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University of Maryland Baltimore looks beyond the BioPark with latest innovation hub

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News of a $100M acquisition deal for UM Ventures–backed Harpoon Medical was quickly followed this week by an expansion designed to spur more such announcements.

University of Maryland leaders gathered a crowd to open the latest UM BioPark innovation space. With it, young companies and entrepreneurs gained a coworking and collaborative space in southwest Baltimore.

The Grid, which stands for Graduate Research Innovation District, is designed to offer space for startups to work and be in close proximity to the university’s resources that are designed to support them. The 6,000 sq. ft. space is located in the Lion Brothers Building, a Hollins St. space which is being redeveloped by Cross Street Partners.

Along with space for coworking, it’s home to offices for startups, UM Ventures and the Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices, which initially launched at UM College Park. The space also has a cafe operated by local food startup Culinary Architecture.

The BioPark is designed to spur an innovation district with UMB research as a catalyst, and officials want the Grid to be a place for all of the University of Maryland Baltimore as well as the wider community in Southwest Baltimore

“Theres not a space like this on campus and we want to create a place where students can mix with startups, startups can mix with students. Community members will be here,” said Jenny Owens, who is the Faculty Executive Director of the Grid.

UMB officials sought out input on the efforts earlier this year. Student entrepreneurs also recommended that such a space be established in a report issued to administration.

“They wanted a place to meet around ideas,” Owens said. “…Students said they want information around the business of science, so we’re going to be able to incorporate that into educational offerings here.”

Owens said programming will begin ramping up at the GRID in the near future, as well. Among the offerings could be events organized by Anchor Ventures, a partnership with Betamore and Johns Hopkins Fast Forward which looks to back startups.

Inside The Grid
Inside The Grid. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The opening was part of a rollout for what University of Maryland Baltimore President Jay Perman dubbed “UM Ventures 2.0.” With a nod toward cross-campus collaboration, he was joined on the day by University of Maryland College Park President Wallace Loh and University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret.

“This is truly a system-wide space,” Perman said.

The cafe at The Grid in the UM BioPark.
The cafe at The Grid in the UM BioPark. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

It’s also looking to go beyond that system. Drawing on a $1 million pool of money allocated by the Maryland General Assembly, the UM Ventures Baltimore Fund is looking to provide discounted rent for companies that want to locate in the city. They could locate at the GRID, Johns Hopkins’ FastForward, Betamore or IMET’s Harbor Launch incubator, said UM Ventures Director Jim Hughes. The funding was designed to create jobs in Baltimore.

“What we wanted to do was not limit that just to the GRID and work with innovation centers and incubators across the city,” Hughes said.