‘A very nurturing environment’: UConn aims to fuel economic growth with Stamford startup incubator

Stamford Advocate 03.07.2021


‘A very nurturing environment’: UConn aims to fuel economic growth with Stamford startup incubator

By Paul Schott


During the past few years, the University of Connecticut’s Stamford campus has grown at a striking rate — as seen in its rising enrollment, residence hall openings and expanding list of academic programs.

Now, UConn is further building its presence in the city through the expansion of its Technology Incubation Program (TIP), its longstanding initiative to support startups in the state. The new Stamford incubator focuses on firms working in data science and aims to leverage the expertise and experience of UConn students and faculty, who are playing an increasingly prominent role in fueling the area’s economic development and innovation.


“The TIP is a very nurturing environment for early-stage companies. It brings the full support of the university ecosystem,” Vijay Jayachandran, co-founder and CEO of ACW Analytics, one of the companies participating in the Stamford incubator, said in an interview. “It makes us feel good about the support we will get as we build out our company.”

Supporting startups

The Stamford hub will complement the Technology Incubation Program’s bioscience-focused sites at the main UConn campus in Storrs and at the UConn Health complex in Farmington, which have respectively operated since 2003 and 2010.

Across the three sites, the TIP covers about 35,000 square feet of office and lab space — making it the largest incubator of its kind in the state, according to UConn officials.

Last year, the TIP companies raised nearly $463 million in total funding. At the end of the past fiscal year, those firms cumulatively had 208 full-time and part-time positions on their payrolls.

“The incubators are important spaces that can help regional economic development,” said Radenka Maric, UConn’s vice president for research, innovation and entrepreneurship. “It’s not only by launching companies around the university’s intellectual property, but also providing startups with access to institutional resources like infrastructure and access to people that can accelerate their success.”

Companies accepted into any of the TIP sites can be based on technology developed at UConn or can be external ventures that would benefit from access to UConn’s research resources.

To start, five startups are joining the Stamford incubator. The cohort includes ACW Analytics, which uses its expertise in earth and data sciences to predict the impact of severe weather on infrastructure such as electrical utilities’ assets.

“There is Boston and New York, where a lot of stuff is happening, but this new incubator really shows the intent to grow that capability in Connecticut,” said Jayachandran, who previously worked for more than 20 years at United Technologies.

ACW has deep connections to the university. Its other founders are Manos Anagnostou, the Eversource Energy endowed chairman in environmental engineering at UConn; Diego Cerrai, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at UConn, and Peter Watson, who holds a UConn master’s degree in environmental engineering.

Incubator amenities in Stamford will include office space and shared work areas in a 5,685-square-foot center that UConn has leased at 9 W. Broad St., a building that stands a block from the university’s main academic building in the downtown and across the street from Mill River Park.
All TIP companies pay rent except for those started by UConn students, who can use the space for free as long as they are enrolled. The Stamford-based companies will be signing two-year lease agreements, according to university officials.

The broader UConn Stamford Data Science Initiative, which includes the incubator, is receiving a total of $4.2 million in funding, with equal allocations provided by the university and CTNext, an entrepreneurship-focused subsidiary of the state-chartered venture capital organization Connecticut Innovations.

“Our mission at CTNext is to create jobs for the Connecticut economy through the formation of new businesses. We do this by supporting local startups and identifying opportunities to seed new entrepreneurial activity around existing areas of innovation and economic strength,” said CTNext Executive Director Glendowlyn Thames. “At UConn Stamford, we saw an excellent graduate program in applied data analytics. Data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence are rapidly growing technologies with broad applications in a whole host of local industries. Data analytics talent and business solutions are in high demand.”


Several years of planning preceded the Stamford incubator’s launch, with a number of local agencies supporting the effort. City officials and the nonprofit Stamford Partnership helped to recruit the incubator, according to Thomas Madden, Stamford’s director of economic development.

“The Stamford TIP will provide the missing piece of any innovation district — a research university within the city,” Madden said. “When you look at the first five companies that will locate in the TIP, you will notice that these companies all benefit in their Stamford location as the city provides a great testing ground for the product and the ability to access capital once they start to grow.”


“UConn’s Technology Incubation Program is a terrific program matching students with startups, and Stamford is uniquely situated to provide these robust workforce-development initiatives for students with our diverse and talented business community,” Simmons said. “UConn Stamford has been a vital asset to our community… There are excellent professors and an amazing and talented student body that not only add to the vibrancy of our community, but also are leading innovative initiatives and creating startups.”

Growing in Stamford

The incubator comprises the first stage of a three-part initiative to expand UConn’s Stamford programming.

UConn will hire five junior faculty members specializing in data science. In addition, it will launch an “experiential learning” co-op program led by its Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.


Companies in the Stamford incubator will have access to an ever-growing student population. The Stamford campus’ combined undergraduate and graduate enrollment last fall totaled 2,941, surging 40 percent from 2016.

“The new UConn data science unit and technology incubator in Stamford is an enormous stride forward for our campus and the university,” said Terrence Cheng, UConn’s Stamford campus director. “It shows that we continue to be responsive to the needs of our city and our region by expanding the innovation ecosystem of Fairfield County. This work will support research, help new companies and impact our students by providing experiential learning opportunities they would not find elsewhere.”


“Stamford could be the next Austin, Texas,” Jayachandran said. “We see it as a potential next big hub for economic development and in the area of data science. We want to work with other companies to build a thriving ecosystem, so we never have to think of going elsewhere. We’d love to stay there and build out our company.”