The Maine Technology Institute awarded more than $1 million in grants and loans to 25 Maine companies and research organizations in February 2017.
MTI awarded two Development Loans totaling $604,490, 17 Seed Grants totaling $368,607, four TechStart grants totaling $19,725, and two Business Accelerator grants totaling $35,000. In total, the grants leveraged more than $1.6 million in matching funds from the award recipients.
The funding went to companies across all the technology sectors MTI focuses on: biotechnology, aquaculture and marine technology, composite materials technology, environmental technology, advanced technologies for forestry and agriculture, information technology, and precision manufacturing.
“These momentous investments will help support innovation and its transformation into new products, services and companies,” Brian Whitney, MTI’s president, said in a statement. “The MTI Board of Directors is pleased to play a role in encouraging and stimulating these pioneering initiatives by our emerging and established for-profit companies, as well as our well-known non-profit research institutions in Maine, to allow them to grow and sustain jobs in our state.”
MTI offers Development Loans up to $500,000 on a rolling basis to support companies in the conversion of innovative research into new products, processes and companies. The loans are interest-free if paid back within four years after commercialization. In February, MTI provided two companies with Development Loans.
- WedgeRock in Limerick received a $354,490 loan, which it matched with $558,715 from other sources. WedgeRock, created to reassemble talent that was stranded when MaxTorque left town, is an engineering firm working on “large spring return actuators.” The company anticipates development will be completed in less than 24 months with annual revenue to exceed $10 million.
- Spring Point Solutions in Portland received a $250,000 loan, which it matched with $312,906 from other sources. The company develops software for niche industrial settings, such as electric motor repair shops, and will use the loan to further develop a quality management tool called QM Wizard and better integrate it with existing enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management systems.
MTI provided Seed Grants, which are grants up to $25,000 intended to support entrepreneurs engaged in R&D activities or follow-on funding, to 17 companies:
- Tasman Leather Group LLC in Hartland, which has developed innovative processing methods to produce leather products, received a grant of $25,000, which it matched with $54,690 from other sources.
- Gotham Biotech LLC in New Gloucester received a grant of $15,665, which it matched with $15,665, to continue its work to design and implement a non-invasive, direct antigen Lyme disease immunodiagnostic assay.
- Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Salisbury Cove received a grant of $25,000, which it matched with $25,000 from other sources. The research laboratory has identified two chemical compounds in zebrafish that have the potential to treat peripheral neuropathy, which affects about 42.5 million Americans and can be caused by factors such as aging, hereditary diseases, antibiotics, and chemotherapy. The funding will help the lab assess the compounds’ efficacy in mammals.
- bluShift Aerospace Inc. received a grant of $25,000, which it matched with $38,909 from other sources. The Brunswick-based startup is developing a low cost, carbon-composite rocket, which could be made in Maine, that’s capable of deploying 50 kilograms of miniature satellites, known as cubesats, to meet the increasing market backlog by private companies and institutions. Specifically, the MTI funding will enable bluShift to perform up to 20 additional, larger rocket engine tests in order to validate the biofuel performance versus theoretical calculations, confirm design assumptions and preliminary findings, as well as optimize fuel-mix formulation.
- The Maine Aquaculture Co-op in Tenants Harbor received a grant of $8,500, which it matched with $26,897 from other sources, to help it develop the necessary infrastructure to pioneer a new-to-the-U.S. method of scallop aquaculture infrastructure. The new method, called the ear-hung method, has been successfully practiced in Japan since the 1950s and involves hanging scallops on vertical lines in pairs.
- Dream Local Digital, a digital marketing company in Rockland, received a grant of $24,839, which it matched with $22,965, to help fund development of a platform that will help the company scale its services so it can serve more customers efficiently and profitably.
- Friday Feedback in South Portland, received a grant of $18,925, which it matched with $19,000, to fund continued development of its employee engagement software.
- Arcadia Alliance in Belfast received a grant of $25,000, which it matched with $26,500, to research available resin, core and reinforcing fiber technology with the objective of developing and demonstrating suitable composite shipbuilding laminates that meet the U.S. Coast Guard’s requirements for K-Class vessels as it relates to structural properties, fire resistance, smoke and insulating values.
- VisionMaster Inc. in Portland received $25,000, which it matched with $66,025, to develop a new barcode scanning system that it claims is several magnitudes faster than any currently available.
- EarthShift Global in Kittery received $25,000, which it matched with $31,900, to help fund the development of sustainability-assessment software.
- Maine Cap N Stem in Gardiner received $21,350, which it matched with $30,912, to fund research and development of new, higher yielding mushroom cultivation methods.
- Go Labs in Belfast received a $24,840 grant, which it matched with $25,140, to help it fund development of a low-density fiberboard made entirely from wood products.
- DemerBox received a $25,000 grant, which it matched with $26,700. The Portland-based manufacturer of rugged, Bluetooth-enabled portable speakers will use the grant to fund a major revision to its current proprietary circuitry.
- Foothills Fuels in Portland received a $8,710 grant, which it matched with $20,766, to fund research and development of a bio-renewable camping fuel.
- Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay received a grant of $20,778, which it matched with $20,778, to develop and optimize a recently established method for cultivating sea green species in order to increase safe production of the emerging sea greens market in Maine.
- NBT Solutions in Portland received $25,000, which it matched with $25,650, to expand the capabilities of its VETRO FiberMap broadband mapping and fiber management system.
- PK Floats in Lincoln received a $25,000 grant, which it matched with $26,300. The company, founded in 1954, has long been known for its aluminum seaplane floats. This grant will help fund the development of a new composite float.
Four companies received TechStart grants, which are designed to help defray startup costs such as developing a business plan and IP filing fees:
- Erica Schmitz, dba Schmitz Studios, in Portland received a $5,000 TechStart grant, which it matched with $5,000 from other sources, to support business plan development and market research for Phase 1 of an information technology product for garment makers.
- Harris Media Services in Yarmouth received a $4,850 grant, which it matched with $5,065, to conduct market research for a software application it calls PlanItPDQ that helps small- and medium-sized businesses plan, direct, and quantify the results of their marketing activities.
- Atlantic Cookie Company in Scarborough received a $4,875 grant, which it matched with $5,000, to fund the optimization of existing equipment to meet efficient and production volume requirements to become profitable.
- SwitchDown in Durham received a $5,000 grant, which it matched with $5,000. The Durham-based company has developed a prototype light switch that, when multiple switches control one light, is synchronized and automatically moves so that the switch position corresponds with the state of the light. Founder Jon Hanson recently was accepted into the MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, where he will be developing the business plan for launching the company. This TechStart grant will help offset the cost of this training.
Business Accelerator Grants
Two companies received Business Accelerator Grants, which are provided on a monthly basis to companies seeking up to $50,000 to commercialize new technology or help a business increase its scope and sustainability.
- The Montalvo Corp. in Gorham received a $15,000 grant, which it matched with $225,000, to help it with customer discovery and business development efforts as part of its SBIR Phase I/II Commercialization efforts.
- Davo Technologies in Portland received $20,000, which it matched with $42,300, to help fund digital marketing efforts and traveling to trade shows that will allow it to expand its sales-tax software product to three additional verticals.
The next application deadline for MTI’s TechStart and Business Accelerator Grant programs is April 4, 2017.
MTI, created by the Maine Legislature in 2000, provides funding to Maine entrepreneurs operating in one of seven target industries: aquaculture and marine technology, biotechnology, composite materials, environmental technologies, forestry and agriculture, precision manufacturing, and information technology.