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Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center Garners State, Private Support

$10M State Grant Will Outfit Nanotech Cleanroom, Nano-Medicine Lab

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The Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center will provide state-of-the-art labs, a nanotech clean room, plastics processing facilities and other resources for advanced research.  

By Jill Gambon

As construction of UMass Lowell’s $70 million Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center (ETIC) enters the homestretch, plans to equip the building with cutting-edge laboratories and research space got a boost from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. On April 24, the agency awarded a $10 million capital grant that will help outfit the center’s clean room for micro-nano fabrication and third-floor nano-medicine laboratories.

“UMass Lowell is grateful to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, as well as Gov. Deval Patrick and his administration, and the state legislature, particularly the Lowell delegation, for this crucial funding,” says UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. “We will leverage this to gain additional support for the Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center and the cutting-edge research that will be conducted there with our faculty, students and industries across the region. This will enable the university to build on its significant role in fueling the state's innovation economy.”

Scheduled to open in the fall, the 84,000-square-foot facility will bring together experts in such leading-edge disciplines as nanotechnology, biomedicine and plastics engineering and will create new opportunities for collaboration between faculty, students and industry. Researchers will have the space and specialized lab equipment to develop advanced materials that will improve the performance of everything from food packaging to life-saving medical products.  

“UMass Lowell is one of our state’s strongest contributors to innovative life sciences research and one of the many reasons that Massachusetts is considered a global leader in the life sciences,” says Susan Windham-Bannister, president and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. “We are pleased to support the construction of this new facility that will enhance the University’s capacity for innovation and benefit the regional economy in Greater Lowell.”

Construction of the ETIC got underway in June 2010, with broad support from local, state and federal officials, as well as private industry. Mass Life Science Center’s $10 million award, combined with $35 million in previously approved state funding from other sources, will pay a substantial portion of the building’s cost.
The ETIC has also attracted $7 million in private donations from alumni and corporate partners. Of that money, $5 million comes from five donors, including alumni John Kennedy ’70, Barry Perry ’68, Mark Saab ’81 and Robert Ward ’70, as well as medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific. 

“Never before have University supporters committed to a single project at this level,” Meehan says. “Their contributions are helping to drive this project forward.”

The clean room will be used for the fabrication of micro- and nano-devices, sensors and templates for life sciences applications. Vice Provost for Research Julie Chen expects it will attract a range of companies, from large enterprises to startups in such industries as defense, life sciences and communications. The nano-medicine labs will provide the space for advanced research focused on the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and related sectors.
The four-story glass and steel building will also house wet labs, engineering labs, plastics processing facilities, a high-bay manufacturing center and meeting rooms. The first-floor lobby will serve as the home to a plastics hall of fame to recognize the accomplishments of industry leaders.

 “The thing that’s unique about the ETIC is the interdisciplinary mix in one building,” says Chen.  “It’s not just a chemistry building or a biology building or an engineering building. It brings all these disciplines and outside partners under one roof.”

Several corporations that have never before partnered with UMass Lowell are donating highly specialized equipment for the building, including Arburg Corp., a leading maker of injection machines for plastics processing headquartered in Lossburg, Germany, and Technovel, a Japanese maker of extrusion molding machinery. Prof. Robert Malloy, chairman of the Plastics Engineering Department, says the equipment that Technovel has donated is the first of its kind to be installed in North America.

Located on the corner of University Avenue and the VFW Highway, the ETIC will serve as a gateway to North Campus. While the hard hats and heavy equipment are still in evidence, construction will be winding down in the coming months as lab equipment is installed and calibrated and final preparations made before the building opens. 

In keeping with the University’s sustainability goals, the ETIC is a green building, with a targeted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification.  The exterior of the building includes a terrace that overlooks the Merrimack River and there is a quadrangle that sits between the building and Lydon Library, mirroring the quad of the original North Campus layout.