Illumina, the San Diego-based sequencing equipment firm and laboratory, has launched a new venture: an incubator for new businesses. The company has launched the Illumina Accelerator Program, a six-month business incubator that will provide funding and support services to up to six startup companies each year that are “working on scientifically and commercially promising next-generation sequencing applications,” the company said in a statement. Companies will be selected for the program through a competitive application process. Those selected will receive up to $100,000 in sequencing services, reagents, technical support, and laboratory space at a new research and development center Illumina is building in the Mission Bay section of San Francisco. Illumina is also providing financial modeling, forecasting, and legal and human resource assistance, as well as support in product licensing and technology transfer. Technology investor Yuri Milner is also offering $100,000 in working capital in exchange for convertible notes capped at $5 million in value. The Silicon Valley Bank will provide credit lines up to $20,000 and other financial services. “Next-generation sequencing has reached the lift-off stage. I’m excited to support this endeavor promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the genomics ecosystem,” said Milner, whose best known investment in the lab space is the personal genomics firm 23andMe. Participating startup companies will hone their product, make pitches to venture capitalists and angel investors, and will receive help in opening their company headquarters after the incubator session is concluded. Illumina will retain a 10 percent stake in the companies that go through the incubator process. “The dramatic reduction in the cost of sequencing has enabled the scientific and business communities to address an increasingly broad range of research and clinical opportunities. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface, however, and we’re excited to foster the next generation of genomics innovators . . . the Illumina Accelerator Program will make it easier for them to validate and create NGS applications and bring these solutions to market,” said Mostafa Ronaghi, Illumina’s chief technology officer. Takeaway: The laboratory sector and Silicon Valley are joining forces to speed up development of genomic companies and products.