Penn State Commits $30 Million to Economic Development and Student Career Success

Centre Daily Times

Business Matter section (focused on small businesses)
Submitted: Jan. 23, 2015
By Eric J. Barron
President, Penn State

As the largest employer in Centre County and the largest single contributor to Pennsylvania’s economy, Penn State has long been a partner in our state’s economic development and growth. We’re proud of the role we play, and pleased that we can support the efforts of our governor, legislators, business leaders and citizens as they strive to innovate, build businesses, and employ an educated and well-trained workforce.

To that end, Penn State is committing an unprecedented $30 million to develop entrepreneurs, spur growth, and ensure student career success throughout the state. This new initiative, “Invent Penn State: Let’s turn great discoveries into a great economy, together” gives us the blueprint to invest in Centre County and across the Commonwealth. To begin, we will be focusing on four key areas:

  1. Transforming our ability to promote economic development
  2. Increasing external visibility of our intellectual property
  3. Creating capacity and capability to develop startups and attract companies
  4. Enhancing an already strong path to student career success

Collaboration, especially with small businesses, is a key component, and one where Penn State excels. Penn State’s research expenditures top $800 million annually and create a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. Each year, Penn State partners with more than 400 companies, and about 30 percent of Penn State students engage in research and creative activities, such as the Penn State Lunar Lion and Penn State’s Advanced Vehicle Team. In both projects, students from several disciplines (engineering, business, communications and others) have teamed up to push the limits of technology and invention.

In the coming months, you will see “Invent Penn State” take shape. We are currently establishing positions for Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and Professors of Practice to mentor students and faculty in their efforts to develop products and build companies. We will be connecting faculty and students with new ideas with those faculty and students who have the expertise to successfully take products to market. By identifying and investing in fields of high potential, we will be building partnerships between inventors and entrepreneurs. Also, through new faculty reward structures, we will promote interdisciplinary partnerships to foster productivity and creative solutions.

In addition, Penn State plans to invest in entrepreneurial boot camps adjacent to University Park and at several Commonwealth Campuses. The aim is to create space for startups and to provide the resources, mentoring and expertise needed to drive innovation. These steps can help us transform the region into a destination for education, entrepreneurial culture and workforce development.

All of these initiatives bring us back to where we began: the students. Opportunities in innovation and entrepreneurship teach “real world” skills that prepare students for competitive careers. With the support of the business community, public partners and students, faculty and staff, Penn State can create a powerful path to economic development, while placing students into emerging fields. And the benefits will be felt by the entire region.

On behalf of Penn State, thank you for your support, and we look forward to a year of collaboration and growth.