South Coast Innovator Labs finds space at former Dever State School in Taunton
June 10, 2015 : Taunton Gazette, by Marc Larocque
TAUNTON — A nonprofit focused on fostering innovation, technology development and education has found its first home at the former Dever State School, allowing the organization to offer laboratory space for members at its temporary headquarters.
The South Coast Innovator Labs — a collective of engineers, product developers, designers and computer programmers — signed a $1 annual lease with the Taunton Development/MassDevelopment Corporation to use a 5,000-square-foot space for its innovation laboratories. The building is located at 1380 Bay St. on Dever land that is being used for an expansion of the neighboring Myles Standish Industrial Park.
“It’s to foster innovation and also education,” said Ed Beliveau, of Rehoboth, who founded the “makerspace” about four years ago. “Sometimes people who are creative forget this aspect of talking to people and bouncing ideas off of each other. This is the type of thing that helps to get the creative juices to flow.” Beliveau and others are just starting to move equipment into the building, which has a few offices occupied by MassDevelopment, with most of the rooms now designated as workshops and laboratories for electronics, metalwork, woodwork, fiber works, computer-aided design and even 3-D printing.
Beliveau said that the organization currently has only about 15 paid members but that it has more than 125 online correspondents and will soon be holding open houses and recruiting. Membership to the makerspace is $25 per month, and the hope is to offer the space to members around the clock, Beliveau said. “This kind of system is the step before an incubator,” said Beliveau, with his spectacles pushed up on top of his head, wearing a red thermal shirt and a tape measurer attached to his belt. “It’s a place where you can take that first step in how to get into a manufacturing situation or developing some kind of service. … To be here all the time, that will benefit everybody, because a lot of people can’t do this during the workday. The plan is to be open 24/7.” The building is already populated with metal working tools, a drill press, a saw and a bunch of computer monitors.
State Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, applauded the decision announced by MassDevelopment and the Taunton Development Corporation partnership earlier this month to offer the space, while working to expand the Myles Standish Industrial Park through a redevelopment project at the former Dever School that includes plans to develop a life sciences center. “They will fit in well in the same neighborhood as Myles Standish Industrial Park as we look to attract similar innovators to southeastern Massachusetts and establish a life sciences education and training center on site,” said Pacheco, speaker pro tempore of the state Senate. “The lab will provide entrepreneurs with greatly needed space to share ideas, develop innovative concepts and pursue dreams without the often daunting risk of financial peril,” Taunton Mayor Thomoas Hoye Jr. said. “I am excited for this opportunity for Taunton.”
The president of MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, said she expects the lab facility to foster collaboration and creativity.
“Given our support of advanced manufacturing and entrepreneurialism, MassDevelopment is proud to offer South Coast a startup space,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones said. “We are eager to see what the South Coast makers accomplish.”
Beliveau, a computer programmer who comes from a long line of inventors, including a grandfather who invented a machine to make lace, said he realizes the new headquarters at Dever may be temporary. But Beliveau said he hopes it helps the nonprofit generate enough momentum to land at a new location in the future.
Until this point, Beliveau and other members of the South Coast Innovator Labs have met at libraries, community rooms and other gathering sites, where they share ideas and brainstorm. Beliveau said the new headquarters at the defunct Dever school may be “in rough shape,” but it meets all the needs of organization.
“The creativity is just abounding in this place,” Beliveau said with a laugh, as he walked through the different rooms.
One asset for the South Coast Innovator Labs is a 3-D printer, which uses cutting-edge technology to produce objects through a layering process based on pre-programmed models. Beliveau said the 3-D printer technology can make a usable gearbox, or even a working motorcycle if the printer was sophisticated enough.
“This technology is just astounding,” holding up a few plastic cubes and other trinket produced by the machine. “And it’s not just for plastics.”
Beliveau said an important aspect of South Coast Innovator Labs is the educational workshops it organizes to help its members learn new skills and share technical knowledge with each other.
For more information about the South Coast Innovator Labs or to join, go to www.scilspace.com.
The camaraderie of the group, and just having a place to work, can also help spur a “eureka” moment or help someone when they get suck, he said. Beliveau said that the new headquarters thankfully has a kitchen, where ideas can also start to percolate.
“Of course, coffee is essential,” Beliveau said.
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