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October 24, 2023

Maine wins designation as a federal 'Tech Hub' for forest bioproducts

Maine has won designation as a federal Tech Hub for the development of forest bioproducts, and is in the running to receive up to $70 million to help advance the industry.

Meanwhile, the state is getting $500,000 in federal funding to plan and coordinate efforts aimed at creating that hub.

A consortium of the Maine Technology Institute, state officials and more than 30 businesses, schools and other organizations applied for the competitive designation from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Other members include the University of Maine, the Roux Institute, the Maine Community College System, Sappi, IDEXX Laboratories, Thornton Tomasetti, FOR/Maine, the AFL-CIO and the Maine Venture Fund.

The Maine group is one of 31 hubs selected out of 198 applicants nationwide. The state can now apply to become one of the five to 10 hubs that will receive allotments of $50 million to $70 million in federal funds.

The state also is one of only 11 hubs that received a Strategy Development Grant from the Tech Hubs program to "increase local coordination and planning activities to further develop their technology-based regional economic development strategy."

The federal government created the Tech Hubs program in 2022 with $10 billion in funding for the next five years. Earning a Tech Hub designation, according to the program, "is a strong endorsement of a region’s plan to supercharge a critical technology ecosystem and become a global leader over the next decade."

“Maine’s forest products sector is a key part of our state’s heritage and a cornerstone of our economic future,” said Gov. Janet Mills in a news release. “This exciting designation signifies to the world that Maine is a global leader in developing and manufacturing climate-friendly, sustainable products that create jobs and strengthen the U.S. supply chain.” 

The Forest Bioproducts Advanced Manufacturing Tech Hub, as it's dubbed, will “accelerate research and development of natural polymers and other wood fiber bioproducts that can sequester carbon and replace plastics and toxic chemicals, while bolstering ‘Made in America’ supply chain goals.”

Brian Whitney

Brian Whitney, president of the Maine Technology Institute, said, “MTI is honored to lead this impressive consortium of Maine partners engaged in government, industry, higher education, workforce, and economic development as we embark on this vital effort to further bolster our state’s reputation for manufacturing forest-derived, climate-friendly products."

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