Congressman tours UMBC research and technology park

With Congress not in session, U. S. Rep. John Sarbanes visited bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park on June 27 as part of his tour of innovative manufacturing sites in Maryland.

"I'm trying to move around and talk to some of those organizations and businesses in the district that capture how important it is to boost American manufacturing," Sarbanes said Tuesday.

"We need to strengthen the country and one of the best ways to do that is to boost manufacturing opportunities right here at home," said Sarbanes, a Democrat in his third term representing the district, which includes Arbutus as well as parts of Howard and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore City.

Sarbanes, the son of former Maryland senator Paul Sarbanes, said one reason for his visit to the research park on the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, campus was to find ways for American manufacturers to be successful.

Having an environment that is supportive of manufacturing "risk-takers" is essential, he said.

That is accomplished by supporting start-up businesses through public-private partnerships and venture capital, he added.

"You want to make it as easy as possible for the idea to take root and begin generating a return and creating jobs on the front end of the process," Sarbanes said.

Through his tour, he said, "we can identify places where maybe we could lower some of the barriers, reduce the obstacles that might be there for small start-ups and figure out ways to offer support."

Bwtech is an example of supporting fledgling companies that has worked.

David Fink, an UMBC employee who organized Sarbanes' tour of bwtech, said the park can play a significant economic impact on the surrounding area.

"It has several missions, but the primary one is an economic development mission," Fink said of bwtech. "That means trying to stimulate job growth in Baltimore County and Maryland in general."

Among the companies Sarbanes visited at bwtech was Quantum Medical Metrics, which develops X-ray imaging scanners for measuring the strength of human bone.

The three-year-old company moved into the incubator in 2009 and is in the process of developing a manufacturing company, co-founder Thomas Beck said.

"The advantage of the incubator is these technology startups tend to be started by people with a science background and no experience in business," said the Catonsville resident, who spent more than 30 years in radiology and medical imaging at Johns Hopkins University.

The incubator, he said, allows them to pick the brains of people who have had similar experiences and to learn the business aspects like how to improve funding.

During his visit with Sarbanes on June 27, Beck said he spoke with the congressman about federal funding.

"I did mention we are concerned about the availability of funds from the federal government as the government tends to cut back," said Beck, who currently works with a partner, a full-time employee and two part-time students.

"Some of the opportunities we have begun to take advantage of are probably going to be less available in the future," Beck added. "I suspect Congressman Sarbanes is going to be fighting the good fight."

In April, the 71-acre park, which started in 1989, was the site of a launch of the school's Advantage Incubator, a program designed to support cybersecurity companies.

Fink said the school currently has about three dozen companies in its incubators.

According to an April release from the school, bwtech had added 16 companies in the previous 16 months.

"The incubator that's been set up there, I think, is a real model. It's one of the best in the state," Sarbanes said.

"That was the first impression I had, how committed and determined UMBC, as an organization, promotes this idea of technology transfer and developing these innovative opportunities," he said.

Sarbanes' tour also took him to Under Armour in Baltimore and the Maryland Technology Development Corporation in Columbia.

His tour concludes July 6 at the electronics recycling company E-Structors in Elkridge.

A visit to the Johns Hopkins University Technology Transfer Office, a center at the Baltimore school that offers support to researchers and inventors, planned for last week was postponed because of schedule conflicts.

"Maryland has all of the right ingredients to really demonstrate how innovation through life sciences and technology can generate new job opportunities and create new economies," Sarbanes said.

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