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February 17, 2022

Nonprofits band together to showcase Downeast as tech and life science hub

2 people on mudflat Courtesy / Sara Randall, Downeast Institute Researchers with the Downeast Institute in Beals conduct research on the mudflats in the region. The institute is one of number of nonprofits working to showcase the region for its life sciences and technology work.

For those who enjoy the quiet vibe of Downeast Maine, it might come as a surprise that the region is humming these days with over 60 entities engaged in the life sciences and technology industries.

Now a group of nonprofits is working together to showcase the region as the Life Sciences & Technology Hub of Excellence in Eastern Maine.

The initiative recently received a $10,000 grant from the Maine Community Foundation’s Downeast Innovation Fund. 

“If this Hub is promoted and managed deliberately, it can spark more collaboration, innovation and economic development, and attract even more talent to the region,” Judy Sproule of MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, said in a news release.

Sproule, one of the Hub’s Advisory Committee members, said the group has identified 28 companies, six research institutions, four academic institutions, five technical training institutions, two outreach organizations, 14 incubators, accelerators and workspaces, and four economic and business development organizations, which together comprise a supportive “ecosystem.”  

According to organizers, the goal of the Hub of Excellence is to build awareness in Maine and beyond of the region’s depth and breadth of facilities, opportunities and talent engaged in life sciences and technology. 

The Hub will try to create connections among R&D, education, entrepreneurship and investment, provide networking and learning opportunities, and promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.  

The grant will be used to develop messaging and marketing materials, including a website, that will help job seekers, new entrepreneurs and investors get connected.

Eastern Maine has the highest concentration of biomedical research expertise and National Institutes of Health funding in Maine. The Jackson Laboratory, University of Maine, Downeast Institute and MDI Biological Laboratory are all located between Orono and coastal Hancock and Washington counties. All four entities conduct federally supported research in life sciences. 

Fostering Hubs of Excellence is a key strategy in Maine’s Ten-Year Economic Development Plan, which defines them as areas with conditions present for strong economic growth, driven by talent and a convergence of research, higher learning, skilled workforce and business, and a livable, healthy space. 

The Eastern Maine Hub was the first to be officially recognized as a collaborator on the strategic plan by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

Other members of the initial Advisory Committee include leadership from the University of Maine, Downeast Institute, Maine Small Business Development Centers at Coastal Enterprises Inc, and Mount Desert 365. Representatives of the groups met at a networking event sponsored by Maine Community Foundation in 2019 and began planning for the Hub soon after. 

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