FORGE celebrates Merrimack Valley launch

The Five Minute Read

Alana Melanson | September 8, 2021 | 6:44 p.m.

LOWELL — FORGE, a nonprofit that helps innovators connect with regional manufacturers, celebrated its Merrimack Valley launch Sept. 2 at its new office on Canal Street.

The new office aims to leverage regional strengths and expand the nonprofit’s reach to the northeast portion of the state to help impactful innovations make it to market and local production. FORGE helps innovators prepare to manufacture their products and then connects them with right-fit, local, manufacturing and supply chain partners.

The event brought together regional manufacturers, innovators and leaders to highlight new opportunities and resources through FORGE, its expansion and the broader Massachusetts Emergency Response Team (MERT) 2.0 effort.

“With a proven framework for unlocking new regional networks, FORGE is exactly the kind of partner we need in the Greater Lowell area, and will strengthen its position as a hub for manufacturers, suppliers and startups, helping build a new pipeline of manufacturable products for Lowell, the Merrimack Valley region and Northeast Massachusetts,” state Rep. Tom Golden said in his opening remarks.

A number of startups were highlighted, including Folia, Ivys, Salutemp, Teal Bio and Trace Matters.

H2Ok Innovations, which provides an Internet of Things-enabled analytics platform allowing data-driven optimization of industrial liquid systems for manufacturing, won the pitch competition. It received a grand prize of 20 hours of pro bono support from FORGE partner and Newburyport-based end-to-end product development firm Product Resources.

UMass Lowell Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Julie Chen, a member of the FORGE board of directors, spoke of the lessons learned from the MERT deployed by the state in 2020 to address shortages of personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID. She also described the MERT 2.0 effort, funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), which is focused on pandemic recovery and driving future resiliency and jobs in the region.

FORGE Executive Director Laura Teicher thanked the EDA for foundational funding, and emphasized the outsized role small businesses like startups and contract manufacturers play in creating jobs and generating economic value.

“Sourcing supply chains locally doesn’t just help innovators succeed — it invigorates domestic manufacturing, and builds resilient local economies,” Teicher said. “The value of this work has been underscored not only by the need to address shifts in demand and supply due to the pandemic, but also by the broader global supply chain disruptions we’ve experienced over the past year. At FORGE, we believe in the power of supporting innovative manufacturing in the region, and the value of the unique role we play to ensure that manufacturers and startups unlock the full power of making innovative products locally.”

The outdoor networking event included such COVID precautions as masks and optional wrist bands indicating social-distancing comfort levels. Domestically produced masks with silver-coated paper from featured startup Folia were available to all attendees.