Wannalancit Mill, the site of a startup incubator in Lowell.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Lawrence, Lowell Launch Startup Mills

March 14, 2014

How do you support innovation outside of a traditional tech cluster? Well, take a look at what they’re doing 30 miles north of Boston in Lawrence and Lowell. A three-year-old nonprofit called the Merrimack Valley Sandbox is trying to boost local innovation and economic development through community outreach. Backed by the Deshpande Foundation, the Sandbox has just finished its third startup accelerator program, and the emphasis is on solving local problems in job growth and education. One key lesson so far? Start small, and get buy-in from the bottom up. Then, just maybe, the model could apply to other cities in New England and beyond.

In other innovation news:

— Cerulean Pharma has filed paperwork for a $75 million IPO. The Cambridge company is taking a nanoparticle-based drug candidate that failed a clinical trial in lung cancer patients and applying it to other types of cancer.

— Our deal of the week is a $38 million funding round for Sage Therapeutics. The local biotech has raised about $96 million since 2011 to develop drugs for central nervous system disorders.

— And lastly, if you’re looking for a better way to share a cab ride, that day might be coming soon. MIT researchers analyzed a year’s worth of New York City taxi data and found that if you’re willing to wait three minutes longer, about 40 percent of rides could be saved. That might not apply to the streets of Boston, but startups are already diving into the ride-sharing fray.


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