Skip Navigation

About Us - History

The growth of research, development and commercialization in Maine.

The State of Maine endorsed and supported the growth and expansion of R&D in Maine beginning in 1998. The University of Maine took on that challenge with targeted efforts to grow in Maine legislatively designated technology sectors:

  • Advanced Technology for Agriculture and Forestry
  • Aquaculture and Marine Sciences
  • Biotechnology
  • Composite Materials
  • Environmental Technologies
  • Information Technology
  • Precision Manufacturing

The initiative created the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, an annual state appropriation dedicated to these seven sectors and requires UMaine to:

  • leverage additional R&D funding from federal, state and private sources
  • partner and collaborate on applied research to solve Maine and the nation’s problems
  • commercialize and contribute to Maine economy
  • support workforce development

Research, development, commercialization, innovation and economic development are not done in a vacuum. They require numerous collaborations with both Maine and non-Maine partners. Attracting federal grants means competing nationally and internationally — and being the best.

UMaine has risen to the challenge and created nationally recognized and leading research centers aligned with Maine’s seven sectors and economic strengths.

The following centers have been created since 1998.

Advanced Technology for Agriculture and Forestry

The Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) emerged from an NSF funded EPSCoR project to get more value from Maine’s forest resources. Early results included the partnership with Old Town Fuel and Fiber and the Department of Energy that resulted in the recovery of a closed paper mill to biofuels production with the co-location of the FBRI’s Technology Research Center at the mill site in Old Town.

In April 2013, the pulp and paper Process Development Center (PDC) opened its U.S. Forest Service-funded nanocellulose pilot plant on campus, making it the first center in the world to produce nanocellulose at near-commercial scale quantities. PDC is now receiving dozens of inquiries from all over the world every month and is working with Maine paper mills to help scale to commercial production. The partners include every Maine-based paper mill, as well as numerous small companies and research institutions developing new applications.

Aquaculture and Marine Sciences

Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI) features labs, land-based grow-out facilities and business incubation capacity on campus in Orono, at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole and at the Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research in Franklin. Maine has arguably the best research development and commercialization facilities for aquaculture (finfish, shellfish, sea vegetables and ornamentals) in the U.S. This activity attracted the USDA Agriculture Research Service to build its $20 million National Coldwater Marine Aquaculture Research Center co-located with UMaine in Franklin, making Maine a premiere aquaculture research, development and commercialization location.


The UMaine Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering (GSBSE) is a Ph.D. graduate program that supports biomedical R&D throughout the state, and provides a unique link between Maine’s nonprofit biomedical research institutions (Jackson Laboratory, Maine Medical Center Research Institute, Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory) and Maine’s universities (UMaine, University of Southern Maine, and University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine). Students do research rotations at the six partner institutions and researchers serve as faculty, making it one of the largest graduate faculties in the Northeast and giving students opportunities to do groundbreaking research at nationally and internationally recognized labs.

Composite Materials

The Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC) was the first UMaine center formed after the state’s increase in R&D (1998). It has grown to be nationally and internationally recognized for its facilities and expertise in the development of materials and structural application. The areas of expertise include civil infrastructure, such as bridges and marine applications, ballistic protection for structures, naval applications, wood composites and, most recently, offshore wind. Each of these concentrations has strong Maine partners, such as Hodgdon Defense Composites, Textech Industries, Advanced Infrastructure Technologies, Harbor Technologies, Cianbro and Kenway Corporation. The center has received numerous national awards for innovation and is regularly invited to participate in international collaborations.

IT – Information Technology

UMaine built Maine’s first supercomputing capacity in the early 2000s with the machine located at the Target Technology Center. While initially a specialized activity, supercomputing has now become more affordable and accessible to many researchers and companies. In 2013, UMaine and the University of Maine System partnered to create the systemwide advanced computing center. With funding from the Maine Technology Asset Fund, the newest machine in Orono is available to researchers throughout the University of Maine System, partner organizations and companies.

In January 2014 UMaine opened the Innovative Media Research and Commercialization Center. Repurposing a closed dining hall with funding from the Maine Technology Asset Fund, this new center is targeting Maine’s innovative and creative media sector, students and companies that are doing the latest in new media, including Web and game development, mobile applications, wearable technology devices, as well as video and music production, all while pushing the limits of current and emerging technology.

This is the newest center on campus.

Precision Manufacturing

The University of Maine established the Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) with funding from a state bond. Its purpose was to bring the latest manufacturing technology to Maine companies and provide support services to inventors, businesses and researchers throughout the state. AMC works with dozens of companies each year, assisting with product design, engineering and prototyping; developing manufacturing systems, such as production and assembly lines; as well as forming beneficial connections between companies. Students, the primary workforce, are trained in advanced manufacturing, work on real company projects and gets jobs in Maine.

AMC has developed strong collaborations and partnerships with USM, the Maine Manufacturers Association, the Maine Technology Institute and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

Learn more about the Maine Economic Improvement Fund.

Back to About Us