Leadership | Innovation | Incubator

How to Choose Between Biotech Incubators, Accelerators, and Lab Shares for Your Startup

Startup support programs play a vital role in the biotech ecosystem, providing essential services that enhance the success and growth of emerging biotechs. Three major types of support programs are incubators, accelerators, and lab shares. But which is right for your startup? Several key factors, along with your developmental stage, impact which option aligns best with your startup’s goals and objectives.

Types of startup support programs 


A comprehensive program offering essential support, including lab space, funding,  mentorship, and a collaborative community.

Incubator examples: JLABS, NestBio, Y Combinator, Bayer CoLab, Alexandria LaunchLabs, MBC Biolabs, ABI-LAB


An intensive program designed to accelerate growth by providing mentorship, networking opportunities, and sometimes seed funding in exchange for equity, with a focus on rapid scaling.

Accelerator examples: Nucleate, LabCentral, LaunchBio, IndieBio, Startup Health, Biogenerator

Lab share

A shared workspace with the primary goal of providing lab space and equipment, typically charging a fee similar to monthly rent rather than providing meaningful business, strategic, or investor support.

Lab share examples: BioLabs, LabShares, Alexandria Real Estate


Comparing incubators, accelerators, and lab shares




Lab Shares

Business model

Varies, may include equity investment, fees, or sponsorship; focuses on providing resources and support.

Invests in participating companies; focuses on accelerating growth and providing strategic support.

Charges a fee similar to monthly rent; focuses on providing lab space and equipment rather than business support.


Supportive environment for early-stage startups to develop and grow.

Intensive programs designed to accelerate the growth and success of startups.

Shared workspace for research, experimentation, and development.


Growth through mentorship, resources, and networking, with less emphasis on rapid scaling.

Rapid scaling through mentorship, networking, and funding opportunities.

Provides access to specialized equipment, facilities, and expertise.


Longer-term support, spanning from several months to several years.

Short-term programs ranging from a few months to a year.

Often flexible, can be short or long-term depending on research needs.


May offer seed funding, but less common compared to accelerators.

May provide seed funding, usually in exchange for equity.

Generally self-funded or funded through research grants and partnerships.


Comprehensive mentorship provided by experienced entrepreneurs and advisors.

Intensive mentorship provided by experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts.

Limited mentorship, primarily focused on technical aspects of research.


Networking opportunities with peers, advisors, and potential partners.

Extensive networking opportunities with investors, industry professionals, and other startups.

Limited networking opportunities, primarily within the research community.

Selection process

Selective application process based on the viability of the business idea and potential for success.

Competitive application process based on the potential for rapid growth and scalability.

Often based on research proposals, qualifications, and availability of space.

Equity stake

May or may not require equity stake, depending on the program and funding model.

Typically requires equity stake in the startup, ranging from 5% to 20%.

Generally, no equity stake required.


How to determine whether an incubator, accelerator, or lab share is best for your startup

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to which type of program is best, there are some general guidelines depending on your startup’s priorities.

Priorities: Identifying needs and goals, evaluating resources and infrastructure
Recommendation: Incubator

Ideal for founders at the earliest stages of company-building, such as concept, pre-seed and seed. During these stages, startups often lack the infrastructure for advanced research and development, and seek the access to lab space, equipment, and early-stage funding offered by incubators.

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

Priorities: Accessing specialized support and mentorship

Recommendation: Accelerator

Typically suited for startups that have a validated product or service and need mentorship, industry connections, and accelerated growth strategies. Startups should consider accelerators when they have a more defined product and business model and are looking to scale quickly, attract larger investments, and expand their market presence.

Priorities: Optimizing costs and flexibility

Recommendation: Lab share

Best for established startups with ongoing research needs not requiring full-time lab space or comprehensive, ongoing support. Startups with limited budgets or those needing flexible, scalable lab access without the commitment of an incubator or accelerator program might find lab share spaces most beneficial. 

Choosing the right support program—whether an incubator, accelerator, or lab share—can significantly impact your startup’s future. By thoroughly assessing your startup's stage, goals, and specific needs, you can make an informed decision that maximizes your chances for success. Whether you need comprehensive support, rapid growth acceleration, or flexible lab space, there is an option that can take your startup to the next level.

More resources for biotech startups and early-stage companies

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