UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As part of its Invent Penn State initiative, the University announced Feb. 5 four new seed grants, each valued at $50,000, designed to bolster entrepreneurship and economic development in communities surrounding Penn State campuses across the Commonwealth. With the announcement, the University’s effort has grown to include 21 hubs for innovation spread across Pennsylvania, including one at the Shenango campus — an undertaking that was introduced by Penn State President Eric J. Barron just two and a half years ago.
“As a major public research university, we are committed to empowering entrepreneurs and providing the tools to take great ideas to the next level,” said Barron. “Penn State is uniquely positioned with its Commonwealth campuses for each Innovation Hub to have a meaningful impact on student career success and to become a vital part of the Pennsylvania ecosystem, driving local economies and job creation.”
This year’s grant recipients include the following Penn State campuses: Beaver, DuBois, Greater Allegheny and Hazleton. The 21 innovation hubs and programs across the state use partnerships with local community organizations and local industry to meet the needs of their unique business startup ecosystem. Through a competitive process, the winning grant proposals include varying combinations of training, mentorship and space to improve entrepreneurial leadership and spur economic development. The programs and services of each center or program are available free of charge to Penn State students and faculty, as well as community members who are not directly affiliated with Penn State.
“As one of the 21 Penn State innovation hubs across Pennsylvania, the Shenango campus is proud to be supporting economic development in western Pennsylvania,” said Jo Anne Carrick, director at Penn State Shenango. “In collaboration with the [email protected] in Hermitage, we are providing students and alumni the opportunity to succeed as entrepreneurs and bring economic growth to our area.”
Even with only five of the 21 innovation hubs open for the full first year, results demonstrate Penn State’s re-envisioned land-grant mission to support economic development, job creation and student career success, including:
- 2,500-plus faculty, staff and students engaged in entrepreneurial activity;
- Hundreds of community entrepreneurs supported;
- 80 new products developed;
- 79 startups launched; and
- 110 student internships created.
“We are building momentum in establishing a culture where entrepreneurialism is embedded into who we are as an institution, especially for our students,” added Barron. “We believe that if we remove obstacles that stand in the way of launching new businesses, we open up endless opportunities to thrive.”
Jacob Linzenbold, a 2016 graduate from Penn State Shenango, is an example of a recent alumnus who accessed the free and readily available resources at the campus’ VenturePointe incubator located at the [email protected] innovation hub to help launch his startup, ATP Resources. Since Linzenbold’s accident in 2012, which left him disabled, he has wanted to develop new and better medical equipment for individuals who are unable to walk without some type of medical device.
“These last two years, I have had an incredible amount of help from Penn State faculty, as well as the staff at the [email protected],” said Linzenbold. “I’ve received invaluable advice on starting my business and continued support while building prototypes. The opportunity that I have been given to work through the VenturePointe incubator has given me a whole new outlook on what I want to accomplish for myself and for others.”