Invent Penn State Launches Statewide Innovation Hubs (Part 1 of 2)
In 2015, Penn State University President Eric Barron launched the Invent Penn State (IPS) program, an initiative to spur economic development, job creation, and student career success. With the goal of leveraging Penn State’s research, knowledge, and entrepreneurial spirit, IPS currently helps fund 21 Innovation Hubs — which are free to the community — at Penn State branch campuses across the state. As part one of a two-part series on IPS’ Innovation Hubs, we offer an overview of IPS as a part of Pennsylvania’s thriving higher education system.
Creating an Innovation Ecosystem
Invent Penn State (IPS) works to turn research discoveries into valuable products and services that can benefit not only Pennsylvanians, but humankind. To accomplish this, the program features entrepreneurship-focused academic programs, business startup training and incubation, funding for commercialization, and university-community collaborations.
IPS also has several micro-initiatives, including the Innovation Hubs, the IPS Venture & IP Conference, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor for undergraduate students, and the millions of dollars committed to commercializing promising technologies resulting from faculty research at Penn State. At the Innovation Hubs, IPS leverages the university system and its research strength to create a robust ecosystem, increasing the capacity to develop startups and attract existing companies.
“By centralizing our no-cost services, we help entrepreneurs avoid the common mistakes startups often face, and enable them to focus their time on derisking and growing their businesses,” said Nena Koschny, Invent Penn State’s Director of Strategic Communications. “Because of our statewide network of hubs, we can really have an impact in Pennsylvania.”
Expanding Its Reach
IPS offers a plethora of resources developed to support entrepreneurs and partner with industries to solve real-world problems — including the Innovation Hubs at 21 of its campuses. In 2015, the IPS seed grant program provided campuses with grants to launch or enhance their local Innovation Hubs to drive innovation and economic growth. This included Penn State campuses in Abington, Altoona, Behrend, Berks, Great Valley, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley, New Kensington, Schuylkill, Shenango, Wilkes-Barre, York, and University Park.
To provide mentorship, working space, venture funding, entrepreneur training, and industry recruitment assistance at each hub, IPS utilizes a number of valuable community partnerships, including Ben Franklin Technology Partners, local chambers of commerce, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Centers, economic development corporations, SCORE, local incubators, 1855 Capital, and coworking spaces.
The program extends its reach throughout each hub, launching more startups, supporting entrepreneurs and internships, and generating student development opportunities. The vision is to have something available in every Penn State campus community, according to Koschny. And the hubs are not just for students — they also boost economic and community development.
As the hubs have opened, they have experienced an important, unanticipated positive outcome. Early-stage startups have tapped into highly motivated and skilled Penn State student interns to help advance their business. In total, the startups have already provided more than 100 internship positions for Penn State graduate and undergraduate students. Beyond internships, the hubs have provided legal and patent advice, business consultation, accelerator programs, mentorship, and other resources to over 1,000 entrepreneurs.
In 2017, Governor Tom Wolf visited the University Park, Pa., hub — Happy Valley LaunchBox — to discuss his budget proposals aimed at supporting entrepreneurship and job growth opportunities in Pennsylvania. He touted Pennsylvania’s “unique set of resources” available in terms of higher education, adding that “government is working smarter to support our research institutions and entrepreneurs.”
For more information about Invent Penn State Innovation Hubs, visit invent.psu.edu. Discover more about Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities and stay up-to-date on all Pennsylvania news, following us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
Nena Ellis leads marketing and communications efforts for Invent Penn State, a Commonwealth-wide initiative to drive economic development and student career success. In its first two years, the initiative has provided seed grant funding for 17 innovation hubs in campus communities across Pennsylvania, provided funding for commercialization of 50 emerging technologies born of Penn State research and created the Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference. Throughout her 26-year marketing and publishing career Ms. Ellis has assisted companies and nonprofit organizations locally, nationally and internationally in achieving their revenue goals, whilst fulfilling their missions with responsibility. Her work has been integral to the successful development of numerous brands, from tech startups to consumer brands.