Maine Technology Institute staff will be available at the Target Technology Center in Orono on Thursday, part of a series of changes in funding and programs that the organization hopes will help entrepreneurs statewide.
The 10-year-old institute is also moving its headquarters from Gardiner to Brunswick Landing, the new Maine Center for Innovation and former home of the Brunswick Naval Air Station.
“Relocating our main office to Brunswick creates several new opportunities,” said Betsy Biemann, MTI president, in a release. “Brunswick Landing seeks to attract new technology-intensive businesses to Maine and by locating MTI there, we will be able to contribute to Maine’s business attraction success by introducing these new businesses to Maine’s statewide innovation assets and MTI funding programs. In addition, our move enables us to lower our overall costs of operation and increases access for businesses.”
Biemann said her staff would be in Orono at the Target Tech Center for the first Thursday of every month to meet with businesses, entrepreneurs and researchers who are interested in bringing their technologies to market.
“Establishing scheduled Orono office days will give businesses throughout central, eastern and northern Maine a regular opportunity and a shorter drive to meet with MTI staff,” she said. “In the last 10 years, we have funded start-up companies and significant research projects in northern and eastern Maine. We know that if you’re in Bar Harbor, Eastport or Presque Isle, or even here in Orono-Bangor area, it simply takes valuable time and resources away from your business to travel extensively.”
The organization also made several changes to its grant and loan program that Biemann said were partially in response to the tightened credit market facing start-ups.
The group has introduced a new “TechStart” grant for up to $5,000, which will be awarded on a monthly basis to help entrepreneurs with concept planning, market research and technology transfer exploration.
The group’s seed grants have been modified. While they had been for $12,500, and companies could return for a second grant, the grants will now be for up to $25,000, and will be awarded once to a company. This will give the companies a greater infusion of money at once, helping with cash flow, and will also allow MTI’s entire technology review board to look over the proposals, Biemann said.
The Development Loan program will lend up to $500,000 to help support later-stage research and development. And a new “Business Acceleration Grant” that will vary depending on the size of the development loan awarded will allow companies to do business planning, strengthen financial management, and develop plans to get key customers, strategic partners and future investors.
The changes generally were put in place to help fund and set-up start-ups that have the greatest chance for survival, and for attracting more investment down the road, Biemann said.
“During economically challenging times, we are all focused on creating and sustaining good jobs across the state. As a publicly-supported, industry-led organization, MTI makes these changes in response to changing economic and investment conditions to increase companies’ access to capital and coaching that can help them grow, adding and retaining good jobs in the process,” Biemann said. “Along with the updates to our funding, we are increasing access to MTI both online and across the state to insure that eligible businesses know about their funding options and can apply to MTI easily.”