The Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded $1.5 million to the Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network, which provides entrepreneurial support and business guidance at four coordinated university labs. The network partners – Penn State Behrend, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Gannon University and Mercyhurst University – will match that funding, generating $3 million in economic support for businesses.
The ARC funding will expand the services that are available through the network, which will soon offer app development, co-working spaces, mobile outreach and case management for entrepreneurs. The three-year grant also will extend the network’s initial five-county reach, providing support to start-up companies and inventors in 17 counties, including portions of New York and Ohio.
“The Innovation Beehive sites have become a lifeline for businesses that encounter roadblocks as they develop new products and approaches,” said Amy Bridger, the senior director of corporate strategy and external engagement at Penn State Behrend. “By coordinating our university resources, we can provide expertise at every stage of the product-development process, from prototyping to branding to business intelligence. That investment, we’ve found, also pays off for the tri-state region: Companies aren’t likely to leave a community where they have built a network of support.”
The Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network formed in 2014. It built on the success of Penn State Behrend’s Innovation Commons, an ideation and rapid-prototyping space that is part of the Invent Penn State network. By linking the Innovation Commons to specialized labs at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Gannon University and Mercyhurst University, and to an affiliate lab at Erie County’s Blasco Library, the network provides a comprehensive business support system with multiple points of entry for entrepreneurs.
From its inception, with seed funding from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority, the U.S. Economic Development Administration and Invent Penn State, the network was designed to be collaborative: To receive funding, projects had to involve partners at more than one Beehive site.
The ARC funding will enhance and expand that support, which already has advanced more than 400 entrepreneurial projects:
Each of the Beehive sites will continue to provide experience and networking opportunities for students. More than 100 students contribute to Beehive projects each year, and seven undergraduates have been named as inventors on patents that developed from their work at the Beehive sites.
To learn more about the Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network, or to request help with a project, visit www.nwpabeehive.com.