WESTBOROUGH, MASS. – The Healey-Driscoll Administration and MassTech have awarded Western New England University (WNE) a $1.37 million Tech and Innovation Ecosystem grant to establish an incubator that will drive innovation in financial technology or fintech. WNE’s new Springfield-based FinTech Incubator will bolster talent development in the growing tech sector, fund new, on-campus computing infrastructure for hands-on learning opportunities and allow faculty and students to work directly with private sector companies and other financial sector organizations on real-world challenges.
The new Incubator, a two-year $2.125 million project, will become a technical resource for fintech startups across the state, with an initial focus on those located in Western Mass. The $1.37 million state grant comes from the state’s Technology & Innovation Ecosystem Awards program, an initiative launched in 2022 and administered by MassTech to provide capital support for innovative projects like the FinTech Incubator.
“We want to make Massachusetts a more competitive place to live, work, and do business, and need to do everything we can to support the sectors where we are already leading like financial services and technology,” said Governor Maura Healey. “WNE’s new FinTech Incubator will help us connect the strong fintech assets that exist in Western Massachusetts to help accelerate the growth of existing companies, help new companies form, develop cutting-edge fintech tools, and prepare talented students for the workforce.”
“The Pioneer Valley is a hotbed for talent development for our entire state, a role that will be supercharged through the launch of WNE’s new Incubator,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, a co-chair of the Mass. STEM Council. “Massachusetts has a strong foundation of fintech companies, thought leaders, and students, and investing in centers like this will allow us to remain competitive in this sector and retain our talented students, ensuring they stay here in Massachusetts.”
The Incubator will be managed by a team of WNE faculty who are deeply entrenched in the fintech space, which will allow them to quickly execute on the goals for the new facility, including:
- Establish the Incubator as an affordable option for fintech services and capabilities for small to mid-size businesses;
- Work with businesses and non-profits on fintech projects;
- Assist fintech start-ups in establishing their businesses in Massachusetts;
- Increase the number of graduates prepared for fintech careers, offering enhanced coursework and experiential learning;
- Increase fintech awareness in the existing workforce via professional development courses and certificates for would-be entrepreneurs; and
- Host an annual FinTech Innovation Programming session across the state.
“Western New England University is thrilled to offer the first affordable state-of-the-art resource in the region that supports integrated opportunities for entrepreneurs and existing businesses developing AI-driven fintech solutions,” said WNE President Dr. Robert E. Johnson. “Thanks to the Administration and MassTech, WNE will serve as a training ground for students and current employees in finance-related fields through enhanced coursework and experiential learning enabled by the FTI’s infrastructure. This is the future of work and it’s happening right here at WNE.”
““The Western New England FinTech Incubator will be a game changer for our state, providing new opportunities for entrepreneurs and established companies to launch new products,” said Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao. “This is really a win-win – it will benefit both our partners in the financial sector as well as students looking to get top-notch training for a career in fintech.”
WNE’s project partners include M. Scott Investment Services of East Longmeadow, which will work with the FinTech Incubator to develop an AI-driven investment portfolio management system. The Incubator has also established alliances with organizations in the region to build the pipeline of clients:
- Investors that will develop a strong, diversified client portfolio across multiple sectors and ensure maximum impact across the economy: Alchemy Fund, Golden Seeds, Mass Mutual, River Valley Investors, and Long River Investors;
- Local economic development and small business organizations that will create a feeder system for the Incubator: Valley Venture Mentors, Western Mass Economic Development, Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, SBA/Score, and local chambers of commerce; and
- Existing client portfolio development pathways via: Springfield Leadership Institute, WNE’s College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the WNE ‘Meet the Firms’ program.
"This is truly a historic moment for WNE and for all of western Massachusetts. This FinTech Incubator will provide a vast resource for students, researchers, innovators, and business owners to facilitate innovative research and development as well as help incubate technology startups in our area. Western Massachusetts has never had access to these types of resources before,” said Michael S. Poggi, President of M. Scott Investment Services. “We have many great colleges and universities in this part of the state that have a great deal of talented students and graduates that usually leave western Mass to conduct their research and start their businesses near the other larger cities in the Northeast. Now with access to this fintech hub, we will be able to retain local talent and attract more individuals and businesses to our area.”
“MassTech has a long history of making strategic invests across Western Massachusetts and the partners involved in this project were a key strength of the proposal, as is WNE’s established work within the fintech space,” said Pat Larkin, Director of the Innovation Institute at MassTech. “The Tech & Innovation grant program looks to identify projects that can quickly lead to economic benefits for the state and the proposal for the FinTech Incubator showed WNE had a solid vision for how to accomplish that, by supporting business development and in hands-on training.”
Massachusetts has made fintech a priority sector within the technology ecosystem. In October 2020, a state-sponsored research study conducted by Ernst & Young LLP found that more than 350 fintech companies were headquartered in the state and compared Massachusetts to other leading fintech hubs around the world. The state and MassTech have also supported the development of the Mass Fintech Hub, a partnership aimed at making Massachusetts the world’s leading fintech hub. The Innovation Institute has also sponsored an ongoing series of education sessions aimed at boosting angel investment in the fintech sector to help boost company creation in the state.
The objective of the Technology & Innovation Ecosystem program is to advance technology and innovation sector projects or initiatives that will contribute to a competitive advantage for existing and emerging industry clusters in Massachusetts, helping drive job growth, business expansion, workforce development, and the development of new tech and innovation firms.
This is the second grant announced through the program, following the announcement of a grant to a Quincy-based Blockchain project managed by QUBIC Labs. The grant program is funded through the Scientific and Technology Research and Development Matching Grant Fund and was officially launched in late February 2022.
About the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative
The MassTech Collaborative is a quasi-public economic development agency that strengthens the competitiveness of the tech and innovation economy by driving strategic investments, partnerships, and insights that harness the talent of Massachusetts. The Innovation Institute is the division of MassTech that advances its core mission of innovation and cluster growth across the Commonwealth. Created in 2003, the Innovation Institute intervenes in the economy in the following four ways:
- Conducts research and analysis that improves the state’s understandings of unmet needs and opportunities in the innovation economy;
- Serves as convener and key strategic broker on the landscape;
- Manages high-value projects on behalf of the Commonwealth; and
- Makes strategic investments in support of innovation-based economic development.
For more information, visit https://innovation.masstech.org/.