Pittsfield Boosting science in the Berkshires


Thursday December 22, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- Susan Windham-Bannister thinks the sciences need a boost in the Berkshires.

The president and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center said she and her staff want to foster more developments in Western Massachusetts and Berkshire County.

Formed in 2006, the center is a quasi-public agency charged with implementing the state's 10-year, $1 billion life sciences initiative.

"Not only are the life sciences important to our mission in the state, it's important to the economy," said Windham-Bannister who met with The Eagle this week.

Windham-Bannister's comments come on the heels of the recent announcement of a $1.6 million grant to the University of Massachusetts Lowell to create a program to prepare teachers to instruct in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, and various phases on the development of state-of-the-art biopharmaceutical facilities in Cambridge.

Life sciences include the fields of medical equipment manufacturing, biopharmaceutical research, academic and work force programs.

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"Not only are we continuing to proactively invest in the life sciences cluster, we're innovating ourselves, with new programs and public-private partnerships. We want to make sure this part of Western Massachusetts is involved in it," she said.

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center offers programs, grants and tax incentives to develop related industry, academic and nonprofit organizations and work force development. The center also offers a corporate consortium program and a matching grant program for capital project funding.

In Berkshire County, the center has supported initiatives such as a computing partnership between Berkshire Community College and Nuclea Biotechnologies in Pittsfield; equipment and supplies for vocational programs based at McCann Technical School in North Adams and Pittsfield Public Schools; and has provided internships to local students at Nuclea.

The center has been involved in talks about creating an incubator building at the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield, but no progress has been made in actually funding the site development, which includes a $6.5 million earmark under the governor's life sciences bill.

In light of recent local and state legislative turnover, Windham-Bannister and Angus McQuilken, the center's vice president for communications, said they are eager to talk about potential life science initiatives with new officials including incoming Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi, new state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Paul Raverta's successor as president of Berkshire Community College.

Windham-Bannister also said the center can help individuals and small businesses, in terms of providing mentors, internships, equipment funds, tax incentives and support of business plans.

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