December 10, 2021

MIT-backed venture fund The Engine expands into Somerville


FEATURE IMAGE — David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Clay Purdy, an employee at Commonwealth Fusion Systems, works out of The Engine’s space in Cambridge.DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

The Engine, an MIT-backed venture capital fund, has expanded into a 42,000-square-foot space near Somerville’s Union Square, according to the company and its landlord. It’s the latest sign that the neighborhood is shifting its focus toward technology and innovation.

The VC company, which funds and supports tech startups working on climate change and other hard-to-solve problems, moved into its new space on Tyler Street — which is part of the Somernova Innovation Hub, a 7.4-acre space owned by Rafi Properties — on Dec. 1 after signing a two-year lease, officials said. The Engine will maintain its headquarters in Cambridge, where it is building out a 200,000-square-foot facility near Central Square.

With its Somerville expansion, the firm joins a cluster of climate technology-focused companies nearby, including Greentown Labs, the country’s largest incubator of climate-tech startups, and Form Energy, a company developing a low-cost, industrial-grade battery that could be crucial to making renewable energy a feasible solution on a big scale.

Collin Yip, the managing partner of Rafi Properties, said that The Engine’s expansion will provide new opportunities for the company. As an investor in technology companies, The Engine’s being near early-stage startups at Greentown Labs, as well as more established companies, will create an ecosystem that he hopes will spur more innovation.

“It’s a cross-pollination, it’s a very natural ... next step, and I think it makes a lot of sense for The Engine to be there.”

Collin Yip

Founded in 2016 by MIT, The Engine is a for-profit company that runs a roughly $660 million venture fund. Its goal is to help startups that are tackling “tough tech” problems, including climate change and materials science. Its portfolio companies include Commonwealth Fusion Systems, a startup that is trying to make nuclear fusion a viable energy solution; the firm recently raked in $1.8 billion in new funding. (Commonwealth Fusion Systems is The Engine’s first portfolio company to work in its new Somerville space.)

Katie Rae, The Engine’s chief executive, said the new facility fills a need for a large and affordable workspace that is crucial for manufacturing and materials science startups.

“We knew it would be a great fit for The Engine’s expansion,” she said in a statement. “It offers us the ability to solve the infrastructure challenge for our network and also brings us even closer to Greentown Labs so we can continue our close partnership on our shared mission of climate tech support.”

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