New State Voucher Program Promotes Industry Use of UMass System Research Facilities to Stimulate Economic Development, Innovation

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo
Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo

AMHERST, Mass. – Advanced research laboratories and equipment across the five-campus University of Massachusetts system are being made available to start-up businesses and local companies through a new, state-funded subsidy program aimed at promoting economic growth and innovation.

Created with a $2 million state investment championed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, the Innovation Voucher Program began accepting industry applications in late March. The program is administered by MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance authority.

The voucher program had its public kickoff April 6 as DeLeo visited the Institute for Advanced Life Sciences at UMass Amherst, one of the state-of-the-art core facilities offering sophisticated technologies to industry. Joining DeLeo at the event were UMass President Marty Meehan, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss and representatives of the business community.

“The Innovation Voucher Program will support local companies as they seek to get off the ground, grow or modernize,” said DeLeo. “When they take advantage of the labs and equipment on the UMass campuses, they’ll also be working with trained personnel, faculty and students, the next generation of innovators. Thus, the initiative is two-pronged. Not only does it give businesses a competitive edge, it benefits students: challenging them to think creatively, explore technologies and connect with companies looking for new employees.”

Chancellor Subbaswamy said, “Speaker DeLeo’s support of this program and the university shows that he understands the important role each UMass campus plays in the ecosystem of our respective communities. He understands the importance of research and development as well as talent development within the capital city and across all corners of the Commonwealth.”

The voucher program is expected to help start-ups and small- and medium sized companies gain an edge in business development. With the state incentives, start-ups can develop prototypes and test new devices at a lower cost. Similarly, established companies, especially manufacturers, can create prototypes to bid on contracts without having to make large investments beforehand.

The program is also expected to foster new learning opportunities for UMass students as they use and train on hardware and software used by industry employers.

More than two dozen specialized facilities are housed at UMass Amherst’s Institute for Advanced Life Sciences, including human magnetic resonance imaging, genomic sequencing, electron and atomic microscopy, computational modeling, human motion labs, and state-of-the-art facilities for fermentation and separation/purification of biomolecules. Other UMass facilities include 3-D printers, clean rooms, precision manufacturing and roll-to-roll systems and wet-labs.