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Sponsored by: TechPlace


Photo courtesy of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority A worker from InSphero, a TechPlace biotech business headquartered in Switzerland, uses a microscope and chemical fume hood in the Bioworks shared lab.
Photo courtesy of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority Daniel Greisen, owner of Greisen Aerospace, uses the TechWorks shared machine shop’s welding equipment. Greisen’s company was one of the first to move into TechPlace.

Shared manufacturing space has everything an early-stage technology business needs

Entrepreneurs face many hurdles when they decide to take an innovative idea and turn it into a business.

Two of the most daunting challenges for startup companies looking to develop and manufacture their own products are acquisition of machinery and equipment and finding an appropriate facility in which to use them.

To help nurture and grow early-stage manufacturing companies, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (MRRA), the entity responsible for redeveloping the former Naval Air Station Brunswick, offers a solution — TechPlace, a technology-based manufacturing incubator to support innovation in Maine. Opened in February 2015, TechPlace is believed to be the largest facility of its kind, possessing nearly 100,000 square feet of shared offices, manufacturing spaces and prototype labs supporting the aerospace, composite materials, biotechnology, cleantech and information technology sectors.

TechPlace is located in the former Navy aircraft component repair facility, with its multiple shop spaces, and which lends itself very well to a small business incubator, addressing a significant unmet need in the Midcoast region. Now, spaces once used by Navy aircraft mechanics and avionic technicians have been filled by early-stage businesses engaged in the future of Maine’s innovation economy.

There are now 32 resident businesses in TechPlace. Companies have come from across Maine and the U.S., as well as from overseas, including Switzerland, France and Finland, to develop and manufacture new products and penetrate new markets.

Unique resources

One of the big attractions for startup companies is access to manufacturing equipment. TechPlace has three shared manufacturing spaces — TechWorks, BioWorks and CompositeWorks. These spaces are set up for prototyping and product development.

TechWorks is a 7,000-square-foot shared manufacturing facility and includes a three-axis CNC milling machine, lathes, drill presses, a 3-D printer, a welding room and a fully equipped wood shop, to mention a few items.

“The TechPlace prototype shop gave us financially feasible and immediate access to equipment that helped us quickly prove our concepts and achieve production designs sooner,” said Sonia Lutarewych, President and CEO of SteriZign Precision Technologies, one of the TechPlace’s fastest-growing companies. “Securing access to the same equipment elsewhere would have added costs, caused delays, and posed a risk to our business development timeline and funding.”

BioWorks is a shared bioproduction laboratory. The lab was planned and laid out by InSphero, a biotech company and one of TechPlace’s first tenants. Several Maine companies, including Maine Medical Research Institute, the University of New England, Bigelow Labs, the Baker Company and The Jackson Laboratory, provided expertise and donated equipment.

CompositeWorks is a 45' × 35', temperature- and humidity-controlled, well lit, composite layup facility suitable for the manufacturing of FAA composite components. Users have access to a large 400°F Rohner processing oven, an 850°F Grieve oven, flexible fume exhaust systems and a large refrigerator for storing materials. This facility is state-of-the-art and a great asset for companies in Maine.

TechPlace shared facilities also includes a 24' × 16' heated Garmat spray booth. This is a modified downdraft (pit-less) booth that can be used for both powder coating and liquid spray.

All these shared spaces are available for TechPlace members to use for a monthly fee. TechPlace also offers non-members use of the shared industrial spaces under an affiliation license.

TechPlace also offers its tenants individual manufacturing spaces of up to 5,000 square feet. Additionally, a 6-ton overhead bridge crane and several smaller monorail cranes, left by the Navy, are available for handing heavy material.

TechPlace has become a complete community, even offering a range of shared professional services. On-site services include an entrepreneur in residence, a consultant from the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership and an expert from Maine Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) to assist businesses in becoming government contractors.

“We want to support innovation in Maine. We’ve branded Brunswick Landing as Maine’s Center for Innovation,” MRRA Executive Director Levesque said. “The TechPlace project is helping us deliver on that promise to help grow Maine’s future economy.”