Maine’s Life Sciences Sector is Strong and Growing: Jobs in Sector Increased at Fastest Pace of all New England States

Brian Whitney MTI President

Last week, during their annual conference, the Bioscience Association of Maine (BioME) released its 2022 State of the Industry report.  It revealed some wonderful sector-related data about the strengths of Maine’s life sciences sector.

Life sciences/biotechnology is one of Maine’s seven targeted technology sectors and the 2022 State of the Industry report demonstrates why our focus on this sector is warranted and strategic.  For example, you may or may not be aware that there are approximately 500 establishments engaged in the life sciences sector in Maine and those entities employ nearly 10,000 people.  Some of the largest employers include:  Idexx in Westbrook, Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor & Ellsworth, Puritan Medical Products in Guilford & Pittsfield, Abbott Labs in Scarborough, South Portland and Westbrook, Corning in Kennebunk, and Covetrus in Portland.  Many of these enterprises gained global recognition during the coronavirus pandemic and established Maine’s life sciences sector as a key responder to the public health crisis.

Not coincidentally, the pandemic also contributed to dramatic job increases in the sector.  Life science jobs in Maine grew by 42% over the last five years, outpacing total job growth in Maine.  According to the report, that job growth was driven by In-Vitro Diagnostic Substance Manufacturing and Surgical Appliance and Supplies Manufacturing, both adding significant jobs before and during the pandemic.

Perhaps most surprisingly, given that Massachusetts is one of the pre-eminent hubs of life sciences activity, life science jobs in Maine grew at the fastest pace of ALL New England states over the past decade.  And, average annual earnings for jobs in this sector in Maine were just under $109,000.  That places us just outside the top three New England states in sector earnings behind Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

Maine has also been able to attract interest from federal research and development granting institutions as well as private equity investors over the past five years.  Maine has secured more than $14 million in awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) with our state’s R1 top tier research university, the University of Maine, leading the way.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has directed more than half a billion in funding to Maine over the past five years, with 70% of that funding going to research efforts at the Jackson Laboratory.  And, finally, Maine’s life sciences companies raised nearly $267 million from 2017 – 2021 with much of that going to MTI portfolio companies like Covetrus and RockStep Solutions.

While overall the data was incredibly impressive, it also revealed areas for improvement in several spheres including the number of life sciences patents developed in Maine and our level of spending on higher education research & development (Maine ranks last in both compared to our New England counterparts).

Back in 2019, I was honored to participate in the development of Maine’s ten-year economic development strategy. It rightly focused on talent and innovation as helping to move the needle in our economy.  That plan included three main goals, including raising the average annual wage by 10%, increasing the value of what we sell per worker by 10%, and attracting 75,000 people to Maine’s talent pool.  It emphasized that Maine ought to continue to invest in research and development with risk-enhanced financing from existing entities such as the Maine Venture Fund, Maine Technology Institute, and the Finance Authority of Maine to support innovation in the private and nonprofit sectors.  It also noted that Maine ought to utilize its strengths and abundant natural resources to grow and diversify its economy by developing new and innovative ways to leverage those resources (converting wood to biofuels and bioplastics and meeting the growing demand for a traceable food supply that is changing the way we farm and fish).  Without question, Maine’s life sciences sector can and will help Maine achieve these attainable goals through continued innovation and sustained growth.

In closing, I want to commend the Bioscience Association of Maine and its Executive Director Agnieszka Carpenter and her board of directors for developing and releasing the 2022 State of the Industry report and for highlighting the amazing global leadership role that the life sciences sector plays in our state.  If you’d like to learn more about the sector, you can obtain a free download of the industry report by clicking here.

Enjoy the few fleeting days of September.  October arrives on Saturday and with it comes our glorious leaf-peeping season.  Get outside, visit an apple orchard, and enjoy autumn in Maine.  I can’t wait.