Biotechs and Robotics Pay Off for Massachusetts

A law passed in 2008 that provides subsidies to biotech and robotics companies in Massachusetts is helping to grow these industries in the commonwealth. Some say the biotech and robotics industries in MA are beginning to rival those of Tokyo and California, which have long been considered the global leaders in this type of business.

Massachusetts Received One Third of Seed Stage Funding

One of the reasons for this growth in the commonwealth is the Massachusetts Life Sciences Act of 2008. This legislation authorized $1 billion in investments, grants, loans, and tax breaks over the next decade to be given to local biotech companies. The government is following through with their promise; they have presented over $761 million in seed-stage funding for these businesses between 2009 and 2013. This has allowed nine of the ten largest drug manufacturing companies to set up research and development laboratories in Massachusetts.


Foundry robotics.

Homegrown vs. Tax IncentivesPaying Twofold

One of pivotal stipulation of the MA incentive package is that it focuses on local businesses who have already been working in the industry. Legislation hoped to unlock the commercial potential of research already being conducted at state universities including Harvard, MIT, and the University of Massachusetts. By attracting smaller companies on the cutting edge of research, Massachusetts has found that large companies tend to migrate to states where those small companies are thriving.

Army collaborates with robotics.

Massachusetts Grows ConnectionsAnd Keeps Them

Attracting smaller companies that draw the interest of larger companies has helped Massachusetts become a leader in the biotech and robotics industry. The new financial incentives attract companies and talent to the commonwealth. As the biotech and robotics industries continue to grow, investors have become more motivated to provide additional seed money for growing companies. Larger companies have spent more time mentoring startup companies after seeing their industry swell; the success of large and small companies comes as a benefit to the state.


Atlas, a humanoid robot from Boston Dynamics.

The Future of Robotics in New England

Since 2008, at least twenty robotics companies have sprouted up in Massachusetts; venture capital in the robotics industry has also grown to more than $60 million, up from $20 million in 2008. Technology giants like Amazon and Google have provided millions of dollars in startup funds for robotic-focused companies through acquisitions and other forms of investment.

Unfortunately, trends have shown that smaller companies often sell to larger firms before they can grow to a significant size. This has prevented Massachusetts from becoming a true powerhouse in robotics. The international robotics industry saw $15 billion in 2010; it is expected to see $65 billion by 2025. Experts say that special focus will be given to robotics that provide everyday utility, including those that help clean and maintain homes.

Massachusetts has implemented incentives that have helped the state grow the robotics and biotech industries, but many experts say there is still significant room for growth.

Massachusetts Startup Creates Database to Connect Manufacturers

While experts have regularly acknowledged the decline of the manufacturing industry in America, they have done very little to reverse it. An innovative, new-business incubator in Somerville, MA is starting to take steps in a better direction.

Greentown Labs—A Manufacturing and Technology Incubator

Greentown Labs assists other startups in the technology and manufacturing fields. Like many business incubators, it incorporates a cooperative working space for startups. However, unlike the others, Greentown also offers prototype-manufacturing space, shared machinery and shop tools, and a large event space. In total, the lab offers 33,000 total square feet of creative space for their companies. Manufacturing startups at Greentown are provided with the necessary infrastructure to move their company from conceptual stages to actual production- and revenue-making stages.

Greentown Labs currently hosts 40 companies and supporting organizations that employ over 300 people. Not surprisingly, many of Greentown’s companies specialize in clean technology and the energy industry. The lab also boasts an impressive list of energy-conscious alumni that have “graduated” into their own spaces.

Connect Green Startups Boston Massachusetts

Not only do Greentown companies have a versatile physical space to use, they also utilize the services of “sponsor companies” to assist their operations. For example, members are granted access to sponsor-supplied software at little to no cost to their company. Additionally, members have access to marketing, human resources, graphic design, insurance, and other services. Companies working in the incubator also have the all-important opportunity to network and collaborate with other startups.

Bringing Manufacturing Innovation Back to the Bay State

Incubators such as Greentown Labs make it easier for startups to bring manufacturing job opportunities back to Massachusetts. Over the past several years, Boston has quickly emerged as one of the country’s leading technological hubs. While major research universities such as MIT and Harvard play a role, a business incubator devoted to manufacturing provides a unique, invaluable advantage to the Boston area.

Massachusetts Business Incubator Is Popular Among Politicians

The incubator philosophy has not gone unnoticed by local business and government leaders. During a recent visit to the Greentown Labs, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said they were “the best of what America has to offer.” She said that it is crucial to “level the playing field” between startup initiatives and technology giants; this will help prevent the behemoths from dominating the industry. As Greentown Labs continues to nurture these successful startups, we look forward to their growth and the positive impact they will have on our economy.


UMass Researchers Granted $1.6M for Robotics Development

What do Hurricane Katrina, the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, and the World Trade Center attacks all have in common? Obvious tragedy aside, the common factor in each of these disasters is the use of robots to assist first responders in rescue and cleanup missions. Robotics technology has evolved exponentially over the last two decades, along with the potential to save victims of disaster faster with decreased risk to first responders and other rescue personnel.

A research team at UMass Lowell led by Dr. Holly Yanco, founder of the UMass Robotics Lab and director of the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center, have been awarded four grants totaling more than $1 million toward the development and study of robotics for use in rescue and damage assessment, as well as improving mobility and increasing independence for the elderly or disabled. At a time when science and technology experts around the globe, including notable names such as Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, and Elon Musk, are speaking out against the dangers of implementing weaponized artificial intelligence, Yanco’s team are driving research in the opposite direction and looking for ways to improve and save human lives.

The grants awarded will fund research and development in four areas of robotics: improving communication and assessment between robots and control centers in disaster situations, educating rescue personnel in the best methods for using robots in the field, research in robotics for mobile manufacturing, and research and development on low-cost robotic arms to assist and improve mobility for the physically disabled.

The researchers are utilizing a wide variety of devices in their research that are available to the public, such as Google Glass and touchscreen laptops and tablets. In the future, this may lead to technology that could be integrated with pre-existing resources for disaster-response teams. One of the most interesting areas of study will be the progress made toward using robots to create a 3D map of disaster sites to better prepare rescue crews and allow command centers to create fully developed action plans in shorter spans of time.

How Will the “Internet of Things” Affect Business?

The continuing advancement of wireless technology has created a world where devices are connected in incredible ways. Cloud computing and the increasingly widespread network of data-gathering sensors have made it possible for devices to communicate with one another to accomplish goals—a trend people are calling “The Internet of Things,” or IoT.

With IoT, it may be possible to create useful structures such as  “smart bridges,” which would be constructed out of cement containing sensors that monitor stress, fissures, or warping. The monitoring system could provide ample warning before a serious collapse. IoT would make it possible for stores to track the spending habits of their customers via their unique cell phone signatures and also make purchase suggestions. It even makes it possible for you to control every appliance in your home with your cell phone.

But what effect will the “Internet of Things” have on businesses?

The infographic below, created by Leigh-Ann Carroll with Exigent Networks in the UK, illustrates some key factors where IoT will have a definite, positive influence on the global market.

Internet of things infographic

Internet of Things Infographic by Leigh-Ann Carrol

FLEXcon Gains Space-Age Flexibility in Spencer Business Market

FLEXcon, a family-owned business in Spencer, Massachusetts, has recently landed national attention with their new space-age business partnership. NASA’s Glenn Research Center has agreed to license the production of a special insulator to FLEXcon, a local business in Massachusetts. “We are delighted to secure a licensing agreement for Glenn’s technology,” said Glenn Research Center Director Jim Free, in a press release.

The special insulator is a significant improvement over other products. The material is a polyimide aerogel film that insulates against both heat and cold. The film, which is 500 times stronger than traditional silica aerogels, is currently patent-pending. FLEXcon’s license will allow the Massachusetts business to manufacture and market the film, as well as develop new applications for it.

FLEXcon won’t need to install any new equipment, as their existing  manufacturing equipment can be re-calibrated to create the new technology.

“We know how to take their invention and make it commercially feasible, … We’re excited about this. We’re proud of it. … This is a good win for FLEXcon.”

—Bill Sullivan, Vice President of Performance Products, FLEXcon

While the product was developed for use in space suits, it can also be used in a variety of every-day applications. The efficient, lightweight insulator can be used in household applications like refrigerators, dishwashers, and to insulate pipes. It can also be used in clothing.  Sullivan explained that, “You don’t want to put on a big parka when you’re climbing up Mt. Everest. You want to put on something that’s light but will give you good thermal energy.”

The polyimide aerogel also has applications in the medical industry as it can be used to insulate the containers used for organ transport and blood storage.

The ability to manufacture and distribute a brand-new bleeding-edge product can be a significant boon for the town of Spencer. The product will be a new sales item, which will increase corporate revenues for the local business. is There is potential for further deals with NASA. According to Free, “By licensing the polyimide aerogel technology to FLEXcon, Glenn will gain a commercialization partner.” This makes the implications of the business partnership exciting, because there may be future collaboration between the two companies.  Sullivan shared, “I think more good things are going to come through the relationship NASA has with FLEXcon.”

Worcester Chamber Names Skyscope Creative Entrepreneur of the Year

In an announcement heralding the “overnight success” of a rapidly growing central Massachusetts-based company, The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce recently named Skyscope Creative as its choice for Entrepreneur of the Year.

Alex Dunn, Skyscope’s Chief Operating Officer and one of its three founding partners, expressed his appreciation for the recognition. “From the very outset, Skyscope’s mission has been to help the world’s most interesting and important technology companies solve key business challenges with creative and effective video. We work very hard to deliver the best for our clients, and it’s nice to know that the business community is recognizing us for our efforts on their behalf.”

Founded in 2012 by classmates Dunn, Sam Shepler (CEO), and Gabe Gerzon (Creative Director), all were enrolled in Clark University’s MBA program and had an obsession with video production as well as a shared vision for its largely untapped potential in specific business applications. The field was far from empty, but the three grads saw they had an advantage that set them apart, so they launched Skyscope and got to work. Today, the company they founded in a shared off-campus apartment now occupies an entire floor of newly renovated warehouse space and is among the nation’s very best producers of video for business. Their roster of clients includes Cuisinart, The Game Show Network, Emirates Airlines, and Pinterest – among dozens of others.

It may have made sense to some to launch their hot new media agency in either New York, Los Angeles, or even Boston, but the three chose instead to headquarter their new venture in Worcester. While none of the three were native to Worcester, all had grown familiar (and enamored) with the area while attending Clark. They recognized the city offered the rare combination of a skilled workforce, low-cost space availability, easy access to transportation infrastructure, and a resurgent attitude; all ingredients for success.

One factor contributing to the company’s culture of entrepreneurial spirit is their willingness to make room for talent – even if that talent is not immediately applicable to a specific job description. Says Dunn, “We host these ‘Entrepreneurs-in-Residence’ for the express purpose of keeping creativity at its peak. We encourage them to work on projects that they want to pursue, recognizing that enthusiasm is a strong contributor to success. Each of those we have nurtured in this way have gone on to great success, but don’t think for a minute that we don’t recognize the benefit we receive from the relationship. It is a true win-win.”

Skyscope Creative is a true entrepreneurial success story – and the book’s not yet done being written.

Raytheon buys 80% of Websense for $1.9 billion

In an effort to improve its cyber-protection technology, Waltham-based Raytheon has reached agreement with private-equity firm Vista Equity Partners LLC  to acquire an 80 percent share of Websense Inc. for $1.9 billion. Vista acquired Websense two years ago for about $990 million.

Raytheon plans to integrate Websense into its existing  Raytheon Cyber Products unit and operate the new division with Websense incumbent CEO John McCormack at the helm.

In addition to contributing the $400 million cyber products unit,  Raytheon will infuse $1.6 billion in cash, $600 million in the form of a loan. For its 20 percent stake, Vista will contribute $335 million to the venture.

Websense’s Triton platform, which allows companies to adapt and respond to future cyber attacks, is said to be what particularly appealed to Raytheon.

In November, Raytheon spent $420 million to bolster its intelligence business by acquiring surveillance and cybersecurity company Blackbird Technologies.

Study Foresees Continued Medical Technology Growth

The medical technology industry is growing as an increasingly significant sector of the Massachusetts economy. According to predictions from Evaluate Ltd., a market research firm, it is expected to grow at a 5 percent annual rate for the next five years. The report, entitled “EvaluateMedTech World Preview 2014, Outlook to 2020” (free registration required for download) shows that medical technology sales are expected to reach $514 billion by the end of that period, with influential mergers and emerging players reconstructing the faces of industry leaders.

Westborough-based Coghlin Companies, Inc. recently announced that their subsidiary Cogmedix, a medical device manufacturer founded in 2008, had outgrown its space and was relocating to its new location in Worcester, more than doubling the size of its facility to keep up with growth and demand. The announcement of the merger involving Medtronic and Covidien, estimated at $42.9 billion, is  is anticipated to form the new market leader in an industry that will be worth over half a trillion dollars by 2020.

Research has also shown that spending on global research and development will reach $30.5 billion by that year, a growth of 4.2 percent. In the first half of 2014, $1.3 billion was raised in completed medical technology IPO offerings, a 44 percent increase from the same period in 2013. During the first half of this year, the value of mergers in the medical technology field rocketed up by 363 percent compared with the same period the year before, a huge indicator of what can be expected in the near future.

Massachusetts a Leader in LEED-certified Construction

For the third consecutive year, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ranks among the U.S. Green Building Council‘s Top 10 in the US.

The rankings consider sustainable building design, construction, restoration and rehabilitation and, in terms of square feet per capita, Massachusetts is fifth-best in the country for projects that adhere to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, adding 99 LEED-certified projects last year.

The top four states, from bottom to top, are: Virginia, Maryland, Colorado, and Illinois.

Matthew Beaton, the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary, said that the ranking was an endorsement of Massachusetts’s requirement that all new construction and major renovations meet the state’s LEED Plus green building standard. “Clean energy is yielding significant economic benefits with 10.5 percent job growth in the last year and 47 percent growth since 2010,” said Beaton.

The standard demands that energy performance for the new or renovated building be at least 20 percent better than the state’s building energy code, that the outdoor water consumption must be reduced by at least 50 percent, and that the indoor water consumption be reduced by at least 20 percent. In addition, principles of smart growth and smart energy must be promoted.

Presently, there are 37 LEED-certified buildings in the state, with 70 percent of them certified either gold or platinum.

Beaton said in a statement, “This recognition is another example of Massachusetts’ commitment to strengthening our economy, shaping our energy future and protecting our environment through clean jobs and technology.”

The numbers bear those comments out, with almost 6,000 clean energy-related businesses in Massachusetts, employing a total of over 88,000 workers.

Beaton also pointed out that Massachusetts was again – for the fourth consecutive year – named by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy as the top state in the country in energy efficiency.

Medical Device Manufacturer Moves to Worcester

Cogmedix, a wholly owned subsidiary of Westborough-based Coghlin Companies Inc., recently announced the relocation of its world headquarters to 17 Briden Street in Worcester.  The medical device engineering and manufacturing services provider has become quite a success story in an increasingly important sector of the Commonwealth’s economy.

Chris Coghlin, President and CEO of the Coghlin Companies, stated “We are very excited about the trajectory of Cogmedix and the recent relocation, renovation and expansion of this world-class facility. For more than 100 years, our family has shared a deep-rooted passion for the economic success of Worcester and its surrounding communities, and we look forward to adding many new jobs in the greater Worcester area for years to come. The proximity of this facility lends itself well to attract highly skilled technicians as well as engineering and supply chain personnel as our growth continues into 2015 and beyond.”

Matt Giza, Vice President and General Manager of Cogmedix, said, “This move was made necessary by our steady pattern of growth. We really needed the additional space and these newly outfitted facilities are more than twice the size of our former location. This expansion will allow us to increase capacity to accommodate the needs of our customers, both existing and new, as well as provide improved inventory and supply chain management operations.”

Addressing Cogmedix’ growing niche in manufacturing finished laser and optically-based medical devices, Giza noted that upgrades included the installation of five purpose-built, independently climate-controlled, laser-safe test labs. Amenities include new cafeteria spaces, modern conference rooms, and a new Customer Convenience Center featuring fully equipped workspaces exclusively for visiting clients to enable a more intimate and efficient product launch experience with total transparency.

In addition to expanded production capacity and other benefits made possible by the much larger facility, the address itself has significant advantages. “Our new location,” Giza explained, “is at the junction of Interstate I-190 and I-290, providing quick and easy access to the entire region’s transportation infrastructure, including major airports in Boston, Worcester, Providence, and Hartford. We are also only about a mile from Worcester’s Union Station. All of this makes it possible for our visiting clients to arrive by air or rail and be hard at work in their own dedicated spaces in about an hour or less.

“We also couldn’t help but take notice of the rapidly growing biotech and biomed industry presence in the neighborhood,” said Giza. “Both regionally and nationally, Worcester has become well-known as a home for these cutting-edge industries, and Cogmedix is now located right in the heart of it all. We are immediately adjacent to WPI’s Gateway Park, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI), as well as multiple life science companies in the immediate vicinity, something that will surely add to the atmosphere of innovation and create real opportunities for meaningful collaboration.”