PORTLAND, Maine — The city of Ellsworth has landed a state grant to support development of bioscience businesses in the region, as part of a series of grant awards that will also give money to support seafood industry initiatives.

The Maine Technology Institute announced Thursday that it awarded $658,765 through its Cluster Initiative Program, aimed at studying or implementing ways to support or grow certain industries in the state.

The latest grant round will deliver $126,270 to Ellsworth’s new business incubator, the Union River Center for Innovation, which MTI said will be used “to develop an incubator to assist bioscience cluster entrepreneurs in the greater Ellsworth region.”

The city and businesses put forward another $376,802 as a match for the grant, according to MTI.

The state-financed economic development agency also awarded $398,306 to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to advance its study of creating a market and supply chain for sustainable seafood in Maine.

That grant was matched with an equivalent amount from industry, individual donations and other grants to continue work on its efforts that include branding and certifying responsibly harvested seafood and drawing attention to less popular and “underharvested” species.

The latest grant round also delivered $134,189 to Coastal Enterprises Inc.’s Maine Scallop Aquaculture Project, which MTI said aims to study the Japanese scallop aquaculture industry and explore how to adapt them to Maine waters.

CEI said in a news release that the grant will fund a pilot project with the Portland-based Maine Scallop Co., using a technique called “ear-hanging” to grow scallops while suspended in water. That method allows the scallop to gather more phytoplankton nutrients and grow faster, but it is also more labor-intensive and will require purchasing equipment to run the pilot project.

In October, CEI said that a group of shellfish aquaculture professionals will also visit Japan to learn about the techniques and visit the company from which it’s buying the pilot project equipment. Of 110 permitted aquaculture facilities in the state, 28 are permitted to grow scallops, according to CEI.

“We believe a scallop industry could thrive in Maine if we introduce, refine and adapt the Japanese technology currently in use. Sea farmers and fishermen are looking for ways to diversify their income and continue to work on the water,” Hugh Coperthwaite, director of CEI’s fisheries project, said in a news release.

The cluster initiative program gives grants of up to $500,000 for industry-led projects to support an industry and $50,000 for feasibility planning and pilot projects. The program is based on the idea that similar companies can share resources and benefit from a collective competitive advantage in that area.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.