By Matt Rocheleau
Start-ups will have soon have a new space in Lowell to test products, form partnerships and access research, development, mentoring and financial resources.
Governor Deval Patrick and other state officials announced today that the Univeristy of Massachusetts Lowell’s new Innovation Hub will occupy two floors and about 22,000 square feet of space inside the five-story, 55,000 square-foot Freudenberg Building at 110 Canal St. in Lowell.
He also announced $1 million in additional capital funding will go to help complete the project, which will include an expansion of Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, or M2D2.
Officials said the Innovation Hub will be a “co-working space” allowing early-stage entrepreneurs to test their products and concepts. It will also be a place where innovators can find resources to help get their ideas off the ground. And, it will help support the development, launch and commercialization of other tech-based innovations and companies with high-growth potential, officials said.
“We invest in innovation because we believe in enabling and encouraging industries that are using their brainpower to help shape our future,” Patrick said in a statement. “Our proven growth strategy of investing in education, innovation and infrastructure has positioned the Commonwealth as a global leader in key innovation economy sectors, and we look forward to seeing the great work that will come out of the Innovation Hub.”
One of the floors in the Innovation Hub that will contain general space and resources for startups is scheduled to open in the fall, said UMass Lowell spokeswoman Christine Gillette. The other floor, which will be reserved for M2D2 and will allow it to double its existing size, will open next spring, she said.
The project will cost $7.8 million altogether, including the $1 million allocation announced today, a $4 million Massachusetts Life Sciences Center grant to cover the M2D2 expansion and $2.8 million from UMass Lowell to cover five years of operational costs.
The site in Lowell’s developing Hamilton Canal District was chosen for its proximity to UMass Lowell, a floor layout “that will foster entrepreneurial activity,” and because it is in a highly-visible location and surrounded by a mix of housing, dining, and transportation options.
Other projects are underway in the district include the Counting House, an old mill that is being renovated into 52 apartments, half of which will be designated as affordable housing, and the Mill No. 5 project, another mill overhaul that will create retail shops, artist studios and space for start-ups.
“The UMass Lowell Innovation Hub, which will be the first commercial component of the city of Lowell’s sweeping Hamilton Canal District redevelopment project, will provide space for as many as 40 entrepreneurs and startups in the medical device and tech sectors,” said a statement from UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan.
“Within this business incubator, they will be able access the resources of the university, including the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center and the expertise of faculty researchers, as well as the guidance of mentors from the venture community and larger, established companies,” he added.
In the fall of 2012, the university opened a new $80 million Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center — the first new building constructed on the Lowell campus in more than three decades. The facility aims to prepare students for jobs in emerging sectors and houses space for corporate- and government-sponsored research.
While Boston’s innovation and start-up scene has flourished, some other municipalities in Massachusetts have struggled somewhat in their attempts to attract entrepreneurs.
However, officials say they are moving forward on projects in Lowell such as the Innovation Hub because they’ve seen success and growing demand around startup space there.
Lowell Mayor Rodney M. Elliot said he and the city welcome the project, calling it “the next logical step in the City of Lowell’s quest to continually reinvent itself.”
“The Freudenburg building is one of the premier pieces of commercial space in the City of Lowell,” he said in a statement. “The recognition of Lowell’s remarkable journey from factory city to research and development hub is gratifying.”
“We welcome the opportunity to showcase what the City of Lowell has to offer to business people around the state and the country,” he added.