The former SmartPill headquarters building on Main Street will be the temporary home for the Advanced Manufacturing Institute that is part of the state’s Buffalo Billion initiative.
The institute is one of the key initiatives backed by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” pledge to revive the local economy.
The institute is envisioned as a resource center where local manufacturers, especially small to midsize companies, can share resources and work with experts and engineers to develop new products and services that will make them more competitive in the global market and also help them push into new markets that will help their businesses grow.
By launching the institute in a temporary home on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, state officials said they believe the center could open sometime this spring, while the hunt for a permanent home continues. The manufacturing center is expected to stay in the SmartPill building for at least two years.
The institute will be operated by EWI, an Ohio consultant that specializes in helping companies develop innovative products. EWI has been working with state officials since early last year to create a plan for the manufacturing institute.
That plan calls for the manufacturing center to have top-notch technical capabilities in targeted areas that are viewed as being in demand by local manufacturers, such as flexible automation and controls and advanced materials. The center also will have capabilities in the fields of additive processes and advanced fabrication.
The idea behind the manufacturing institute is to create a center where manufacturers can work with engineers or use sophisticated equipment to help them turn ideas for new products into reality.
Smaller companies typically can’t afford to take on those types of development projects individually, but the manufacturing center is expected to be able to allow those firms to pursue those projects at a significantly lower cost because they are sharing the center’s resources with other local businesses.
The medical campus is purchasing the building with an $8 million grant from Empire State Development. The state agency also is providing $800,000 in start-up support funding for EWI.
Cuomo said in a statement that EWI has a “proven record of helping the industry tackle and solve manufacturing and production issues.”
The SmartPill building has been eyed for a variety of uses in recent months. State officials last fall considered using the building as the temporary new headquarters for an Albany-based biomedical research firm, Albany Molecular Research, that is setting up a drug development operation locally as part of the Buffalo Billion initiative.
That plan was scrapped late last year in favor of setting up AMRI’s temporary home in the Jacobs Neurological Institute, which also is located on the medical campus, until its permanent home is ready in the nearby Conventus Building, now under construction. That freed up the SmartPill building for use by the manufacturing institute.
State officials also said the Jacobs Institute is getting a grant of up to $4 million to pay for a portion of furniture, fixtures and equipment it will need to furnish the Centers for Innovation and Entrepreneurship that will include Albany Molecular.