Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Merrimack Valley Sandbox

The Merrimack Valley Sandbox is a project of the Deshpande Foundation, which has encouraged the use of entrepreneurship and innovation as catalysts for sustainable change in the United States, India and Canada since 1996. Deshpande supported centers include the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, the Deshpande Center for Social Innovation in Hubli, India, the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick, and our own Merrimack Valley Sandbox at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The MV Sandbox includes higher education partners (Middlesex Community College, Merrimack College and Northern Essex Community College) and a host of regional community and business partners.

The mission of the MV Sandbox is to connect and strengthen the ecosystem in Lowell and Lawrence, Mass. around entrepreneurship and leadership. This mission is supported by the following three principle MV Sandbox programs:


The Catalyst program provides seed funding and mentoring support to foster initiative around new ideas and programs among local high school and college students. If you have an idea that helps to solve a regional, social or business problem in a sustainable manner, consider applying for a Catalyst grant. Learn more.


The Entrepreneur Program is a community-wide initiative supporting entrepreneurship. More than 30 partner organizations and institutions are participating in this initiative, which gives entrepreneurs a greater chance at success through pitch contests, workshops and intensive programs. This year the MV Sandbox is hosting a series of business pitch competitions with a prize pool of nearly $50,000. Next year the MV Sandbox plans to offer a prize pool of nearly $100,000. Learn more.


The Sandbox Leadership Institute (SLI) offers leadership development for individuals that live, work or are interested in the communities of Lawrence and Lowell. Read more about the Leadership Institute