For months, President Eric Barron has been pushing his entrepreneurship plans with the Invent Penn State initiative.
On Monday, the university announced funding for six projects at Commonwealth Campuses, underscoring the idea of Penn State aiming to be an economic engine driving the entire state.
The Abington, Behrend, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley, New Kensington and Wilkes Barre campuses were chosen to receive $50,000 in seed funding to bolster local partnerships and entrepreneurial environments.
“We were impressed with both the number and quality of proposals that we received and the diversity of approaches they embodied,” said Neil Sharkey, vice president for research. “It was also beneficial to learn more about the existing entrepreneurial ecosystems in the communities of our Commonwealth Campuses, as well as the new creative ideas being forged.”
The winning projects were chosen from 16 entries at 14 campuses. One campus submitted three different projects.
Those plans were then analyzed by a team of six judges, who ranked them based on six categories: vision, sustainability, feasibility, faculty and student engagement, community engagement and matching funds.
The Abington project will create a Maker/Innovation Space Partnership, assembling a facility that will “bring together faculty, staff and students with members of the local community in a community resource that combines co-working spaces with an innovation hub.”
Behrend will institute the Environment for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, the first phase of a project that will “create ideation and prototyping space,” including high-end computing and 3D technology.
Harrisburg’s “Center for the Next Step” will help with intellectual property and regional economic development.
At Lehigh Valley, start-up incubator Velocity donated space for the Seed Project, planned to allow students and faculty to work with partners to “develop and launch visionary ideas into meaningful plans.”
New Kensington’s Penn State Alle-Kiski Economic Generator is planned as a modern meeting and office space to “spur local economic development” and bring new ideas into the marketplace.
The Wilkes-Barre Entrepreneurial and Business Development Lab, part of the city’s Innovation Squared Project, will “support equipment needs and lecture and mentorship programs.” That project is set for construction in the fall.
Barron kicked off the initiative in January, looking to leverage the scope and power of the university as a motor for the state economy and student success. It entails a $30 million investment.
Penn State spokesman Geoff Rushton said that additional rounds of funding are anticipated.
“This is an important initiative and a key part of Invent Penn State’s focus,” said Madlyn Hanes, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses, in a statement. “Our goal is to provide seed funding to support community entrepreneurship activities, and we received many strong proposals from across our campuses. We envision spaces where students, faculty and community partners can network and develop their ideas.”