Officials Praise University’s Cooperative Spirit

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and state and local officials helped celebrate the opening of the new Innovation Hub at 110 Canal St. 

By David Perry

With two snips of ceremonial scissors, UMass Lowell’s quest to spark entrepreneurship and innovation came closer to being fully realized.

In the up-and-coming Hamilton Canal District — a pocket of Lowell not long ago considered unsavory — the university on Oct. 6 unveiled two floors made for folks who are inventing the future.

Officials snipped the first ribbon on the fourth floor of the 110 Canal building, home to expanded space of the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2), a joint venture between UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School. The new location adds to M2D2’s existing space in Wannalancit Business Center, which opened in 2011 and now houses 15 companies. 

For the second ribbon cutting and ceremony, well over 100 people headed down one floor to the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub (iHub), an incubator for tech industry start-ups that has been open since June and has a dozen companies and corporate sponsors on site.

Each space in the renovated mill building has 11,000 square feet of workspace and access to state-of-the-art equipment.

Steve Tello, associate vice chancellor for entrepreneurship and economic development, called it, “two floors of collaboration, office, prototype and shared lab space specifically focused on encouraging and supporting the development of technology entrepreneurs and startups in the Merrimack Valley.”

UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney told the crowd of 150 city, state, university and business people in the room that years ago, such successful collaboration between the public and private sector was unimaginable.

Moloney said 110 Canal will “foster innovation, entrepreneurship, economic development and job creation.” 

“The Innovation Hub and M2D2 are doing this by linking startups and entrepreneurs to the university’s world-class faculty and their expertise, as well as the resources of a research institution and the region’s business community. The companies that result will help fuel Massachusetts’ economy for years to come.”

Joining Moloney were UMass President Marty Meehan, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and state and local representatives. She credited Gov. Charlie Baker and Polito as politicians who “get it.”

Polito recalled Lowell’s rich history as a place where things were designed and built. 

She praised the public-private partnerships that made the facility possible and touted 110 Canal as “an example for others. What you have here in Lowell works. You have a model here that will translate to other parts of the state.”

Polito said that once startups grow, a fresh challenge will be “retaining them” with an attractive city infrastructure of housing, schools, safe neighborhoods and overall quality of life.

Meehan, Moloney’s predecessor, knows the 110 Canal turf well, calling the new building a product of “the power of collaboration.”

“Eighty percent of the 73,000 students enrolled at UMass campuses will stay in Massachusetts,” he said. “That is the workforce this Commonwealth needs to meet the needs of business and industry.”

The building is being developed by Trinity Financial. The iHub and M2D2 at 110 Canal both received support from the state toward the cost of building out the space.

It was the second time in a week that Moloney and city officials publicly touted a project that draws upon university resources within the 15-acre Hamilton Canal District. Five days earlier, they led students, faculty and staff through a “welcome back” tour of the downtown, culminating with a reception at Mill No. 5, a renovated former cotton mill  that houses small retail spaces, a café, yoga studio and independent movie theater and is a stone’s throw from 110 Canal.