel hardware that would rely on both materials science and engineering innovations. How would we integrate remote team members into the culture of our company? How would we communicate with the speed and freedom that startups require? …

Part V of our series, “Real Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence” features Rick Calle, AI business development lead for M12, Microsoft’s venture fund.

How energy-intensive is the AI infrastructure today? And what does that mean for the future of discipline?

Part IV of our series, “Real Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence” features Dan Huttenlocher, the inaugural dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing.

No matter how responsibly developed AI may be, its generality seems at once its greatest asset and its greatest danger. How do you reconcile this duality?

The Engine

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