The bwtech@UMBC Research & Technology Park is home to more than a third of all finalists for the 2016 Maryland Incubator Company of the Year Awards (ICOY). These eight (of 22) ICOY finalists include: Airphoton LLC, Blue Wave Semiconductors, Inc., Bricata, Grip Boost Inc., Huntress Labs, Phoenix Operations Group, LLC, Plant Sensory Systems, and Sparks Dynamics.
Combined, bwtech North and bwtech South cover 71 acres and offer 525,000 square feet of office and lab space. Housing more than 120 companies in various stages of development, bwtech@UMBC’s estimated economic impact on the state is $500 million annually. The research park includes incubator programs for cybersecurity, life sciences, and clean energy technology companies. All incubator companies have access to entrepreneurs in residence, experienced business professionals who help with aspects of owning a company that are new to many researchers.
“It’s a financial benefit, but also an educational benefit,” to be part of the incubator, says Lorraine Remer, research professor of physics at UMBC and CEO and co-founder of AirPhoton, a company that designs and produces custom equipment for earth and climate scientists. In addition to the entrepreneurs in residence, Remer appreciates that the incubator connects companies with an excellent network of professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, whom they know they can trust.
“From the monthly E2E [executive to executive] roundtables to the always available hands-on mentorship, bwtech@UMBC has created a fantastic environment for local startups,” says Chanda Arya, COO and co-founder of Grip Boost, Inc., which sells a product to restore grip-ability to football gloves.
Kathy Turano, founder and president of Plant Sensory Systems, an incubator graduate company, agrees. “Plant Sensory Systems has benefited greatly from the entrepreneurial training and support services provided by bwtech@UMBC,” she says. “We are honored to be a finalist for the Incubator Company of the Year Award and to have our achievements recognized by the Maryland business community.”
One of Plant Sensory Systems’ projects produces plant seeds that contain nutrients typically absent in plants, but that are required for fish like salmon and tuna. The seeds can be used in plant-based fish feed, reducing demand for wild-caught small fish traditionally used in fish feed, which are currently harvested at unsustainable levels.
For Remer, being part of the incubator is about more than producing a product: it’s about giving back. She and the other AirPhoton leaders enjoy building “a structure that creates employment,” she explains. Incubator companies create jobs in Maryland and keep top talent, including UMBC alumni, in the state.
Jennifer Reynolds, bwtech@UMBC’s director of venture creation, shares, “The entire bwtech@UMBC community is extremely proud and excited to have eight finalists in this year’s Maryland Incubator Company of the Year award competition. The selected companies represent a wide array of industries, products and stages of maturity, and thus are excellent representatives of the diverse and dynamic entrepreneurial community we have built and support here at bwtech. It is so rewarding to see these innovative and promising companies achieve commercial success, and to see ICOY recognize their tremendous growth.”
Award winners will be announced at an event on June 21 at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.
Image: Lorraine Remer, research professor of physics. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.