State Grants Aim to Boost Berkshire County Startups

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Lever Secures New State & Private Sector Funding

Challenge Programs Will Award $150,000 to Manufacturing and Health Startups

North Adams, Mass. — During an event today at Greylock WORKS, Berkshire County startup incubator Lever, Inc. announced that it secured $450,000 in new funding and launched two new challenge programs which aim to boost entrepreneurs and innovative startups in the region. The new programs will award a total of $150,000 in seed grants for manufacturing and health startups in the Berkshire region over the next three years, awarding six $25,000 grants to startups that participate in Lever’s new Challenge programs.

The audience at the Lever announcement. The aim of these programs will be to foster regional entrepreneurship, attract entrepreneurs from outside the region to start companies in Berkshire County, and expand Lever’s impact as it builds an entrepreneurial ecosystem to foster economic and job growth throughout the Berkshires.

Business and community leaders from across the Berkshires were joined at the announcement by Travis McCready, President & CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), Pat Larkin, Director of the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech), North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, State Senator Adam Hinds, and State Representative John Barrett.

The new funding for Lever will come from a mix of state, private, and non-profit sources from both inside and outside Berkshire County. McCready and Larkin announced that the MLSC and MassTech have awarded Lever two grants from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that will total up to $300,000 over three years, including up to $225,000 from the MLSC ($75,000/year) and $75,000 from MassTech ($25,000/year). MassTech’s funding is matched by both Berkshire Bank and Williams College, following MassTech’s model for corporate and academic co-funding. The Commonwealth’s support for Lever will help build on the MLSC’s $12 million investment in the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield, as the Lever Challenges will help spur the pipeline of startups to the Center.

Travis McCready, CEO, Mass Life Sceinces Center, at the Lever announcement“Our innovation economy leads the nation, and programs that spur entrepreneurial ventures are essential to our continued economic growth,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “The Baker-Polito Administration has made substantial investments in the Berkshires, and across the Commonwealth, to ensure Massachusetts continues to be the top place to start and grow a business.”

“We’re pleased to support these new initiatives to embolden entrepreneurship and innovation in the areas of manufacturing and health,” said MLSC President & CEO Travis McCready. “This opportunity exemplifies two pillars of our strong ecosystem: supporting the growth and development of the life sciences throughout Massachusetts and leveraging strong public/private partnerships to grow the Massachusetts economy.” MassTech's Pat Larkin speaks to the crowd at Lever

“MassTech is excited to partner with these great local organizations to invest in Lever and to create new opportunities for innovative businesses to grow in this region,” stated MassTech’s Pat Larkin. “As a life-long resident of the Berkshires, I have seen the challenges faced by startups. By building more connections through events and startup challenges, Lever can help create a true community of entrepreneurs that will help these businesses to expand their offerings, hire more workers, and drive increased investment throughout the region.”

“This multi-institutional commitment signals broad support for Lever and its mission to lift the regional economy by fostering growth companies here in Berkshire County,” stated Jeffrey Thomas, Lever’s Executive Director.

Lever will begin work immediately to deploy this new funding. On January 24, 2019, Lever will award $25,000 in seed funding to the winner of the Berkshire Manufacturing Innovation Challenge (BMIC). A panel of expert judges will decide which startup among four finalists presents the most scalable and investable manufacturing business model with applications in the life sciences. Lever is accepting applications for its first annual BMIC through October 7.

"We have a long experience with this challenge format, both on regional college campuses and with programs such as the North Adams Arts Enterprise Challenge,” said Brent Filson, Lever’s Director of Programs and Operations and lead organizer of the BMIC. “We’re confident that the BMIC will attract some of the brightest entrepreneurs to launch their innovative companies here.”

Organizations interested in sponsoring Lever’s efforts or participating in the Challenge can contact Brent Filson at Lever (bfilson@lever.org) or you can find more information about the BMIC online at http://leverinc.org/bmic/.

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About Lever, Inc.

Founded in 2014, Lever’s mission is to develop a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Berkshire region.

It supports entrepreneurs with expertise, low-cost office space, an investment fund, research, mentors, and access to talent through the Berkshire Business Interns program. To date, Lever-supported companies have created 150 jobs.

About the Mass Life Sciences Center

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is an economic development investment agency dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the life sciences in Massachusetts, home to the most verdant and productive life sciences ecosystem in the world. Through public-private funding initiatives, the MLSC supports innovation, research & development, commercialization, and manufacturing activities in the fields of biopharma, medical device, diagnostics, and digital health. Since its creation in 2007, the MLSC has strategically deployed over $700 million in Massachusetts, through a combination of grants, loans, capital infrastructure investments, tax incentives, and workforce programs. These investments have created thousands of jobs, and propelled the development of new therapies, devices, and scientific advancements that are improving patient health and well-being in Massachusetts and beyond.

About the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative is an innovative public agency working to enhance economic growth, accelerate technology use and adoption, and harness the value of research by engaging in meaningful collaborations across academia, industry, and government.

The Innovation Institute at MassTech was created in 2003 to improve conditions for growth in the innovation economy by enhancing industry competitiveness, promoting conditions which enable growth; and providing data and analysis to stakeholders in the Massachusetts innovation economy that promotes understanding and informs policy development. For more information visit www.masstech.org.

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Contact(s):

Jeffrey Thomas, Lever, (413) 884-2011 jthomas(at)lever.org

Brian Noyes, MassTech, (508) 870-0312 X:293, noyes(at)masstech.org

Joe Sullivan, MLSC, (781) 795-6259; jsullivan(at)masslifesciences.com