The IMRC began in 2004 as a concept for a facility that would support creative production in all the arts and exploration and research in media production in particular. By 2007-08 this concept had taken on much greater clarity as an out growth of faculty discussions and work under the leadership of Owen Smith, then chair of New Media and overseeing the development of the Intermedia MFA Program (established in 2008). The facility was now envisioned as a center for media research, creative and experimental research, and support for creative business projects and economic development. This center was provisionally called the the New Media Innovation, Research and Development Center, or NMIRC, and in one of the earliest conceptual documents for this projects was described as aiming to:
. . . create new research, educational, development and prototyping facilities, the New Media Innovation, Research and Development Center . . . will bring together related initiatives from across the University of Maine as well as reach beyond campus to form beneficial relations with partners from media and creative industry businesses from several regions of Maine. The proposed NMIRC facilities will integrate ongoing as well as new student and faculty research initiatives from a wide range of collaborating partners who are all concerned with media production and distribution, innovation and design, research in information technologies and the support of cutting edge media production, and applied digital technologies for innovation incubation and business development.
In order to realize this conception, funding was sought from several different sources and in 2007 it was decided to develop a proposal for the newly established competitive bond process set up under the Maine Technical Institute, the Maine Techniology Asset Fund, or MTAF. As described, the “. . . Maine Technology Asset Fund is a competitive award program funded by Maine State bond proceeds. The awards must be used to fund capital and related expenditures supporting research, development and commercialization projects that will lead to significant economic benefits for Maine.” The developed proposal, titled “The University of Maine Innovative Industries Initiative,” was the product of a number of people and drew together a consortium of participants from across campus, such as the Foster Student Innovation Center, the Department of Communications and New Media, the Intermedia MFA Program, and business from around the state, including Version Zero Design, Insyt New Media, Knife Edge Productions, CuteCircuits and others. Although this proposal was well received it missed the funding cut off by one point. The proposal was reworked to take into consideration the initial review comments and resubmitted for the second round of MTAF bonds in 2009. this time we were successful and were awarded the second largest award in that round, 3.69 Million, supported by a 1 to 1 match from the University. With funding in hand, the process was initiated to select an architect and determine which of several scenarios would be pursued for construction. It was decided that this project would be combined with another related project in development on campus, the Stewart Commons renovation for Art Department facilities (painting, drawing, printmaking, photography and 3d Design). In the spring of 2010 a national search was conducted for a project architect and the firm of Bruner/Cott & Associates, Inc. of Cambridge, MA was selected. The design phase was an intense period of design and development of the facilities, equipment and programs and was completed in the late summer of 2011. The Fall of 2011 was taken up by an open competition for construction firms and eventually the firm, The Penobscot Company of Rockport, Maine was awarded the construction contract. Construction was initiated in January of 2012 with a scheduled completion date of November 28, 2012.
Here are some photos of the site and construction