MONT ALTO, Pa., Feb. 5, 2018― As part of its Invent Penn State initiative, the University has announced 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 Penn State Mont Alto’s LaunchBox ― an undertaking introduced by 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.
“Penn State is leading the way in entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic development in Pennsylvania and the Mont Alto LaunchBox is supporting those efforts in our community,” said Penn State Mont Alto Chancellor Francis K. Achampong.
The Mont Alto LaunchBox opened for business this January in downtown Chambersburg. Located at 40 North Second Street, it is providing services from noon to 4 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with plans to increase hours of operation in the near future.
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.
- More than 2,500 faculty, staff and students engaged in entrepreneurial activity;
- 100s of community entrepreneurs were supported;
- 80 new products were developed;
- 79 startups were launched; and
- 110 student internships were created.
“We are building momentum in establishing a culture where entrepreneurialism is embedded into who we are as an institution, especially for our students,” said Barron. “We believe that if we remove obstacles that stand in the way of launching new businesses, we open up endless opportunities to thrive.”
One example of a successful business idea launched with the support of Invent Penn State came from Chambersburg resident and Mont Alto LaunchBox Advisory Council member Linsey Covert. Now CEO of TEAMology, Covert developed a framework for a K-8 school-wide program to reduce bullying while working as a staff member at Penn State. After testing and refining the program, she and her partners formally launched TEAMology LLC in 2016 and now provides the program commercially to schools.
“Penn State’s partnership has been instrumental in our success with schools and students. With the support we’ve received, we are able to continue to validate our effectiveness, as well as grow and evolve our exciting product,” said Covert.
Another example is Matthew Roda, a current junior at Penn State, who accessed the free and readily available resources to help launch his startup Reflexion. In his junior year of high school, Roda suffered a concussion while playing ice hockey but the standard tests at the time didn’t pick up on it right away. He now runs a company that has developed a new testing system he hopes will prevent other young athletes from going through what he did.
“The support from Penn State has been phenomenal, particularly with the amount of advice and resources made available to us at Happy Valley LaunchBox in State College,” said Roda, co-founder, Reflexion. “I do not believe we could have gotten where we are without the help of Penn State.”
The Mont Alto LaunchBox partners with Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners, Chambersburg Area Development Corporation, Franklin County Area Development Corporation, Penn State Law Entrepreneurial Assistance Clinic, Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, PennTAP Innovation Services, and the Shippensburg Small Business Development Center.
For more information about the Mont Alto LaunchBox and to register for free workshops and services and to submit proposals to participate in LION Tank ― a Shark-Tank-like competition ― go to montalto.psu.edu/launchbox. To connect with Invent Penn State, go to invent.psu.edu.