The Berkshire Innovation Center expands the innovation capacity and growth potential of private industry by providing advanced capabilities to manufacturers in the Berkshires region - primarily small and medium sized companies (and startups) in life sciences, the life sciences supply chain, advanced manufacturing, and technology. The goal is to enable and accelerate the growth of the manufacturing sector with the ultimate objective of spurring economic growth, job creation, and retention, and investment in the region.
The Berkshire Innovation Center ("BIC") is the result of a $9.7 million capital grant awarded by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center to the City of Pittsfield in May, 2014 for the design, construction, and equipping of a 20,000 sq. ft. innovation center to be located at William Stanley Business Park, the former site of General Electric. The grant was awarded after a year-long comprehensive feasibility study and business planning process conducted by New England Expansion Strategies, which involved face to face meetings with more than 80 key regional stakeholders including private sector companies, educational institutions, and state and local government officials.
The resultant BIC business plan is broadly and deeply supported by industry, academia, and government throughout the region. Prior to receiving the grant, the BIC received 19 Letters of Intent to join the BIC by private sector companies and also formalized partnerships with 10 of the leading educational and research institutions in the region. The BIC will provide access to advanced capabilities for regional manufacturers including advanced R&D equipment, customized workforce training, state-of-the-art lab and training facilities, collaboration opportunities with BIC's renowned research partners, and internship and apprenticeship programs. Operationally, the BIC is a membership model designed to be self-sustainable and private-sector driven.
A Board of Directors was formed in July of 2015 and includes a regional "who's who" of leadership from industry and education. B. Stephen Boyd, CEO of Boyd Technologies in Lee, MA, was elected as the BIC's first President and Chairman of the Board. Rod Jané, President of New England Expansion Strategies, was hired as the BIC Project Director to manage the startup and development of the center and its programs. Berkshire Innovation Center, Inc. was established as a Massachusetts non-profit corporation in August, 2014 and subsequently received 501c3 tax exempt status in February, 2015. General Dynamics Mission Systems and Berkshire Bank demonstrated their leadership by stepping up as major sponsors of the BIC in 2015 making contributions of $50,000 and $40,000 respectively.
The final design of the 20,000 sq. ft. BIC facility has been completed and groundbreaking is expected by the first quarter of 2017. Even though construction has not yet commenced, ten private sector companies have signed membership agreements and eight of them are already paying membership fees as Foundation Members. The ten companies include Apex Resource Technologies, Boyd Technologies, Cavallero Plastics, General Dynamics Mission Systems, Interprint USA, Intertek PTL, MRA Laboratories, New Dalton Group, Sinicon Plastics, and Sonoco Plastics. The BIC has also established formal partnerships with ten educational and research institutions including Berkshire Community College, UMass-Amherst, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), UMass-Lowell, SUNY Polytechnic Colleges of Nanoscale Science & Engineering, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Williams College, McCann Technical School, Taconic High School, and Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute.
Concurrent with the designing and planning of the facility, the BIC has already begun developing and starting up its programs, which are delivering value to BIC member companies and partners. The BIC Speaker Series was launched in January 2015 and has conducted several speaking events on highly relevant topics to advanced manufacturers in the region. The featured speakers for these events have included executives from the medical device industry, advanced equipment manufacturers, researchers from leading research universities in the region, workforce development leaders, and career center directors from colleges and universities in the region.
The BIC Workforce Training Programs were launched in February, 2016 and have featured all-day training seminars on topics such as lean manufacturing and continuous improvement, thermoplastics for medical devices, and medical device regulations. Finally, the first wave of advanced R&D equipment (acquired via grants by Berkshire Community College) arrived in July, 2016 and training for BIC member companies on the equipment began in August, 2016. During construction of the BIC facility, the equipment is being temporarily housed at Taconic High School and will be made accessible to all BIC member companies in the first quarter of 2017.