Is Worcester New England’s New Tech Hub?
Monday, April 14, 2014
Technologies such as the largest fleet of zero-emission electronic transit buses in North America; a spike in growth to the professional, scientific, and technical job markets; as well as technical schools and programs dedicated to serving Worcester’s youth, are all exciting and innovative ways helping to push Worcester to the forefront of the technology world.
“The [Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce] just recently looked at the economy and found that technology sectors grew by almost 33-percent from 2000 to 2010 in the area,” said Tim Murray, President and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We have a lot of creativity in the area. There are very few areas that have a wealth of colleges and students as well as the shear amount of world-class research and technology. There is no doubt that Worcester is becoming a hub for technology.”
Businesses Implementing New Technology
Part of the reason as to why Worcester is becoming such a technology savvy locale is due to the implementation of technology for its residents.
Last week, it was announced that Verizon Wireless would be expanding their 4G LTE coverage in the vicinity of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute which is a growth of the initial coverage that occurred in August of 2011. This coverage better allows for smart phone users to access the internet, social media, and other online applications wirelessly at speeds 10 times faster than the previous 3G network.
This announcement joins previously announced technologies entering Worcester like the Worcester Regional Transit Authority’s announcement that they had bought six electronic zero-emission buses for the public transit program and the Worcester Police Department’s announcement that they would start to use ShotSpotter technology which aids in determining the location of a gunshot in the city.
Other companies in the area like National Grid are also making their mark on technology in Worcester. With the announcement of the Smart Energy Solutions Program last year, National Grid made a commitment to increasing both the technology and sustainability of energy in Worcester by setting forth a plan to install a smart grid program in the city.
Out of all of the cities in National Grid’s coverage zone, Worcester was chosen as the pilot city. Deborah Drew, spokesperson for National Grid, pointed to a variety of reasons to have Worcester host the program, including a wealth of creative energy and knowledge among those involved and the city’s economic viability.
“Worcester was chosen for the Smart Energy Solutions Program for many reasons,” said Drew. “The City of Worcester is the largest city National Grid serves; it is and always has been a hub of technology advancement and is home to several world-class universities and culturally diverse communities. Electrically, the system configuration in the area of the city where the program is running provides a diverse pool of equipment from which we can upgrade and study.”
“We think Worcester is among the most progressive cities in the Commonwealth when it comes to emerging and green technologies,” said Drew. “With it as host to one of the largest, most comprehensive smart grid programs in the Northeast, along with all else it has to offer, it could well be considered a technology hub and a city leading in engineering and science.”
Education = Jobs
Technology has certainly been making its way into the Worcester community on a consumer level, but jobs and education opportunities are also on the rise.
The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce released a report last month called the Worcester Regional Competitiveness Outlook, in which they examined the growth of the economy from 2000 to 2010.
One of the key findings of the report is that technology jobs in the Worcester area are growing. From 2000 to 2010, the professional, scientific, and technical sector grew by almost 3,500 employees which is almost 33-percent. Two particular subsets within the sector, scientific research and development and computer systems design and related services, grew by 37.7-percent and 46.3-percent over the 10 year period respectively.
Murray believes that there are a few things that can be attributed to the growth including the city’s bandwidth, the many technology schools in the area and a mix of old and new ideas.
“Schools like WPI with their robotics program, Becker College with their video game design program, and Clark University with their energy sustainability program offer a real unique mix and concentration of technology related degrees in Worcester,” said Murray. “I think that robotics degree specifically is interesting because it is a mix of manufacturing, something Worcester has had a long history with, and modern day engineering.”
The Competitiveness Outlook report also pointed to a potential growth in Worcester County’s workforce which could help further expand the increase of jobs in the technology field. In 2010, 25-percent of Worcester’s workforce was ages 15-24. Also, 84-percent of the workforce had at least a high school diploma and 30-percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
With Worcester currently having a greater concentration of children ages 0-14 than Boston or Massachusetts, Worcester has the potential for a vast and powerful workforce. Although there is some concern in keeping students in the Worcester community when they graduate, Murray believes that these children will help Worcester continue to grow.
“I think that the colleges and universities certainly have a lot to do with [the growth],” said Murray. “We have a lot of unique and innovative programs but we also need to do a better job in retaining our students. I think that a lot of that has to do with transportation and finding more entertainment options for students to keep them interested in staying.”
Medical Field Innovation
“What we do is incubate and innovate small startup companies and provide them with a lab space so that they can grow,” said Kevin O’Sullivan, President and CEO of Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives. “I think that all of the colleges and medical schools in the area are definitely helping the life sciences, biology, and healthcare fields. It really is a tremendous change from the past where we were losing all kinds of manufacturing jobs in Worcester.”
One of the goals of Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives is to continue the growth of the medical field, something that O’Sullivan has seen grow vastly over the past 15 years. Although he feels that Worcester is certainly becoming more technologically advanced, O’Sullivan says that it is partnerships with cities like Cambridge and Boston that have helped the growth of Worcester’s medical field.
O’Sullivan is another who points to future generations for support in continuing Worcester’s technological growth. And while many assume that technology breakthroughs are made by the nation’s elite, O’Sullivan stresses that all experience levels are welcome to contribute in the medical field.
“This isn’t a field for just the smart PhD types,” said O’Sullivan. “A lot of young people are fueling this industry right now. You need a lot of support people all the way up and down the economic ladder. The biomedical industry is growing exponentially and creating a lot of jobs; I would like to think that we are a part of it.”
Related Slideshow: Worcester’s Tech Startups
Buzz Lanes started out as a small idea for a Business Model Competition at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Success there led to the semifinalist round at Harvard, and a new business that aims to accelerate the careers of talented musicians that don’t have big marketing campaign resources.
“As graduates of WPI’s School of Business, and with several years of experience in the entertainment world, we decided to push forward and make Buzz Lanes a reality,” said Gonazlo Cruz Blanco, the man behind Buzz Lanes.
A native of Spain, Blanco's passion for music and business led to the creation of this monthly subscription music platform. One of the bands he’s promoting right now is Heffay, a Worcester Hip Hop band.
“It’s a win-win situation: musicians grow their fan base and connect with new fans, and the fans will always have the opportunity to find new music they haven’t heard before.”
The company's online Beta version launches April 4, 2014
Salespod makes mobile/cloud software for organizations to manage field teams and the data that they collect.
“We currently have 2200 users in 31 countries, and are growing 10 to 15 percent per month. We are getting ready to launch a major marketing initiative and expect to grow to over 10,000 users this year,” said Mat Brogie, Salespod, Inc. COO.
“The software runs on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, and there is a web based management console that managers use to see where and when field reps perform their activities, and to analyze the data these field reps generate.”
Salespod has a research and development office in Zagreb, Croatia, and has established the Worcester office to launch its US presence. The company started in Worcester last year with only 800 users.
“There is a growing culture entrepreneurism in the city, and the physical changes in town add to the energy that is building … not to mention the economics are extremely friendly for a start-up trying to maximize the use of cash.”
Salespod announced in March that they would be making a name/logo change to Repsly.
Incite Advisors, Inc
Incite Advisors, Inc. provides Web application development services for applications in the healthcare and life sciences.
“We are focused on data driven applications and visualizing big data. Our largest client has hired us to develop a web/mobile application that allows doctors to capture patient diagnostic information in the natural course of their work,” said Incite founder and President Ronald Ranauro.
“The application will allow for rapid updates as medical knowledge advances. The idea is that by using the computer care teams can more easily coordinate services. We are also developing a web application for visualizing and searching big picture trends in clinical trials. In support of our work, we have developed an open source software toolkit called BoxspringJS.”
Ranauro grew up in Central Massachusetts and graduated from WPI. He said his company is reaching out to the student population to offer training and real world experience on paid customer projects.
Technocopia is a non-profit (tax-exempt status pending) geared towards creating open-source technologies that will benefit the whole world. As part of this mission they are opening a “hackerspace” in Worcester, which will serve as a home-base for their research and development of these technologies, as well as a common collaborative space for anyone in Central Massachusetts to make their own projects into reality.
Their hackerspaces feature a lounge, kitchen, conference space and computer stations. Technocopia intends to support the development of open-source technology that will allow any individual, family, or community to sustainably and independently satisfy their own humanitarian needs. These needs are defined loosely as things such as nutritious food, clean water, shelter, electricity, medicine, and free access to knowledge (the internet).
Self-described as “World class incubators for world class science,” Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI) is dedicated to job creation and innovative healthcare throughout Massachusetts by promoting the growth of start-up biomedical companies. MBI is committed to collaborating with the academic, business and government communities to promote Massachusetts as the world leader in the health sciences industry.
Kevin O’Sullivan is the President & CEO of MBI, located on Prescott Street. O’Sullivan describes the company as a private, independent economic development organization that serves as a catalyst for life science and healthcare innovation.
“We help start biomedical companies and create jobs within the Biotechnology, Medical Device, Informatics, and Biomanufacturing industry by providing secure, clean bench and sink surface, staff trained and fully licensed laboratory space for usage by ‘seed stage’ companies. Building and maintaining collaborative affiliations and partnerships are essential to our success.”
What would a tech company list be without a little fun? While neighboring Rhode Island smarts over Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios disaster, MassDiGI is pushing academic cooperation, entrepreneurship and economic development across the Massachusetts digital and video games ecosystem.
MassDiGI is a US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) University Center. Since starting up, MassDiGI has launched several initiatives that support entrepreneurship and strengthen the talent pipeline between higher education and the game industry.
Timothy Loew, Executive Director of MassDiGI, formerly held senior positions in business, development and academic planning at Becker College.
Jonathan Vo, Principal and Founder of Compex Software, is another Worcester Polytechnic Institute grad succeeding in the WPI neighborhood.
Vo’s software company has successfully deployed many of its software applications at hundreds of specialized operations throughout the US. Like others on this list, Compex Software came about as result of a student project. Vo did so well that he was recommended to an independent company and he’s never looked back.
Compex Software designs, develops and implements integrated business management software solutions to help small- and medium- sized businesses manage their operations. This includes manufacturing, inventory tracking, job costing, quality control, and accounting.
Yumei Huang is the Founder, President & CEO, CellMosaic, Inc. The company recently signed a collaboration research agreement (CRADA) with the National Cancer Institute to co-develop two AqT based conjugate drugs. One is an antibody-drug conjugate for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma and another is a protein-drug conjugate targeting CA125 for the treatment of ovarian cancer.
Under the agreement, NCI will provide its proprietary antibody and CellMosaic will design and synthesize an antibody-drug conjugate and protein-drug conjugate using its proprietary AqT linker and advanced conjugation processes. The CRADA grants CellMosaic an exclusive license option from NCI for any new products developed under this CRADA.
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