It shouldn't be surprising that 32 percent of all business incubators in North America have ties to a university. College towns offer an abundance of resources--including a cheap, well-educated work force and a pipeline of ideas from campus classrooms. High-profile incubators such as Stanford's StartX and the Austin Technology Incubator at the University of Texas aren't the only hives of innovation buzzing within academia.

Here are three other college-town incubators worth watching.

USC/Columbia Technology Incubator

Location: Columbia, South Carolina; home of the University of South Carolina.

The 40,000-square-foot USC/Columbia incubator houses 45 young companies in fields that include software and pharmaceuticals. Entrepreneurs can get mentorship on topics such as grant writing and Web design, join lunchtime discussions with fellow entrepreneurs, and compete for seed funding in pitch contests.

Success stories: The 31 companies that have graduated from the incubator have created more than 775 jobs, according to the incubator. Direct Measurements, which makes sensors (above) to measure the stress on bridges and wind turbines, was recently named lead subcontractor on a $4.4 billion bridge-monitoring project in Washington State.

Cost: Office space ranges from $150 a month to $1,000 a month.

To apply: Your start-up has to be tech-oriented. To be considered, submit a business plan and an application for review.


Location: Champaign, Illinois; home of the University of Illinois

EnterpriseWorks has nurtured 145 businesses, many in IT and biotech, since its founding 10 years ago. In addition to offering entrepreneurs legal assistanceand payroll services, the incubator hosts six entrepreneurs-in-residence and an industrial-designer-in-residence to help start-ups bring their products to life.

Success stories: EnterpriseWorks's start-ups have raised $550 million in outside capital, including more than $28 million in government research grants. IntelliWheels, a company that has created a patent-pending gear system for manual wheelchairs (above), was awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health and has raised more than $500,000 in funding.

Cost: Leases range from $200 to $800 a month for offices; $800 to $1,900 for labs.

To apply: Submit a business plan and an application for review. You'll have an inside track if your start-up has ties to the university.

Furnace Technology Transfer Accelerator

Location: Scottsdale, Arizona; home of Arizona State University's Skysong Center

The Furnace gives start-ups at least $25,000 in seed funding and business services worth another $25,000. They also get intensive mentoring for six months and access to resources like on-site 3-D printers. The 15-month-old accelerator was created to spur the commercialization of intellectual property coming out of Arizona research institutions.

Success stories: The Furnace has secured more than half a million dollars in financial support for the selected start-ups. Among the 10 companies in the accelerator's inaugural class is RehabDev, which is developing wearable technologies (above) to help stroke victims perform repetitive motions that aid their rehabilitation.

Cost: Tech transfer fees typically cost start-ups an equity stake of 3 percent to 4 percent.

To apply: Applications for the 2013 class are available August 1. Your start-up must be new, without revenue.