Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Cyber Scene in Baltimore - Tamar Alexia Fleishman

Right underneath my nose here in Charm City is the Emerging Technology Center, or "ETC," as it's called. ETC is a nonprofit business incubator solely for technology and biotech startups. ETC is under the umbrella of the Baltimore Development Corporation, which is a private, but quasi-governmental entity of the City of Baltimore. It was thought that such a center would give the city an opportunity to compete for new companies. ETC has two campuses: the first is in the wildly popular waterfront community of Canton (so named from its can company days) and the other at "Johns Hopkins Eastern". Johns Hopkins University now owns what was Eastern High School, across the street from what used to be Memorial Stadium, if you ever had the chance to see Orioles or Colts games there.

ETC claims a impressive track record since its reformation in 1999: over 1,000 new jobs created and over 100 patents filed. To be accepted by ETC, a company must be for-profit, privately held, tech-related and less than five years old. Companies planning to stay in or relocate to Baltimore are given preference. Sometimes, there are inventors who split away from academic backgrounds (but who may have to share profits under their contract); they are strongly encouraged under the Bayh-Dole Act to commercialize their intellectual property if the school is to continue receiving federal funding.

While the typical business takes two years to graduate, it really depends on the individual companies' business acumen that they bring to the table. Under the program, they undergo a business review every 6 months.

Companies signing on with ETC pledge not to poach employees or ideas from fellow ETC companies. However, they are afforded many networking and development opportunities with NASA, Aberdeen Proving Grounds and the National Science Foundation.

So, what do the lucky companies picked by ETC get? First, they have access to attorneys, accountants and business advisors. For the first few months, the business is subject to "extreme support," which can mean up to 80 hours a month in coaching. ETC also holds workshops, provides industrial space and tech support.

Among the recent success stories of ETC include Reactive Nano Technologies and Alba Therapeutics, which is working on cures for auto-immune diseases.

To find out more about ETC, their web site is , or call them at 410-327-9150.