Avery Point opens doors to invite entrepreneurs
Groton - Kenneth C. Waterman, chief executive and founder of FreeThink Technologies Inc., was one of several entrepreneurs at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point who were dreaming Thursday of moving their fledgling companies to new laboratory space at the school's Technology Incubation Program.
Waterman, an East Lyme resident, currently is working out of incubator space at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. For him, the attractiveness of the waterfront campus and the shorter commute - not to mention the brand new laboratories - are the main attraction.
"The word is getting out that we're trying to attract early-stage companies," said Mary Anne Rooke, who runs the Avery Point incubation program, as she showed off the new labs expected to open in June.
The state spent $1 million to renovate one wing of a former administration building on campus, carving out one biology lab and four chemistry labs in 2,000 square feet of space. University officials are currently taking applications and readying for interviews to determine which start-up companies will be accepted into the incubation program.
Rooke said as many as seven companies might occupy the lab space, including the animal-products firm Arcanatura, a holdover from the incubation program's older space.
"We try to help create jobs in the area - that's really what it's all about," Rooke said. "We have a lot of really great intellectual capital and financial capital."
Waterman, a former Pfizer Inc. scientist, is among those hoping to capitalize on intellectual property. Financing his business with severance money advanced by Pfizer when he left the pharmaceutical company late last year, Waterman reports that FreeThink already has developed a method to dramatically reduce the time it takes to set the expiration date on a product, and the company is now turning to other projects, including a new controlled-release drug capsule and a possible collaboration with another technology company to develop an electronic music stand.
Companies using the UConn incubation labs throughout the state say they get many advantages from the program, including low-cost space, free library services, university discounts on necessities such as flasks and beakers, easy access to interns and professors with specialized expertise, mentoring by experienced business people and even free legal advice.
"We feel like we're part of something rather than some isolated company," said Uday Khire, president and chief executive of CheminPharma, which operates out of incubator space in Farmington. "Being part of the TIP program has been great for me."
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