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UMass Lowell Event Highlights Return Potential of Entrepreneurship, Innovation Programs

The M2D2 Innovation Hub at UMass Lowell Photo by Janco Damas/BBJ
The M2D2 Innovation Hub at UMass Lowell

06/17/2016
Boston Business Journal
By Janco Damas

University of Massachusetts Lowell is behaving like a budding venture capitalist these days, supporting programs in entrepreneurship and innovation with an eye toward potential payoffs down the road.

A recent example of the opportunities at hand: UMass Lowell secured $3.8 million earlier this year from its ownership stake in Anterios, a biotech startup driven by intellectual property created on campus. Anterios, which developed a topical version of Botox that can be applied on the skin rather than through needle injection, was sold to global pharmaceuticals company Allergan for $96 million in January.

The school's evolving efforts in the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation were on full display Tuesday during the fifth annual Deshphande Symposium hosted on UMass Lowell's campus. Over 300 academics, policy makers and technology experts were on hand to discuss best practices in integrating entrepreneurship throughout their colleges and universities.

Associate Vice Chancellor Steven Tello, who moderated a panel on E&I programs and their roles in surrounding communities, touched on his experience co-directing UMass Lowell's Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) which provides access to research for smaller medical device companies on a path to commercialization.

"In our incubators we host 25 companies developing a variety of medical device, biotech, IoT (Internet of Things) and related technologies,” said Tello, who also helped create the university’s student-business incubator called DifferenceMakers.

So far, those efforts have delivered some strong returns.

For example, the Anterios deal helped the university to develop the Innovation Hub at Hamilton Canal District in Lowell that will serve as co-working space for M2D2 and DifferenceMakers programs.

At Tuesday's event, student attendees said the strength of UMass Lowell’s E&I programs is grounded in good value that's accessible to students of all backgrounds and abilities. A prime benefactor is Erin Keaney, a plastics engin­­­eering student who co-founded a company that designs and builds prosthetic limbs. Another attendee, Erin Graceffa, is an electrical and computer engineering major who was a student-entrepreneur in the DifferenceMaker program and co-founded a wearables startup that promotes safety.

Prior to enrolling at UMass Lowell, Graceffa considered 10 schools, she said, adding that she chose UMass Lowell for its value and proximity to her hometown. Graceffa said she found everything she needed including a six-month co-op at EMC Corp. and an internship at Flow Forward Medical, an M2D2 company.