Make us your home page
Instagram

Draper lab's tiny tech could bring big things to economy

Boston-area Draper Laboratory was in town this week to show off its gee-whiz-inspired array of military and medical technology in a two-day expo at the University of South Florida Tampa.

An expo favorite: a superlight, 10-inch, mosquito-shaped surveillance/reconnaissance "Nano Air Vehicle" that flies for 20 minutes and sends visuals or analyzes chemicals. If this minihelicopter is what we get to see, what are they working on in secret for DARPA (the military's advanced research arm) and others?

I only teased the Draper HQ crew, all in logo-emblazoned blue polo shirts, a little about the Red Sox (and about their CEO's name: James Shields, like the Rays' pitcher).

They minimized making me feel stupid looking at their MEMS — microelectromechanical systems — technology. That's geekspeak for incredibly small computer chips to make smart machines and sensors (so small some can fit under the skin), and some cool medical diagnostic devices that have even the Gates Foundation waiting in line.

Draper is the MIT-inspired, 1,200-employee laboratory business of scientists and engineers that is building facilities in Tampa and St. Petersburg. It's one of the home runs in high-tech job recruiting that came to pass thanks to some $30-million in state and local economic incentives. In exchange, Draper will create 165 jobs over several years.

In an interview, Draper Lab principal director Len Polizzotto updated the company's expansion progress to the Tampa Bay area:

• Draper already made an offer on a specific building in St. Petersburg that formerly housed a European tech company named Oerlikon Systems. The 40,000-square-foot building, less than seven years old, is at 10050 16th St. N. The facility's first hire, one of an eventual 65, occurs this week.

The facility will be called the Multi Chip Module (MCM) Center and will design and produce MEMS-based items — Polizzotto prefers to call them "vanishingly small systems."

• Draper's Tampa operation, the BioMEMS R&D Center, will be housed on the second floor of a USF building at 3802 Spectrum Blvd., just off Fowler Avenue. The first 10,000 square feet of the facility's lab space is being assembled, and space of similar size will be added as the work grows. In all, 100 people are expected to work at the Tampa facility within seven years. Its close proximity to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute was on purpose since Draper's Tampa unit will focus on designing tiny high-tech drug-delivery devices.

• Draper has received more than 500 local resumes. Polizzotto says he is impressed by their caliber.

To be clear, Draper is mostly research and development. Once it makes something that catches the eye of a real customer — the military, NASA or some big medical player, as examples — then it will typically spin off a product line as a commercial company.

One spinoff, Sionex Corp. of Bedford, Mass., specializes in miniaturized chemical- and biological-detection systems.

Then Polizzotto says the magic words:

Tampa Bay should see similar spinoffs in the coming years as Draper gains local momentum.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

Draper lab's tiny tech could bring big things to economy 10/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 23, 2008 7:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Reload your SunPass account. Roadway tolls return Thursday.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida residents will no longer get a free pass traversing most stretches of the Florida Turnpike or certain local expressways across the state.

    With a push by the Florida Turpike to encourage more drivers traveling the Veterans and Suncoast Parkway to buy a Sunpass, motorists will begin to see more lanes converted to handle Sunpass. [Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Tampa Heights project gets $21.5 million in funding

    Real Estate

    TAMPA --- The Tampa-based Heights Community Development District got a financial boost from a $21.5 million tax-exempt bond issue to fund the waterfront community being built along the Hillsborough River just north of downtown Tampa. Proceeds from the bond issue are expected to used for new roads, sidewalks, the Tampa …

    Tampa's Heights Community Development District got a financial boost from a $21.5 million tax-exempt bond issue to fund the waterfront community being built along the Hillsborough River just north of downtown Tampa.
[Courtesy of Aerial Innovations, Inc.]
  3. Grocery chain Aldi hiring for 500 positions across Florida

    Retail

    Aldi, the German grocery store chain, is hiring for 500 positions across Florida, including at its locations in Tampa Bay. The company will hold a "one-day hiring spree" Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at all Aldi stores in the state, a Tuesday release said.

    Aldi, a German grocery store chain, is hiring for 500 positions across the state. | [Times file photo]
  4. Irma's death toll in Florida rises to 42, but will grow

    News

    TALLAHASSEE —Deadly carbon monoxide fumes have killed 11 people in Florida as Hurricane Irma's death toll rose to 42 on Tuesday, state officials reported.

    A resident walks by a pile of debris caused by a storm surge during Hurricane Irma in Everglades City. The isolated Everglades City community of about 400 people suffered some of Florida's worst storm surges, up to 9 feet (2.7 meters), when Hurricane Irma slammed the region eight days ago, leaving the insides of homes a sodden mess and caking the streets with mud. The storm affected nearly every part of the state, and, so far, the death toll stands at 42. [AP Photo | Alan Diaz]
  5. After Irma, Tampa Bay synagogues get ready for Rosh Hashana

    Religion

    As the holiest days of the Jewish calendar approached, so did Hurricane Irma.

    Congregants open the ark which holds several torah scrolls during Selichot services at Congregation B'nai Israel of St. Petersburg on Saturday, September 16, 2017. The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on Wednesday night.