Lab Operations | Leadership | Incubator

Looking for a Biotech Incubator? 9 Questions Startups Should Ask Themselves First

Life as a biotech startup or early-stage founder is like being on an episode of Shark Tank. You need to compete for investment, but you also need to land the right support system of resources, mentorship, and networks. Biotech incubators can be the answer, whether you’re still developing an idea, or are closer to market entry. However, before diving into the biotech incubator process, it’s crucial to clearly define your specific needs and goals. This way, you can choose the incubator that aligns best with your startup's desired trajectory.

Biotech incubator trends 2024

Biotech incubators are witnessing high demand. Per CBRE’s 2024 U.S. Life Sciences Incubator Survey, 63% anticipate opening more locations, with 52% expecting an increase in average location size over the next decade. 43% percent receive funding from government agencies, which is expected to increase over the next five to ten years. When evaluating potential tenants, incubators are broadening potential success indicators beyond the ability to raise capital, also looking at revenue, job growth, coachability, and more. The global biotech industry is projected to reach USD 465.9 billion in 2024, with significant growth driven by advancements like the approval of the first CRISPR gene therapy, opening doors for further innovations.

9 questions for startups to ask before looking for a biotech incubator

There’s no doubt that the biotech industry is rife with opportunities for startup and early-stage companies. But, before jumping into the incubator search process, there are critical questions that every biotech startup should discuss with their team.

  1. What stage are you in? Incubators typically support startups in their earliest phases, from just an idea (pre-seed) to having a viable product ready for market entry (seed). Incubators are usually focused on early-stage companies as they go from “zero” (as in pre-seed) to “one” (as in seed).
  1. What is your sector? Some incubators focus on specific biotech sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, or diagnostics, while others accept a broad range of biotech projects.


Source: Industries Housed in Biotech Incubators, per U.S. Life Sciences Incubator Survey, CBRE Research, February 2024.


  1. What is your proposed business model? Certain incubators specialize according to business model, such as B2C (business-to-consumer) or B2B (business-to-business) startups, and tailor their offerings accordingly.

  2. What program length do you seek? Incubators can offer support ranging from a few months to several years, depending on the startup's needs and the incubator’s structure.

Donout chart

Source: Average Length of Stay at Biotech Incubators, per U.S. Life Sciences Incubator Survey, CBRE Research, February 2024.


  1. What level of commitment are you comfortable with? Startups may need to commit to specific milestones and actively participate in incubator activities, including workshops, mentorship sessions, and networking events. Participation can be demanding, requiring a balance with day-to-day operations.

  2. What are your location and accessibility preferences? Decide if you prefer an incubator in a specific geographic region or if you are open to virtual/remote options. Being located in a biotech hub can provide additional advantages, such as access to a rich talent pool, potential partnerships with nearby universities and research institutions, and a vibrant biotech community. Some incubators offer virtual programs, providing remote support and resources, which can be beneficial for startups unable to relocate.

  3. What resources do you require? List the types of resources you need in an incubator. Potential resources offered include lab space, office space, mentorship, funding, regulatory support, pro bono professional services, technical support, and more.
  1. What are your precise equipment needs? The equipment and resources at the incubator will likely not be tailor-made to your needs. Decide what you can compromise on and what things are absolutely essential.

Donut chart
Source: Type of Lab Space Typically Provided by Biotech Incubators, per U.S. Life Sciences Incubator Survey, CBRE Research, February 2024.


  1. What level of post-graduation support will you need? While biotech incubators are very helpful and supportive to in-program startups, the support may disappear or at least decrease upon your inevitable graduation. If you plan to be very reliant on incubator support, you may feel a meaningful gap upon graduation.

Choosing the right biotech incubator is a strategic decision that can profoundly impact the future of your startup. With thoughtful consideration, you can better understand your unique needs and how various incubators can meet them. Remember, the goal is to find an environment that not only supports your current stage of development but also aligns with your long-term vision and operational requirements. With the right incubator, you can navigate the complexities of the biotech landscape more effectively and turn your innovative ideas into world-changing realities.

More resources for biotech startups and early-stage companies

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