mHUB’s heart and soul: hardtech skunkworks at core of accelerator!

Thierry Van Landegem
3 min readJul 30, 2021


We just finished another hardtech skunkworks, here at mHUB’s hardtech accelerator! Each of our cohort startups go through a skunkworks session to accelerate their prototype or product development.

The skunkworks term originated during World War II when the P-80 Shooting Star was designed by Lockheed’s Advanced Development Projects Division in Burbank, California. These closely guarded projects took place in a circus tent next to a plastics factory — the strong smell that wafted into the tent made the Lockheed R&D workers think of the foul-smelling “Skonk Works” factory in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip.

Nowadays a skunkworks project typically refers to a relatively small and loosely structured group of people that work on a project pursuing radical innovation escaping routine management constraints. The term is now used for semi-secret projects like those at Google X Lab, Microsoft Research, Boeing and many others. And also, at mHUB, the Chicago based hardtech innovation center.

Early on in our program, each cohort team identifies well-defined problem statements that need to be solved to come to a feasible prototype solution. Or, teams that already have a validated prototype need help in designing the product for manufacturability. Based on these problem statements and the current startup team skills we define the missing talent to achieve meaningful solutions.

That temporary talent augmentation is the secret sauce that makes the mHUB’s skunkworks so unique.

We can tap into more than more than 1,000 talented individuals form over 300 hardtech startup members.

The brainpower of this augmented team is enormous: only relevant skills and experience are brought to the table. They know first-hand what entrepreneurship means and want to help fellow entrepreneurs and build relationships for the long term. And as we know, multi-disciplinarity accelerates innovation power. Think of bringing in a proven technology from another industry, having an industrial designer sketching out a new idea conceived by engineers on the spot, listening to a material scientist on applicability, all resulting in a portfolio of options that can be validated.

What’s more, these same experts can be further contracted to actually design or help build the prototype. Moreover, that prototype or a first version of an actual product can be made in mHUB’s own prototyping facility. mHUB’s facility is second to none: it’s a product developer’s dream. A cold and hot metals lab, an electronics lab, a 3D printing lab, laser cutting, plastics, woodworking, and much more. Even a micro-factory for low volume production. Equipment is being added to our prototyping shop throughout the year.

Speaking of acceleration!

About the Author

Thierry Van Landegem, leads the inaugural IIoT cohort of the mHUB Accelerator, a program that fast-tracks hardtech startups on their journey to becoming a scalable, profitable and sustainable business. He is responsible for startup sourcing and evaluation, as well as program development and execution.

Thierry brings over 25 years of innovation leadership with a focus on creating sustainable business impact. He has extensive venture building and startup incubation experience in the telecom, IT, internet, automotive, mobility and manufacturing industries launching new corporate product lines, incubations, ventures and startups.



Thierry Van Landegem

Incubates and accelerates businesses (ventures in corporations, startups in incubator or accelerator). Business and digital transformation thru innovation.