Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC inaugurated its sixth startup lab on Wednesday: JLBAS @ Toronto. The 40,000 square foot life sciences incubator provides entrepreneurs with shared lab space and offices, modular lab suites, and access to scientific, industry, and capital funding experts. The new facility opens with 22 health-related startups, and it can accommodate up to 50 total. (J&J wisely ensured an initial pool of enthusiastic startups by granting residency at the new facility to the 7 winners of the JLABS @ Toronto Quick Fire Challenge for promising early-stage innovation companies.)
JLABS @ Toronto is the first one to open outside of the U.S., but Toronto has world-class universities, hospitals, and R&D centers, so the choice was sound. Many of those institutions, along with the local and provincial government, have partnered with J&J to make the new lab a reality.
The success of the JLABS has two main sources. One is their provision of office and lab space, specialized equipment, and access to experts, which most startups cannot afford on their own. For example, JLABS @ Toronto will feature a device and digital prototype lab that will provide entrepreneurs access to highly specialized tools, as well as skill-building programs to design and develop smart health technologies. Resident startups of the lab will also have the opportunity to collaborate with IBM Canada and its entrepreneurship programs and services.
The other key component is a no-strings attached policy, wherein the startups are free to come and go as they wish, without having to commit anything to J&J. Even so, what Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels is most proud of is that over the last 3 years, of the 100 companies that have established themselves at the JLABS, 21 have chosen to become a partner of J&J with some technology or product.
The JLABS model should be replicated for other industries.
For more on how to best encourage innovation, see the 2015 BCLS panel New Adaptations For Business Leaders.