, Gloucester, MA

March 5, 2013

North Shore nonprofits seek 'sustainability'

By Alanah Percy
Gordon College News Service

---- — From the installment of wind turbines in Gloucester and Ipswich to the development of devices for detecting early stage cancer, local entrepreneurs on the North Shore are busy when it comes to clean technology.

“Sustainability is a big issue and we try and stay on top of it,” said John Coulbourn, chair of the Sustainability Forum at the Cummings Center in Beverly.

Coulbourn’s group is one of many comprising the North Shore Technology Council (NSTC), a multifaceted nonprofit dedicated to promoting sustainable technology and growth on the North Shore. Run by volunteers and funded by corporate sponsors, the Council connects with the community through frequent forums, panels and networking events each month.

The group collaborates with laypeople and leading educators, technologists and environmentalists to network and learn about new initiatives in monthly meetings opened to the community. The next gathering will take place on Wednesday, March 6 at 8 a.m. at the Cummings Center in Beverly. (Details can be found at

“It’s all about information when it comes to sustainability: the more we have the better off we’ll be,” said Coulbourn who also serves on the advisory board North Shore Innoventures (NSIV). NSIV, also located in the Cummings Center, is an incubator fostered through NSTC, according to Dr. Martha Farmer, the CEO and president of Innoventures. The organization was designed to mentor and assist entrepreneurs, and engages with the community through clean technology.

“I’m excited by the new technologies people are developing (in the area) to solve real problems,” said Farmer. “We have incubators working on projects on anything from life sciences to clean tech. One incubator called New England Hydropower is working with us to create hydropower plants at dams. The potential energy gains in this area will be greater than those of solar or wind power.”

North Shore Innoventures is equipped with state of the art research labs made available to local entrepreneurs interested in environmental sustainability, many of who are biologists, said Farmer.

One example of biologists at work is a growing company called Hemato Chem that is developing a chemical liver to determine the toxicity of drugs. By examining the remnants of drug breakdown products, researchers can determine if certain pharmaceuticals are harmful to the environment. This is significant because drug waste can pollute the water supply and soil that can become a potential health risk.

Though Innoventures and the North Shore Technology Counsel are passionate about working with the community to understand sustainability, the challenge is often encouraging others to do more and create more tangible change.

“Many people have an all or nothing mentality when it comes to sustainability,” said John Warner, founder and chief technology officer of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry in Wilmington, and board member of North Shore Innoventures (NSIV). “But it’s a big issue that can’t be solved all at once.”

In that vein, Gloucester’s buying into the wind energy project it shares with Gloucester Engineering — alongside another, separate wind energy turbine at Varian Sediconductors/Applied Materials, and all in the city’s Blackburn Industrial park — is not aimed at supplying power throughout the city, but to municipal buildings, at a projected savings of more than $450,000 annually.

Yet, through efforts like the Sustainability Forum, the community is taking steps to solve issues one at a time by being informed and empowered to share their ideas and discuss new developments.

“It’s all about educating the public. We have such wonderful resources (here) and it’s important for us to take care of them,” said Coulbourn. “Not only for current generations but for future ones as well. Education and innovation are the keys.”

Alanah Percy, a senior kinesiology major, is a senior at Gordon College and a fellow for the Gordon College News Service.