LOWELL, MASS. (Oct. 12, 1:45 p.m. ET) — For UMass Lowell’s academic community and assorted guests like Gov. Deval Patrick, the Oct. 11 unveiling of its new $80 million, 84,000-square-foot Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center was a reason for the school band to play and signal the start of a new era.
“The importance of what we are trying to do here in Massachusetts warrants the investment. We must have opportunities for the young and those not so young,” said Gov. Patrick, during festivities attended by more than 400 people.
The four-story facility stood in the background adorned with the slogan “Where ingenuity meets industry.” Among its goals are to serve as a research and academic facility, a hub for developing advanced manufacturing, fostering industry partnerships and building on research in polymers, nanotechnology, optics and molecular biology.
“ETIC will foster new innovations and new technologies. This is an exciting day for the university,” said Marty Meehan, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
The new building contains 18 laboratories, 23 offices, four conference rooms and clean rooms designated as Class 100, 1,000 and 10,000. A large chunk of its funding — $35 million — came from the Massachusetts Economic Investment Act of 2006. It did receive other state and federal funding as well as $7 million in donations from individuals and industry.
Current students and alumni alike were pleased with the new surroundings.
“It’s nice. The other labs were accumulated over time. They were not as organized … but here it’s nice that everything is where it needs to be,” said Kylie Speir, a doctoral student.
Barry and Janice Perry were donors and noted, “Both of us as a couple figured it was an opportunity to give something back.”
Perry was impressed with the new building. He worked at GE Plastics and is retired chairman of Engelhard Corp. The atrium and lobby carries the Perry name.
Plastics Engineering professor and department chair Bob Malloy was beaming all day while showing off many of the new features on the first floor. There was a Gloucester Engineering blown film extruder that they had not been able to find a tall enough ceiling to fit previously. He noted that extruder will allow for research on biodegradable films.
The extruder was nestled inside a High Bay Manufacturing Center that contains a 5-ton overhead crane and will enable research and development in injection molding and extrusion. It is named for UML plastics engineering alumnus Mark Saab and his wife Elisia, who own Advance Polymers Inc. in Salem, N.H., and live in Lowell.
Other machinery in the High Bay included an Arburg 110-ton all-rounder and a Sumitomo Demag c110 to support the compounding lab.
A Technovell twin-screw extruder was particularly intriguing, according to Malloy.
“Most have top speeds of 600 to 1,200 rpms and that affects mixing. This extruder has 4,500 rpms,” said Malloy, noting that it could be used in compounding material for an implantable medical product.
Dri-Air Industries President Charlie Sears was checking out his company’s room and noted it was important way to provide students with the latest information and innovations. He does visit for talks a few times a year.
The entire second floor is a nanotechnology research and development center. It is named after William J. Kennedy, the late brother of alumnus John F. Kennedy, the retired president and CEO of Nova Analytics Corp.
Joey Mead, co-director of the Nanotechnology Center, said that options are wide open, ranging from extrusion of polymers and nano fillers to developing 3-D nano-structures. Students can do research and companies can also find a place to get research done.
She said that a driving force in developing the center was to build on research of nanotechnology. The second floor is loaded with equipment such as a raman spectrometer, an atomic force microscope and various measuring devices. It also has a dip-pen nanolithography instrument, and a unique Chasm Technologies roll-to-roll nanoscale patterning tool.
There also is a biomedical materials development lab that will bridge medicine, biology and engineering. It is named after chemical engineering alumnus Robert Ward and his wife Gail. Ward is the chairman of Emergence Venture Partners LLC, a Berkeley, Calif.-based venture capital company that develops biomaterials for medical devices.
The ETIC building overlaps a variety of disciplines but its goal is to provide the innovation for the future.