History repeating: Manchester continues to be hub of innovation

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I was recently reading an article about technology in Manchester and saw the Millyard referred to as the “Silicon Millyard.” This got me thinking about the innovation that has started and continues to be developed right here in our very own MHT. From the innovative – and industry-changing – “Speedee Service System” that was created by Manchester’s McDonald brothers for their California McDonald’s walk-up restaurant back in 1948 to the current innovations that are developed in the city, Manchester continues to be a place where new ideas are developed.

Of course, “innovation” can take many forms, and Manchester is home to many different kinds, but the most recent is high-tech innovation. The most known, and who many consider the “father” of high-tech innovation in Manchester, is Dean Kamen. Dean Kamen is best known for his invention of the Segway, but he has also invented numerous other things. From his first invention at the age of 5, (a device that helped him make his bed in the morning), to now, Kamen has always been an inventor. Holding at least 440 U.S. patents, Kaman is a person who solves problems and finds new ways to make things better. Some things that Kamen has done include inventing the first wearable infusion pump, the first wearable insulin pump for diabetics, the HomeChoice peritoneal dialysis system, an advanced prosthetic arm, the iBot electric wheelchair, (which is all-terrain), a nonpolluting, low-power water-purifying system, and inventions related to solar energy and power. Kamen has also created an improved slide preparation for the ThinPrep Pap Test and improved Stirling engine designs.

The original McDonald’s, founded by two brothers from Manchester, NH.

Kamen is the founder and CEO of DEKA Research and Development Corporation, the Manchester-based technology company that “brings expertise to the world of complex problem solving and improving lives.” Some of DEKA’s innovations include the previously mentioned iBot electric wheelchair, the LUKE arm, (an advanced prothesis allowing for multiple advanced movements), and the Freestyle Coca-Cola machine. Kamen also founded FIRST, which stands for ‘For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology’. As stated on their website, the methodology of FIRST is to “engage kids in kindergarten through high school in exciting, mentor-based, research and robotics programs that help them become science and technology leaders, as well as well-rounded contributors to society.” FIRST holds an annual robotics competition for high school teams.

The LUKE arm, by Dean Kamen.

Another great hi-tech innovation that comes out of Manchester is PillPack – a full-service pharmacy that sorts medication by the dose and delivers to the client’s door. Of course, many don’t see pharmacy as high-tech, but the system that has been developed by PillPack is technology-based and makes it all possible. PillPack is a system that sorts and packages medication, including vitamins and Over the Counter, (OTC), items by the dose into easy to tear labeled packets that display the time, day and date that the doses need to be taken as well as the items in the pack. The packets fit into specially designed dispensers. Other common pharmacy items such as testing supplies, inhalers, and creams, are also labeled. PillPack also works with the client’s doctors and regularly reviews the medication schedule to ensure the safe and effective use of the meds. And with auto-refill and delivery, the client does not have to wait for their medication.

Creations playing basketball during FIRST competion.

PillPack was born out of the fact that 40 million American adults take more than 5 prescriptions on a daily basis but 50 percent do not take them as prescribed. PillPack was founded by T.J. Parker and Elliot Cohen, who met through M.I.T.’s Hacking Medicine group. Parker is a second-generation pharmacist who spent most of his life watching people struggle with the management of their medications and realized that the entire system was complicated and confusing and did little to support health and wellness. Parker knew that there was a better way. The better way started to take shape once Parker met Cohen and they were able to merge Parker’s knowledge of pharmacy with Cohen’s technology savvy and started to build PillPack.

Pillpack Rx dose package.

Even though Boston is the region’s major player when it comes to high-tech innovation, Manchester is considered a rising hotspot for it. And even though there are challenges such as the “graying population” and the high percentage of college graduates who leave the state, (issues that Boston doesn’t have), Manchester has many things going for it, not least of which is being in New Hampshire, which comes with many advantages. As long as Manchester continues to attract high-tech companies such as DEKA and PillPack as well as companies such as Dyn and incubators such as Alpha Loft, it will continue to grow as a high-tech innovation center.

Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who has come home after spending several years living in Providence, Rhode Island. Along with his wife Jackie and their two boys, Brian is excited to be back in New Hampshire and together they are focused on contributing to their community! Brian and Jackie own ArtisticSoul™, an art and design startup that is dedicated to helping people express themselves, supporting various causes, and serving in the community. He merges his life experiences with his passions for innovation and community to develop his articles. Brian can be reached via email at brian.chicoine@outlook.com.

About this Author


Brian Chicoine

Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980. While a student at Notre Dame College here in Manchester, Brian transferred to Rhode Island College in Providence, where he met his now wife, Jackie. Brian and Jackie spent the next 20 years living in Providence and Manchester, returning to Manchester with their two sons, (who are proud Manchester natives), in the fall of 2017. Brian, a 2020 state rep candidate, and his family intend on staying in Manchester and are committed to helping make it an even better place to live, work, and play.