Jacobs Partners with Berkeley SkyDeck Accelerator to Support Hardware Startups

February 29, 2024 | 5:44 pm

The Jacobs Institute is excited to elevate its role within the vibrant UC Berkeley entrepreneurship ecosystem through a new strategic partnership with Berkeley SkyDeck, Berkeley’s largest and most prominent accelerator. This collaboration is designed to empower select hardware startups participating in SkyDeck’s accelerator program by providing access to the Jacobs Makerspace’s state of the art prototyping and fabrication facilities.

This new partnership emphasizes the strong cross-functional collaboration between different parts of the UC Berkeley ecosystem to support entrepreneurs and startups. 

Hardware startups accepted to Berkeley SkyDeck’s accelerator program will be granted Entrepreneur Maker Passes, which provide access to the state of the art Jacobs Makerspace. These passes allow holders the use of Makerspace equipment, including standard, experimental, and advanced 3D printers; acrylic, wood, and metal laser cutters; electronics and textile labs; a woodshop and metal shop; industrial robots; CNC routers and mills; 3D scanners; and many other tools. The program will also provide access to Jacobs’ in-house design specialists with expertise across design, engineering, and fabrication; free workshops and tool training to explore new skills; and access to the Material Store, offering base materials at low cost for prototype development and testing.

“The quality of a startup’s prototypes can make all the difference when working to secure funding. With the Jacobs Institute’s investments in both tooling and talent now available to selected companies, SkyDeck will now be able to service hardware startup founders and their engineers,” said Caroline Winnett, Executive Director of Berkeley SkyDeck. “SkyDeck cannot wait to see what ideas our founders can now bring to life – all without leaving the Berkeley campus.” 

The partnership with the Jacobs Institute provides startups access to state of the art equipment in close proximity to their business home base at SkyDeck, potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars and significantly speeding up the prototyping process. With the assistance of the Jacobs Institute’s in-house design advisors, startups can also design iteratively and fine-tune their prototypes. In turn, SkyDeck startups will also engage with the student community at Jacobs Institute, either via a workshop or career conversation. Jacobs Institute will present at the start of each SkyDeck orientation to introduce Cohort companies to available resources. 

“The Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation was designed as an interdisciplinary hub bringing together design methodology, technological innovation, and societal impact to tackle the biggest problems of today and tomorrow, unlike anything universities have done before. Working with SkyDeck allows us to expand our mission to a brand-new set of users,” added Eric Paulos, Faculty Director of the Jacobs Institute. “This is an exciting example of Berkeley’s various capabilities and resources coming together in a unique way to support entrepreneurs on a critical part of the product development  process.” 

Jacobs Hall and its facilities are the result of a $20 million gift from the Paul and Stacy Jacobs Foundation. Unlike many makerspaces on university campuses, the Jacobs Makerspace’s resources are available to students, staff, and faculty of all disciplines for coursework, student club projects, and also for personal projects—provided they apply for a Maker Pass. 

“After working with the team at the Makerspace I was able to reduce the costs for a mold down from $40,000 to under $7,000 and the price per unit from $6 to $0.69,” said UC Berkeley alumni, Alex James Eyeman. “If I had not known what I could learn only at the Jacobs Makerspace, my small business could have never gotten started.”

“Adapting a research technology for a harsh and complex field takes a lot of prototyping and tests and requires a hands-on understanding of design for manufacturing. The SpaceCAL project was created to test a new type of 3D printing in space environments, and working with JIDI allowed us to be hands-on with our designs and quickly learn from our mistakes to create the perfect experiment,” said Taylor James Waddell, SpaceCAL Suborbital Project Principal Investigator; PhD, Mechanical Engineering.

Berkeley SkyDeck accepts around 1% of startups that apply and approximately 20 to 25 startups overall for each of its Cohort accelerator programs. Cohort companies receive $200,000 in funding, $750,000 worth of free and discounted resources, and access to SkyDeck’s unsurpassed network of UC Berkeley alumni, faculty, and advisors. Demo Day for Batch 17 is set to take place on April 10, 2024. Berkeley SkyDeck Europe, Milano will soon begin working with its fifth cohort. 

Learn more about the SkyDeck Accelerator here.