Survey: Life Sciences Incubators Anticipate Continued Growth

In this first CBRE survey of its kind, incubators across the U.S. were asked about expectations related to funding and overall growth.

Most U.S. life sciences incubators anticipate that their funding will increase over the next five to 10 years, and 63% expect to open additional locations, according to a new survey by CBRE. The survey, conducted from November 2023 through January 2024, included 27 incubators across the United States. Incubators typically provide startup companies as small as one or two employees with wet-lab space, office space, mentorship and, in some cases, funding — at affordable rates.

CBRE’s 2024 U.S. Life Sciences Incubator Survey results highlight a long-held practice of most incubators getting their funding from public or quasi-public sources: Government agencies back 43% of the incubators in the survey, and academic institutions 14%. Private funding sources claim the next largest contingents — self-funding at 14% and venture capital at 9%.

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Photo: Adobe Stock/kasto

That funding mix bodes well for the stability of incubators and their contribution to the sector’s company formation and job generation, according to CBRE in sharing the results. Sixty-two percent of incubators surveyed anticipate their funding will increase in the coming years.

“Incubators can be a cornerstone of emerging and established life sciences hubs,” said Matt Gardner, CBRE Americas Life Sciences Leader. “In tougher financing environments like this year and last, incubators play an even greater role for the industry in nurturing the next generation of companies. This also is another reason why the life sciences sector goes through longer cycles than the broader economy.”

Most incubators (86%) operate on or near university campuses, putting them in close proximity to life sciences entrepreneurs, funding sources and new research. Fifty-two percent of incubators in the survey anticipate their locations expanding in the coming years to larger footprints. Incubator locations typically range in size from 20,000 to 40,000 square feet.

A perhaps surprising finding of the survey, noted CBRE: Biotech companies aren’t the most common tenants in life sciences incubators. Rather, 18 of the 20 incubators that responded to that question said they count medical device startups among their tenants. The next most popular category was biotech companies at 15 incubators, followed by therapeutics startups, and medtech companies at 14 each.

The survey also revealed an incubator ecosystem comprised of sub-industries. The surveyed incubators work with startups from a diverse set of sub-industries. Medical devices are the most common, with 90% of incubators with tenants in this sub-industry. While less prevalent, artificial intelligence and fintech were referenced by 40% of incubators.

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The incubator survey was the first of its kind for CBRE. Survey participants are not identified. To read the full report, click here.

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