Innovation hub opens its doors

Groton — A regional economic hub intended to spur on entrepreneurial efforts in eastern Connecticut officially has opened its doors, the University of Connecticut announced today.

The Eastern Connecticut Innovation Corridor, which includes a presence at the University of Connecticut campus at Avery Point, offers an array of services to entrepreneurs, including laboratory space, seminars, business-accelerator programs and support from mentors that can connect firms to investors, marketers, legal advisers, accounting experts and other specialists.

“The goal is to accelerate the pace and reach of innovation, from startups to mid-size and larger corporations, while linking basic research and industrial applications to drive economic growth here in eastern Connecticut,” said Christopher Levesque, the regional hub’s manager.

The Corridor, as it is known, is one of four economic hubs in Connecticut, collectively known as the Innovation Ecosystem. The idea to help jump-start new businesses came out of last year’s jobs summit called by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

UConn said there are four main programs “under construction” throughout eastern Connecticut to help realize The Corridor’s goal of increasing local employment. One of the programs, the Southeastern Connecticut Tech Center, is aimed specifically at helping sustain and launch science-based companies in this area by providing mentoring support.

Mary Anne Rooke, director of Avery Point’s Technology Incubation Program, said the idea is to provide “hubs of expertise” that might, in this region, encourage former Pfizer Inc. scientists and others to launch their own businesses.

“We have all this intellectual capital,” Rooke said. “We’re building Avery Point as the entrepreneurial hot spot.”

The eastern Connecticut innovation hub is based at the Storrs campus of the UConn, which is currently building a technology park slated to open in 2015 that will include space for public-private partnerships between academics and businesses. UConn’s first experiments in this concept will occur on the Avery Point campus through the SECT Tech program.

“UConn already plays an important role in expanding economic development across the state, so lending our resources and experience to The Corridor makes a perfect fit,” said Mary Holz-Clause, UConn’s vice president for economic development, in a statement.

The Innovation Ecosystem, which also includes hubs in Hartford, New Haven and Stamford, is intended to support promising startup companies with the largest potential for growth as well as so-called “stage two” firms that have a strong track record but may need a boost to deal with new market or product challenges. Targeted companies will be those with fewer than 100 employees with the best potential to move beyond $10 million in sales and 100 employees, or which could spur additional economic growth in the state.

The hubs collectively expect to identify the 125 most promising companies each year and to provide services that range from commercialization brainstorming to strategic planning to private investment opportunities.

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