Berkshire Innovation Center on Track to Open by October in Pittsfield, MA
BEN GARVER - THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE.
The Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is set to open no later than October. The $13.8 million facility that will include training sites, biotech wet laboratories, clean rooms, and office and event spaces is now looking for organizations and companies to fill the space.
Scott Longley, executive director of BIC, took time out to speak with BioSpace about the center and its goals.
The Berkshire Innovation Center’s goal is to expand the innovation capacity and growth potential of private companies in the Berkshires region. To do so, they provide advanced capabilities to manufacturers, mostly small and medium-sized companies and startups in the life sciences, life sciences supply chain, advanced manufacturing, and technology.
With its location between Boston and Albany, New York, but also in proximity to Connecticut as well as New York City, the BIC is close to literally hundreds of biopharma companies in their bigger urban areas, but with significantlyBerkshire lower real estate prices. “We’re strategically located with great access for companies looking to move here,” Longley says.
Pittsfield is in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts, closer to Albany, New York than to Boston. It is the largest city of Berkshire County. At the 2010 census, the population was 44,737.
The BIC was launched in 2014 with a $9.7 million capital grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. This was to be used for the design, construction, and equipment of a 22,500 square-feet innovation center located in the William Stanley Business Park, which was a previous location of General Electric.
Before receiving the grant, the BIC received 19 Letters of Intent by private sector companies interested in joining the BIC. It also formalized partnerships with 10 regional educational and research institutions.
Sponsors have included General Dynamics Mission Systems and Berkshire Bank, who contributed $50,000 and $40,000 in 2015, respectively.
More than 10 companies already inked membership agreements. They include Apex Resource Technologies, Boyd Technologies, Cavallero Plastics, General Dynamics Mission Systems, Interprint USA, Intertek PTL, MRA Laboratories, New Dalton Group, Sinicon Plastics, and Sonoco Plastics. Although those are largely tech companies focused on plastics and plastics manufacturing, Longley says, “Oh yes, many of our companies fall into the biopharma or life sciences industries.”
BIC’s formal partnerships include Berkshire Community College, UMass-Amherst, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), UMass-Lowell, SUNY Polytechnic Colleges of Nanoscale Science & Engineering, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Williams College, McCann Technical School, Taconic High School, and Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute. “We’re located close to these educational institutions,” Longley says, “and with a population of about 25 million people within about a 120-mile radius, we’re an ideal location to set up high-tech training programs.”
The BIC plans a range of services. Its Precision Measurement & Reverse Engineering uses the Hexagon Metrology 121510 CMM which includes touch probe, laser scanner, camera module, and Romer Arm, and can work on parts ranging, it claims, “as small as a microchip up to an automobile bumper.” Its Rapid Prototyping Center has 3D printing capabilities in plastics, polyjet technology and metals.
More relevant, perhaps, to life sciences, it will offer a Zeiss Axio Imager 2 platform with fluorescence package, which also has applications to materials research. And it will over cleanroom laboratories certifiable up to a Class 10,000 level. Its wet lab space has all the usual biopharma necessities, including fume hoods, biosafety cabinets, centrifuges, incubators, and other laboratory equipment.
BIC officials also say that if the weather is good, the facility may be ready even earlier. “We’re looking at a mid-October time frame, but good weather could accelerate that,” Longley said at an April 10 meeting of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority board. “Progress has begun to really pick up.”
BEN GARVER - THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE.
Construction started in September 2018. In January, a ceremony celebrating the completion of the first phase of construction marked about 50% of the project being finished. In February, flooring and decking were added. Interior walls are expected to be placed in the next few weeks.
BIC officials are scheduled to meet with Ira Moskowitz, director of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s advanced manufacturing program on April 22. “The goal of Ira’s visit is to talk about what funds are available for local companies,” Longley told The Berkshire Eagle.
Longley added, “If companies want to make presentations to him, money will be available to allocate to these programs,” reported iBerkshires.com.
The BIC has also begun talks with a Washington-based nonprofit for the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries that are interested in advanced manufacturing training programs at the workforce development center. Although too early to disclose, Longley assured BioSpace that it was an organization with both biotech and pharma interests.
Longley notes that because of high real-estate prices in Boston and Cambridge and many of the more urban areas within commuting distance of Pittsfield, many people choose to live in the area and commute to the companies in the urban centers. But the BIC is located in a beautiful part of the state with a low cost-of-living and now, with increased focus on the life sciences and high-tech training programs, has a lot to offer to startup companies interested in making their funding last longer.
“These companies and people in the life sciences should really consider the advantages to placing their businesses in Pittsfield and working with the BIC,” Longley says. “We’re a beautiful place to live with a lot of support for these companies.”