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UMass Vaults to Top 30 in Patents Awarded in 2015

BOSTON — In the latest display of its R&D firepower, the University of Massachusetts vaulted to 30th globally in the Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Patents in 2015. Winning a record 62 U.S. patents arising out of faculty inventions, UMass placed third in Massachusetts and New England and was tied for 24th place among American universities. “Our faculty continues to shine with cutting-edge research and innovation that places us in the top tier of universities in the world. They lead us to new frontiers of human understanding, and their work opens the door to a more prosperous economic future,” President Marty Meehan said. “We’re proud of this accomplishment because today’s patent is tomorrow’s job-creating startup technology company.” The patents awarded are based on UMass research in areas as diverse as gene silencing, high-technology textiles, polymers, and nanotechnology, according to Abigail Barrow, interim executive director of the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization and Ventures. The 62 patents represent a 55% increase over the 40 awarded to UMass in the previous year and is the highest number issued in a single calendar year since UMass began its technology-transfer program in 1995, she added. UMass is also a national leader among universities in licensing income earned on its patented inventions. “Congratulations to the University of Massachusetts for making the Top 100 again this year and for an impressive increase,” said Paul Sanberg, president of the National Academy of Inventors, which produces the rankings along with the Intellectual Property Owners Assoc. One of the UMass patents relates to Geckskin, a super-strong adhesive discovered at UMass Amherst that can be used multiple times without losing effectiveness. This year’s top 10 ranked universities worldwide were: the University of California system, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Texas, Tsinghua University (China), California Institute of Technology, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and University of Michigan. The rankings are calculated using data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. UMass is on pace to match or modestly exceed its record 62 patents in the next report, Barrow said. “Our impressive patent numbers reflect the rapid growth and influence of UMass’ research enterprise and the discovery going on at all of our campuses.” UMass shares the number-30 spot with the University of Utah Research Foundation and the Research Foundation of the State University of New York. The National Academy of Inventors is a nonprofit organization of U.S. and international universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutions with more than 3,000 members. The Intellectual Property Owners Assoc. is a trade association of owners of patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. This is the fourth year they have collaborated to issue the rankings report.

Springfield Regional Chamber Seeks Super 60 Nominations

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Regional Chamber is seeking nominations for its annual Super 60 awards program. Now in its 27th year, the awards program celebrates the success of the fastest-growing privately owned businesses in the region, which continue to make significant contributions to the strength of the regional economy. Each year, the program identifies the top-performing companies in revenue growth and total revenue. Last year, total-revenue winners combined for revenues of more than $1 billion, with only-third of winners exceeding revenues of $30 million. All winners in the revenue-growth category had growth in excess of 20% while one-third experienced growth in excess of 65%. To be considered, companies must be based in Hampden or Hampshire county or be a member of the Springfield Regional Chamber, produce revenues of at least $1 million in the last fiscal year, be an independent and privately owned company, and have been in business for at least three full years. Companies are selected based on their percentage of revenue growth over a full three-year period or total revenues for the latest fiscal year. Companies may be nominated by financial institutions, attorneys, or accountants, or be self-nominated. Companies must submit a nomination form and provide net operating revenue figures for the last three full fiscal years, signed and verified by an independent auditor. All financial information must be reported under generally accepted accounting principles and will be held and considered confidential and not released without prior approval. Nomination forms are available here or by contacting Kara Cavanaugh at [email protected] or (413) 755-1310. Nominations must be submitted no later than Friday, Aug. 12. The Super 60 awards will be presented in partnership with the East of the River Five Town Chamber of Commerce at the annual luncheon and recognition program on Friday, Oct. 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Chez Josef in Agawam.

Springfield Launches Futurecity Massachusetts

SPRINGFIELD — On Friday, July 15, the Springfield Central Cultural District (SCCD) will be one of three statewide districts to launch Futurecity Massachusetts, a new approach to transforming cities that puts art, culture, and creativity at the center of redevelopment and revitalization. Futurecity Mass is a joint initiative of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) and the Boston Foundation. Futurecity Massachusetts will work with mayors, urban planners, and arts and business leaders in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield on key real-estate projects in state-designated cultural districts in the three cities, targeting areas ready for development and job growth. It is the first U.S. effort to advance the strategies of Mark Davy and his London-based Futurecity, which has created more than 200 partnerships across the globe that reposition cultural assets from community amenities to marketplace drivers. Futurecity has been immersed in cultural placemaking projects for more than a decade, and Davy believes Futurecity Massachusetts will secure the Commonwealth’s global position as a cultural leader. Davy will visit Springfield on July 15 to meet and workshop with local cultural and economic-development leaders. He will take knowledge from a walking tour of the Cultural District, an extensive workshop, and a general reception back to his UK team to review. In October, Futurecity will return to present a strategy to the Springfield public. The MCC hopes to eventually expand the program statewide. A press event will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Friday with Davy, MCC Executive Director Anita Walker, Mayor Domenic Sarno, and SCCD Executive Director Morgan Drewniany on the steps of City Hall. Both press and the general public are invited to attend. The Springfield Central Cultural District, which encompasses an area of the metro center of Springfield, is membership-based, involving many of the downtown arts institutions. Its mission is to create and sustain a vibrant cultural environment in Springfield.

Local Business Volunteers Bring JA to Fairview School

CHICOPEE — Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (JA) and 33 volunteers from area banks, businesses, and colleges teamed up to bring Junior Achievement programs to all 436 students at Fairview School in Chicopee for last month’s JA in a Day event. “This is the sixth year that Chicopee Savings Bank Foundation has sponsored JA in a Day for these students,” noted Jennifer Connolly, president of Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts. “The students and teachers look forward to ending their year with JA, and Junior Achievement looks forward to ending our year with this terrific school. Nowhere else are our JA Volunteers treated to a final assembly with hundreds of cheering students and handmade cards and notes. It is an amazing event.” This year, JA volunteers from Chicopee Savings Bank, Bank of America, Santander Bank, Westfield Bank, Webster Bank, TD Bank, Babson Capital, Elms College, UMass Amherst, and Lead Yourself Youth brought Junior Achievement programs to students in grades K-5 at Fairview School. Carlos DeLeon, a Chicopee Savings Bank volunteer, noted, “the students had a good understanding of how a city runs. They had a great understanding of a savings account, and we talked about how taxes help the city rebuild.” Erika Eisnor, a Santander volunteer who taught JA Our Region in a fourth-grade class, noted that “JA is so much fun and a great learning experience.” Added Kidon Gebersadik from Bank of America, “it’s never too early to learn about good money habits. These exceptional students are learning about building blocks that will lead to more stable financial lives down the road, making our communities and local economies stronger.” Tim Dominick, a teacher at Fairview School, explained that the program “further offered the students a chance to explore their creative thinking process. The students benefited from the teamwork and problem solving the program offered.” JA programs empower students to make a connection between what they learn in school and how it can be applied in the real world, enhancing the relevance of their classroom learning and increasing their understanding of the value of staying in school. Each year, JA reaches more than 10 million students worldwide and helps them develop successful financial-management habits, empowering them to explore the potential of becoming an entrepreneur and providing them with the skills necessary to succeed in a global workforce. Locally, Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts reaches more than 11,000 students.

Baker Signs Transgender Anti-discrimination Law

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law an anti-discrimination bill, previously passed by the state House and Senate, that gives transgender people the right to use public restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identities, regardless of their sex at birth. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination will adopt policies to enforce its provisions, a statement from the governor’s office said. “No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity,” Baker said, according to CNN. “This compromise legislation extends additional protections to the Commonwealth’s transgender community, and includes language to address the public-safety concerns expressed by some by requiring the attorney general to issue regulations to protect against people abusing the law.”

Area Business Leaders to Head to Capitol Hill

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Regional Chamber will hold its biannual Washington Symposium on September 21-23 hosted by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal. This popular event brings the region’s business leaders to Washington, D.C. to listen to and question some of the country’s most influential leaders, including members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, top federal policy makers, and members of the Obama Administration in its last months in office. Past speakers have included political strategist Stan Greenberg, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, House Ways and Means Chair David Camp, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors Jason Furman, and Ireland’s Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson. Registrations are limited and include air transportation, airport parking, hotel transfers, hotel accommodations at the Phoenix Park Hotel within walking distance to the Capitol, breakfast and lunch each day, and welcome and closing evening receptions. The reservation deadline is Friday, Aug. 5, and no refunds will be granted after that date. The all-inclusive cost is $1,395 (single) or $1,270 (per person, double occupancy) if made by Friday, July 15. Reservations made after July 15 will increase to $1,495 (single) or $1,370 (per person, double occupancy). Sponsorship opportunities are also available and include complimentary attendance. For reservations or more information, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com or e-mail Nancy Creed at [email protected]

BTCF HousingUs Initiative Issues RFP

SHEFFIELD — Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s HousingUs initiative is soliciting proposals from nonprofits, community organizations, and public agencies to plan and convene outreach activities that bring residents together to explore the interrelated issues of affordable housing, economic development, and town-center vitality. Grants of up to $10,000 will be available for projects that result in action-oriented community-development strategies or create broader public awareness of the elements of healthy and resilient communities, including the availability of affordable housing. Only collaborative proposals with one lead applicant and at least one other partner will be considered. Organizations serving Berkshire County, Mass.; Columbia County and Northeast Dutchess County, N.Y.; and Northwest Litchfield County, Conn., are eligible. The deadline for submitting proposals is Friday, Aug. 26. For more information, visit www.berkshiretaconic.org/housingus.

AMA Recognizes Benefits of Paid Sick Leave

CHICAGO — The American Medical Assoc. (AMA) recently adopted new policy recognizing the public-health benefits of paid sick leave and other discretionary time off. Citing a growing body of evidence that lack of access to paid sick leave results in the spread of infectious diseases, as well as delayed screenings, diagnoses, and treatment, the new AMA policies support paid sick leave, as well as unpaid sick leave, for employees to care for themselves or a family member. “With both dual-earner and single-parent households on the rise in the United States, it is increasingly challenging for workers to juggle family and work,” said former AMA board chair Dr. Barbara McAneny. “Workers without paid sick days are more likely to work sick and are more likely to delay needed medical care, which can lead to prolonged illness and worsen otherwise minor health issues. Lack of paid leave also has a ripple effect across a worker’s family. Paid sick leave has been shown to aid children’s health, shorten hospital stays, and reduce the risk of disease transmission by allowing parents to stay home with sick children. Paid sick leave keeps our homes, offices, and communities healthier while ensuring the family’s economic security.” The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a federal family-leave law that guarantees workers may receive pay while taking time to care for themselves or their family. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act mandates that companies provide leave, the law does not require that it be paid. The AMA also reaffirmed existing policy supporting voluntary leave policies that provide employees with job security and the continued availability of health-plan benefits in the event that leave becomes necessary due to medical conditions.

Rep. Neal Releases Rail Study for Northern New England

SPRINGFIELD — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, dean of the New England congressional delegation, held a press conference in Springfield last week to release the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative (NNEIRI), a study funded by the Federal Railroad Administration and requested by Neal and former U.S. Rep. John Olver to identify and improve rail service in the region, including Springfield to Boston. NNEIRI is a conceptual planning study that examines the benefits, opportunities, and impacts of adding more frequent and higher-speed inter-city passenger rail service on two rail corridors, the inland route and the Boston-to-Montreal route. The inland route would run between Boston and New Haven, Conn. via Springfield. The Boston-to-Montreal route would run between Boston and Montreal, Quebec via Springfield. The two routes would share the trackage between Boston and Springfield. The combination of these two rail routes defines the study area that is collectively identified as the NNEIRI Corridor. “More than 2 million people live within three miles of a station along this corridor,” said FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “For everyone to move safely and efficiently, this region needs a robust rail system, and this blueprint will help achieve that goal.”

Report Details State Residents without Insurance Coverage

BOSTON — The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation released a new report, “Massachusetts Residents without Health Insurance Coverage: Understanding Those at Risk of Long-term Uninsurance.” Massachusetts currently has the lowest uninsurance rate in the nation, and as part of the individual mandate to carry health insurance coverage, the state collects detailed information through its tax-filing process about the health-insurance status of more than 4 million residents. This report analyzes 2011 and 2012 state-tax-filer data and provides new information about Massachusetts residents who are prone to remaining uninsured over consecutive years. The findings can help inform stakeholders who want to maintain the state’s low uninsurance rate and strive to lower the number of individuals without health-insurance coverage. Prepared by Michael Chin of UMass Medical School and Audrey Gasteier of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, the analyses in this report represent the first time that tax-filer data is being used to quantify the state’s uninsured population over a period of two consecutive calendar years. No other state has such detailed information on its residents’ insurance status.

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