By Elizabeth Dobbins
LOWELL — Two-and-a-half years ago, only about 40 percent of the office space at Boott Mills was occupied.
Today, that figure is nearing 80 percent, according to John Power, one of the building owners.
Officials gathered Thursday at the former textile mill building at 116 John Street to welcome the two newest occupants, CAIDE Systems and Peroxygen Systems.
"What we're talking about is the growth of this city," Mayor William Samaras said. "What we're talking about is the quality of life in this city."
The businesses moved into the building after receiving grants from the city. These funds were earmarked by state Rep. Thomas Golden Jr. and came to Lowell through the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, according to city Director of Economic Development Andrew Shapiro.
Shapiro said the grants helped with a variety of expenses for the businesses such as rent, moving costs, outfitting the space and equipment purchases.
CAIDE Systems received $80,500 and Peroxygen Systems received $50,000. Horsepower Technologies Inc., a biotech company combating equine lameness, was a recipient of funding from the same source last year.
Like Horsepower Technologies, CAIDE Systems got its start at the Innovation Hub at University of Massachusetts Lowell, an incubator for start-ups.
The company, founded in 2016, is led by Kyewook "Jacob" Lee who took Ph.D. courses in computer science at University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Its product automatically annotates MRIs and other medical imaging.
Lee said many companies are working to harness artificial intelligence in diagnosing patients, but these programs require data to run.
Currently, he said gathering this data is done by humans in an expensive and tedious process. The technology being designed by CAIDE Systems has the capability of gathering this data 24 times faster than doctors, according to Lee.
Lee said CAIDE Systems is collaborating with doctors through the American College of Radiology. The company is also working on a version for patients to review medical images.
CAIDE Systems has seven local employees and collaborates with others off-site, according to Lee.
Peroxygen Systems started in 2015, and moved from Knoxville, Tennessee to Lowell this spring. It currently has five employees who work onsite in Lowell.
The company is developing technology for on-site hydrogen peroxide production.
Chief Technology Officer Alan Pezeshki said creating the chemical on-site reduces the risk of transporting large quantities of concentrated hydrogen peroxide.
The company's product creates hydrogen peroxide at a lower cost and with no waste byproducts.
"We've got much greener and cheaper process that we're developing," Pezeshki said. "It's got uses in the pulp and paper industry, for drinking and wastewater treatment, and also, a little bit poetic, in textile treatment."
Pezeshki said the company was looking to move to a place with a good ecosystem for start-ups, but not as expensive as places like Cambridge or Boston.
Golden highlighted the benefits of Lowell for start ups.
"People don't have to pay the outrageous square footage prices (like those) down in the Cambridge area," Golden said. "And I am taking a shot at Cambridge. We want to go in and, no holds barred, take some of their companies."
Power, a partner at Farley White Interests which owns the 1850s mill building, said filling some of the offices makes it easier to get more tenants.
"Those people attract other people," he said. "That's the win."
City Manager Eileen Donoghue praised the private-public partnerships that led to these two companies opening offices in Lowell. During the ribbon cutting at Peroxygen, she addressed the companies.
"As you settle in, as you grow, if you have other needs please feel free to reach out to the city," she said. "We are here to work with you and to make sure that you're are a success."