by Martha Farmer, President & CEO of North Shore InnoVentures
When people think of innovation in the Boston metro area, their minds naturally gravitate toward Cambridge.
But a Livability.com survey just placed Beverly alongside Cambridge as one of the 100 Best Places to Live out of 2000 like-sized cities. The list also included such innovation powerhouses as Palo Alto, Berkeley, Boulder and Chapel Hill, in addition to local “best places” stalwarts, Newton and Brookline.
Honestly, we’re not surprised by the ranking. The ratings were based on factors like community amenities, education, sustainability, transportation, healthcare, housing and the local economy. Those of us who have lived and worked in this community know that Beverly has it all.
It’s why we built North Shore InnoVentures here.
This isn’t just about being on a great list, but it’s about having the pieces to build a strong innovation economy. Entrepreneurs with families want to live in places with abundant amenities that are affordable and have good education and transportation systems. With the median home price of $421,000 in Massachusetts, Beverly’s median home price of $369,000 sounds like a bargain. The city is engaged in forward-thinking transit-oriented development and there are five commuter rail stations in Beverly. It’s a college town with a thriving arts community, three theaters, live music venues, eclectic restaurants… oh, and a lot of beaches.
Contrary to the myth, not all Massachusetts’ tech entrepreneurs are fresh out of Harvard and MIT. Biotech entrepreneurs are generally more seasoned, often with several years, even decades, of industry experience at large biotech firms where they may have accumulated enough capital or stock options to be able to launch a startup.
You can launch a software company with a laptop in Starbucks, but a biotech company needs labs and equipment and reagents and patent attorneys. And all of that takes money. Before a biotech startup can develop its innovative technology sufficiently to attract investment capital, the founder must invest a significant sum. It’s risky and not for the faint hearted. And not for the kid with a load of student debt. In this part of the startup world, maturity matters.
That’s why a place like Beverly is gradually emerging as a biotech cluster. It’s close enough to the Cambridge epicenter but affordable and, as Livability.com noted, it’s “livable.”
North Shore InnoVentures hosts 20 biotech and cleantech startups in its incubation program and laboratories and has graduated another 21. The incubator is located in the Cummings Center, along with 500 other businesses, at least 60 of them biotech, med device or cleantech companies. Down the hall are the labs of Waters, Enzymatics (now Qiagen), Hamilton Thorne, Hettich and New England Biolabs (NEB). Beverly was the original home of NEB, the first biotech company in the state (1974), known worldwide for its restriction enzymes which were/are a key enabler of the genomics revolution. Cell Signaling Technology, spun off from NEB by the son of the founder, “graduated” from Cummings Center into its own verdant campus in Beverly and is the preeminent supplier of antibody reagents. Together they employ more than 1000 scientists. These entrepreneurs and scientists choose to live on the North Shore because of the quality of life – and they choose to work here to avoid the commute. Beverly’s biotech cluster has doubled in the last 10 years.
Cambridge may be the largest biotech hub in Massachusetts but it is not the only one.