Columbia Startup Fellows Program

The Columbia Startup Fellow (CSF) Program is a pilot effort to leverage Columbia’s unique intellectual assets and research facilities to enhance its role as a hub for New York’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and to accelerate translation of innovations in critical areas such as climate, infrastructure, and technology. 

The goal of the CSF Program is to accelerate solutions to society's toughest problems by enabling early-stage startups in climate tech and engineering to conduct R&D in Columbia faculty labs under certain conditions.

During the pilot period of the CSF Program, we are thrilled to partner with Activate, a non-profit that supports scientists and engineers through a two-year entrepreneurial fellowship. Activate launched its New York cohort in 2022 and is leveraging the Columbia Startup Fellows pilot program to provide eligible Activate Fellows access to Columbia research facilities and specialized equipment.

If you are a Columbia faculty member in the Climate School or School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) interested in hosting a Columbia Startup Fellow, please e-mail the CSF Program Concierge.

If you have an early-stage carbontech startup, and are interested in embedding a Fellow in a lab at Columbia, sign up here to be notified when CSF applications become available to the public OR apply for the next Activate Fellowship here (select the Activate New York Community).

What Does the CSF Program Do?

The CSF Program allows early stage pre-revenue science-based startups to access temporarily vacant research space within Columbia labs to conduct their own commercial R&D in a mutually beneficial manner.

Startups in the areas of climate tech and engineering can apply to embed a Fellow from their team in a Columbia lab under certain conditions. If accepted, the Fellow will be matched with a Columbia lab with the appropriate space and/or equipment to conduct research in that lab which strictly follows a pre-approved Scope of Work. Fellowship terms are granted for a 1-year term, which is subject to termination at any time.

The CSF entrepreneurial fellowship model is based off of the successful Research Infrastructure Commons - FLEXIE Program out of the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


The mission of the Columbia Startup Fellows (CSF) Program is to leverage Columbia’s unique intellectual resources and research facilities to spearhead solving complex urban issues and enhance Columbia’s leadership role in New York’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. By doing so, we aim to accelerate the translation process of technology innovations and enhance Columbia’s ability in making real-world impacts.

In alignment with Columbia’s Fourth Purpose and the recently established Columbia Climate School, the Columbia Startup Fellows (CSF) Program will help startups bring life-saving and life-improving outcomes to society, especially in areas of high critical need and “tough tech” in areas where the NYC ecosystem currently lacks existing 3rd party support structures.

What are the Program benefits for both CSF participants?

  • Deeper collaboration between academia and industry
  • Access to world-class research faculty and infrastructure
  • Access to additional resources at Columbia
  • Leverage specialized lab facilities
  • Accelerate the translation process of technology in areas of high critical need
  • Work alongside Columbia to solve fundamental societal problems

Who is the CSF Program For? 

CSF Startup Applicants

  1. Early-stage company (raised no more than $1M in dilutive funding) focusing on climate or engineering (excluding life sciences for the pilot period)
  2. Startup need for Columbia lab equipment and shared facilities for product R&D (emphasis more on equipment and less on software)
  3. No conflicts of interest, e.g., Fellow can’t concurrently have any Columbia appointments (Columbia PhD student, postdoc, or faculty researcher); any Columbia employee with affiliation to startup can’t collaborate with Fellow using Columbia resources or facilities
  4. Have funding and resources to cover CSF’s salary and Columbia’s compliance requirements (liability insurance, personal healthcare insurance)
  5. Submits a research Scope of Work demonstrating a sufficiently narrow and detailed area of focus to differentiate from the host lab

Hosting PIs and Labs

  1. Opt-in only, with approval from Dean and Dept Chair and relevant administration and compliance offices
  2. Have available benches and facilities in own lab (no competition with student or faculty research)
  3. Lab focus differentiated from the CSF’s Scope of Work
  4. Be willing to serve as the point-of-contact for the approved CSF, including responsibility for the fulfillment of fellow’s requirements (e.g., training) and ongoing adherence to established conditions
  5. No conflict of interest, including no involvement with the startup during the CSF’s visit period (e.g. PI or lab students are a co-founder, paid employee/adviser, or hold equity in the startup)