Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub: Berkeley’s New Home for Climate Innovation

The Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub, expected to open during the 2027-2028 academic year, will provide a home for entrepreneurs in the burgeoning field of climate technology. The donor-funded facility will be located on the west side of campus at the site currently occupied by University Hall. Rendering by Gensler

From the story by Kara Manke at UC Berkeley News.

A new incubator on the west side of campus will provide resources and support to entrepreneurs in renewable energy and clean technology.

From materials that can draw carbon from the air to plastics that are truly biodegradable, the University of California, Berkeley, is home to a stunning array of discoveries that are poised to improve the health of our planet and reverse the devastating effects of climate change.

Today (Thursday, May 16), the campus announced plans for a new space dedicated to translating these discoveries into impactful climate solutions.

The Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub, expected to open during the 2027-2028 academic year, will provide campus innovators with the resources they need to launch successful companies in the burgeoning field of climate technology. At the site currently occupied by University Hall, the donor-funded facility will include laboratory and flexible scale-up space tailored to support a diverse array of climate research, from renewable energy and carbon capture to greener building materials and agricultural practices.

The new facility is part of a larger plan to redevelop the west side of campus into a center for life sciences, materials science and climate research at Berkeley. The project, called the Berkeley Innovation Zone, will include two buildings — the Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub and an additional research facility — along with open space and parking.

“The Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub represents a tremendous opportunity to educate the next generation of climate innovators and support our faculty in bringing their transformative ideas to life,” said Chancellor Carol Christ. “The new facility will support the campus in its mission to address one of society’s greatest challenges.”

The Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub will include laboratory space, conference rooms, office space and other interaction spaces, and will allow for up to 75 tenant companies once fully occupied.
Rendering by Gensler

The Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub aims to build on the success of the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub, a newly renovated facility on the south side of campus in Woo Hon Fai Hall. In addition to providing affordable lab space for growing companies in the life sciences, the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub supports entrepreneurs through programming designed to build community and facilitate connections to industry partners and investors.

The Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub will support the campus in its mission to address one of society’s greatest challenges.

Chancellor Carol T. Christ

Since opening in November 2021, the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub and its incubator, Bakar Labs, have fostered 38 Bay Area startups in the life sciences, seven of which have either been acquired or raised significant investments allowing them to establish their own spaces. Together, these companies have raised more than $380 million in investment and created more than 300 jobs.

The Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub will provide a similar foundation for entrepreneurs tackling the climate crisis. At UC Berkeley, more than 300 faculty in engineering, computer science, the physical and life sciences, chemistry, environmental design, law, policy, business and other fields are deeply engaged in energy and climate research, and incubation space devoted to this area is critically needed.

“Our university excels at basic discovery, innovation, and policy. Translating basic academic discoveries into companies that scale them into products can broadly benefit society and really change the world,” said David Schaffer, a UC Berkeley chemical and biomolecular engineering professor who will direct the Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub. “We’re creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem that can help mitigate a lot of the challenges that early technologies face as they’re trying to grow into larger companies.”

“The world is warming every day, and we want to start building momentum now,” said chemical and biomolecular engineering professor David Schaffer, who will lead the Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub.
Elena Zhukova for UC Berkeley

Under Schaffer’s leadership, the Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub will also support UC Berkeley’s educational mission by developing internships and fellowship programs that will help train undergraduate and graduate students to become future leaders in climate innovation.

“Human health and planetary health are two of the major challenges facing our society,” said Schaffer, who also directs Bakar Labs and the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub. “Our human health incubator, Bakar Labs, is really off to the races, and we’re thrilled to now have the opportunity to take on this other major societal problem.”

Designed by Gensler, the new five-story, 145,000-square-foot facility will contain laboratory space, as well as conference rooms, office space and other interaction spaces, and will allow for up to 75 tenant companies, once fully occupied. A number of sustainability strategies are being explored for the building’s design, including low carbon construction, passive solar shading and rooftop solar paneling.

A number of sustainability strategies are being explored for the design of the Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub, including low carbon construction, passive solar shading and rooftop solar paneling.
Rendering by Gensler

Before the new building opens, the Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub will build momentum by launching a pilot climate incubator program to be housed within the existing incubator in Woo Hall and other spaces. The pilot will build a pipeline of talent through mentorship and student internships, and early engagement of investor networks and industry affiliates to accelerate a number of early-stage climate technology companies that will move into the new building once it’s complete.

Founders at the Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub will also have access to UC Berkeley’s bustling community of entrepreneurs, including the Cleantech to Market Program, one of the first climate tech accelerators in the country, as well as Berkeley SkyDeck, the CITRIS Foundry, Berkeley Law and the Haas School of Business. To help propel young companies forward, the Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub has also partnered with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, home to critical scientific facilities that include the Molecular Foundry, the Advanced Light Source, the National Energy Research Scientific Computer Center, as well as programs aimed at translating innovations from the lab to the market, including the Lab’s Cyclotron Road program and its partner, Activate, a nonprofit organization and fellowship program that grew out of Cyclotron Road.

We’re creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem that can help mitigate a lot of the challenges that early technologies face as they’re trying to grow.

Professor David Schaffer

The Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub will also provide an expanded role for BEVC, a venture fund embedded in the expanding Bakar ecosystem that partners with entrepreneurs to start and finance startup companies.

“California and the Bay Area have long been leaders in the growing climate technology industry,” said Berkeley’s Chief Innovation and Entrepreneurship Officer Rich Lyons, who will become chancellor on July 1, after Chancellor Carol Christ’s retirement. “The Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub will accelerate the science of Berkeley’s entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunities in this vibrant sector and launch their game-changing technologies. We aim to leverage our strengths in this area to support the excellence of the campus core.”

Development of the project is scheduled to begin this summer with University Hall’s demolition, which is expected to continue through early 2025. Construction of the Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub will begin once the site is cleared and will take approximately three years. Plans for the other elements of the Berkeley Innovation Zone are in development.

“The world is warming every day, and we want to start building momentum now,” Schaffer said. “We want to get programs up and running, start recruiting companies, start encouraging investment in those companies and get our name out there.”

A view of the current design for the new Bakar ClimatEnginuity Hub looking towards campus from Addison Street.
Rendering by Gensler
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