Gov. Wolf Announces PA Innovation Plan Proposal

January 24, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf today announced an ambitious budget proposal to fuel innovation across Pennsylvania, making the commonwealth a national competitor in attracting and retaining entrepreneurs and startups through strategic funding and community support.

“A strong community and entrepreneurial network are crucial for success. This holds true for start-ups, as well as established businesses,” said Gov. Wolf. “I’m proposing a strategic statewide innovation investment plan that will help get us on the right track to making Pennsylvania an innovation leader.”

This budget proposal builds on three fundamental building blocks — education, workforce development, and economic development — and cements Governor Wolf’s dedication to creating the friendliest entrepreneurial environment in the country.

Historically, Pennsylvania has been a leader in innovation. Today’s economy is rapidly changing and investment in innovation and technology are required to support economic development. Pennsylvania’s new innovation plan includes a $12.35 million funding increase to drive an evidence-based, statewide innovation strategy.

$5 million increase for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners have cultivated Pennsylvania’s innovation economy for nearly four decades. They have provided unrivaled startup funding and technical assistance to companies throughout the commonwealth. Sending the message that Pennsylvania is the best state to start your business will take additional resources on the ground in each community to foster that entrepreneurial spirit. An additional $5 million to the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority will be driven out competitively and tied to achieving new levels of innovation and collaboration with institutions of higher education.

$2.5 million increase for Industrial Resource Centers
Manufacturing is critical to the health and prosperity of Pennsylvania’s economy. Likewise, Industrial Resource Centers (IRCs) are critical to the small- and medium-sized manufacturers that make up more than 92 percent of the commonwealth’s manufacturing base. The IRC network represents seven private, nonprofit IRCs located across the commonwealth that help manufacturers respond to changing markets, new technology, and remain competitive. The IRC network will receive a $2.5 million increase, to be awarded competitively among IRCs that propose to partner with institutions of higher education and deliver innovative services to new and existing companies in areas such as talent pipeline, robotics utilization, 3-D printing, and advanced manufacturing techniques.

$2.5 million increase for the PREP Network
The PREP Network, Small Business Development Centers, Local Development Districts, and Industrial Development Organizations will receive a $2.5 million increase, to be awarded competitively among the partners, requiring regions to be creative and innovative in their applications for service and to partner with institutions of higher education. This will drive greater impacts to accelerator participation, entrepreneurial internships, decreased student outmigration, and business incubation.

$2.35 million for Invent Penn State
Invent Penn State was launched in 2015, blending entrepreneurship-focused academic programs with business startup training and incubation. The program funds university, community, and industry collaborations, training, and commercialization to turn research into products and services that benefit Pennsylvanians. This coordinated effort spans the university’s 24 campuses, all academic colleges, including the College of Medicine and Penn State Law. Entrepreneurs enjoy free access to accelerator programs, working space, mentorship, prototyping, and funding. This successful program will receive an additional $2.35 million.

All new investments will be awarded competitively among the partners, requiring regions to be creative and innovative in their applications for service and to partner with institutions of higher education

Guided in part by industry feedback and independent research by Brookings Ideas for Pennsylvania Innovation: Examining efforts by competitor states and national leaders, The Case for Growth Centers: How to spread tech innovation across America, and Fourth Economy Advancing Pennsylvania’s Entrepreneurial and Innovation Economy: A look at our past and roadmap for our future, the governor’s innovation proposal creates a holistic funding strategy that will foster the creation of new innovative companies and see them through every stage by:

  • Establishing an evidence-based statewide annual innovation report. Pennsylvania has lacked a statewide innovation strategy for more than a decade. DCED will develop an annual innovation report to help Pennsylvania identify shortcomings in innovation across the state and concentrate improvement efforts on areas of the greatest need. This comprehensive strategy will help unify stakeholders with Pennsylvania’s statewide innovation goals.
  • Encouraging the development of innovation centers outside of larger cities by investing in rural areas of the commonwealth. While much of Pennsylvania’s innovation economy is concentrated in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and State College, Pennsylvania is a state with a proud tradition of innovation in rural areas and small- and medium-sized metro areas. This proposal will help ensure that Pennsylvanians are not excluded from the benefits of innovation no matter where they’re located. It will support development in large innovation centers while ensuring that the previously disproportionate share of state innovation inputs is now accessible statewide.
  • Bolstering research and development and commercialization by increasing state resources for early stage companies and venture capitalists, and requiring collaboration with institutions of higher education. Placing focus on academic R&D will help generate new products and processes in the private sector and create more opportunities for research breakthroughs at Pennsylvania’s institutions of higher education. By supporting the development of academic research into commercialized products, Pennsylvania’s entrepreneurs will be more likely to stay in the commonwealth to develop their products or start a company.
  • Attracting and leveraging additional support of the private sector by strengthening the quality of new project investments by awarding state funding competitively. By making investments more attractive to private sector funders, the commonwealth will encourage the development of longer-term funding through public-private partnerships.

Building on the governor’s commitment to strengthen accountability, additional audits and reporting requirements will be applied to grantees, not just businesses, using state funding.

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