By SIMÓN RIOS
April 10, 2014 12:00 AM
NEW BEDFORD — Many people think of an incubator as somewhere you keep chicken eggs in so they can hatch. But in 21st century Massachusetts, an incubator is where early-phase tech companies can put their tires to the road in an affordable office space.
New Bedford has been awarded $75,000 to develop a proposal for a “regional incubation center for life science initiatives,” according to the Mass Life Sciences Center, which is administering millions in funds to spread the life sciences economy across the state.
“We’re anxious to get going,” said Derek Santos, executive director of New Bedford Economic Development Council, which is spearheading the project.
Santos said the money will be used to come up with a proposal for an incubator. Santos said it could be located downtown, in the Business Park, or at the Quest Center for Innovation, where the EDC is based.
The $75,000 is part of $5 million slated for the New Bedford incubator. It was earmarked in a $1 billion, 10-year life sciences bonding bill passed in 2008.
The money is to fund the construction and design of an incubator within New Bedford, operated in conjunction with UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.
Angus McQuilken, vice president for communications at Mass Life Sciences Center, said the funding is being spread broadly across the state — especially outside of the technology belt along Route 128.
“We want to ensure that every region of the state sees the benefits of this initiative and has the opportunity to be part” of the fastest-growing industry in the state, McQuilken said.
Thus far nearly $400 million in funding has been allocated from the life sciences bill.
McQuilken said the proposal resulting from the first round of funding is expected to detail what sort of facility is envisioned, answering questions such as how will it be marketed and operated in the future.
Rep. Antonio Cabral, D-New Bedford, said although the city is already home to some biomedical manufacturing firms, this is a way for the area to get more into the life sciences industry.
“We have growing biomedical manufacturing in the Greater New Bedford Area, that makes it that much more important why we really need to start planning,” Cabral said.
“Five million is a good chunk of money and I believe it would be enough most likely to get an incubator off the ground.”
Once the proposal is completed — which Santos said could take five or six months — the city will go before the Mass. Life Sciences Center Board, which needs to sign off on all funds allocated through the initiative.