Job recruiting will start within weeks for a Massachusetts research and development firm that will build labs in Tampa and St. Petersburg to manufacture tiny biomedical machines.
Gov. Charlie Crist announced Monday that Draper Laboratory will locate to the Tampa Bay area with the help of $30-million in economic incentives.
Draper , a nonprofit spinoff of MIT, expects to employ at least 100 people at a laboratory at the University of South Florida in Tampa and another 65 in St. Petersburg.
Most employees will have master's level or doctorate degrees, and they could begin working within a few months, said Len Polizzotto, Draper's director of strategic development.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Polizzotto said. "I don't want to waste any time."
Word of Draper's interest in Florida surfaced earlier this month when local governments voted to underwrite the venture with $30-million in economic incentives.
The state Innovation Incentive Fund will provide $15-million. USF's Research Foundation, Hillsborough County and Pinellas County also contributed.
St. Petersburg will provide land for a manufacturing plant of multichip modules — complex integrated circuits that can run tiny machines.
Draper specializes in developing technology that can be licensed and put to commercial use. It pioneered navigational systems used in weaponry and space exploration, including the Apollo moon landing.
In recent years, it has branched into "bioMEMS," short for microelectromechanical systems, which are machines as small as the width of a human hair that can sense changes in body chemistry or serve as drug delivery systems.
That's the kind of research that Draper would conduct in an on-campus laboratory provided by the University of South Florida, Polizzotto said.
For example, Draper has developed implants that can detect subtle blood sugar changes or potassium levels, Polizzotto said. Another project would treat macular degeneration by installing a tiny machine behind the eye, which could slowly dispense medicine for 18 months.
The current protocol calls for shots through the pupil every few weeks, he said.
"We solve problems and develop prototype solutions. We focus on security, energy, health care and space," Polizzotto said. "We solve problems in the nation's interests. We've been doing it for 60 years."
The St. Petersburg lab will focus on development of multichip modules, chips that are designed for specific, complex systems. They can dramatically reduce the size of electronic equipment, Crist's news release said.
Draper also will work with Progress Energy Florida to improve the efficiency of its coal-fired power plants by at least 10 percent, Crist's announcement said. Progress Energy will contribute $300,000 to the $30-million incentive package.
"We're excited to be a part of bringing this level of cutting edge research to the Tampa Bay region, said Florida Progress chief executive Jeff Lyash. "The focus of incorporating energy production efficiency into this project will become a key attractor to a wide range of industries."