Written by CoMotion Staff / February 17, 2021
CoMotion, the University of Washington’s collaborative innovation hub, is pleased to formally announce CoMotion Labs‘ hardware incubator opening in Fluke Hall. The incubator was created in the fall of 2020 to support the region’s strong and growing hardware startup ecosystem and provides its members with the tools, space, and resources required to prototype and develop physical products in a wide range of industries. CoMotion also operates two other CoMotion Labs incubators, one that focuses on life sciences, located in Fluke Hall, and another on technology, located in Startup Hall.
François Baneyx, Director of CoMotion and UW Vice Provost for Innovation said, “Supporting innovation is at the very core of CoMotion’s mission. The new hardware incubator will empower entrepreneurs in the thriving UW hardware ecosystem and synergize with CoMotion Labs’ other incubation capabilities.”
The hardware incubator began welcoming members in September. There are already five hardware startups from the medtech, materials, and health industries, with more coming on-line in the near future.
The incubator’s 6,000 square-foot workspace provides state-of-the-art infrastructure and equipment tailored to help members reach their project and startup goals. The workspace includes 20 workbenches, sit/stand desks, two conference rooms, four phone booths, a break area, and ample lockable storage cabinets and storage racks.
In addition to the co-working space, members have access to a full complement of tools and equipment necessary for prototyping and development:
Startups become part of the CoMotion Labs community when they become members. In addition to space, tools, and networking, benefits include training programs and mentorship. Members can expect engaging and relevant industry-specific events like the recent six-week Fundamentals for Hardware Startups series, which covered topics including prototyping, the product development process, business models for hardware companies from an investor’s perspective, and more. Other member benefits include access to CoMotion mentors, office hours with local VCs, and access to domain-specific executives, all designed to help entrepreneurs build skills and peer-to-peer relationships.
One of the current members, medtech startup Envision Ophthalmology, is developing new retinal imaging technology to capture photographs of the interior of a patient’s eyes. The technology leverages retinal exams physicians already provide to patients and captures wide-field fundus photographs without the expense of an additional photography step. Fundus photographs are used to diagnose and monitor major ophthalmic diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and retinopathy of prematurity. “The CoMotion Labs hardware incubator is filled with rapid prototyping tools that have allow[ed] us to drastically reduce our iteration times without having to invest significant resources in equipment,” said Envision founder Shane Claggett. “CoMotion has been a fantastic resource for education on topics relevant to startups and has an excellent network of mentors willing to give guidance and provide feedback.”
Another member, cutting-edge materials startup Visual Dawn, is developing a soft-contact lens-based augmented reality platform. Their contact lens will have a built-in display and be powered using a biocompatible battery. Founder Trevor Squier echoes Claggett’s sentiments: “CoMotion has been essential to some of our earliest successes by providing us not only with lab space but also through making introductions to mentors and investors. [Lab Manager] Brady Ryan, in particular, has been instrumental in helping us find outside resources to help with our prototyping work.” Learn more about Trevor and Visual Dawn in the blog series Meet a CoMotion Labs member.
Other companies in the hardware incubator space include UW spinoff PET/X (medical diagnostics), TruMedicines (home health), one startup in stealth mode, and an aerospace company joining in the coming weeks.
CoMotion hardware incubator manager Brady Ryan provides guidance to Labs’ members. “I’m passionate about supporting entrepreneurs and transforming their ideas into reality,” said Ryan.
“We are excited to help grow Seattle’s hardware ecosystem by providing some of the resources and connections these entrepreneurs need.” Brady notes that the hardware incubator is currently at “COVID capacity,” however he maintains a waiting list so new members can join as soon as others move out or when occupancy limits increase.
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About CoMotion Labs
CoMotion Labs provides a multi-industry incubation environment for early-stage startups with a focus on UW spinoffs. From critical infrastructure (desks, dry benches, wet lab space, and prototyping capabilities) to just-in-time learning, mentoring, and networking, CoMotion Labs nurtures company growth and enables success. Our labs are currently home to 60 startups and operate in three locations on the UW Seattle campus—two in Fluke Hall and one in Startup Hall. Each lab focuses on a particular industry sector: life sciences and hardware in Fluke Hall, and technology in Startup Hall.