By Matthew Rink
Erie Times-News, Pa.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Several Erie area universities are pooling their money, passion and creativity to create the Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network. At some of the universities (or beehives) the focus will be on advertising, marketing and public relations. At others, the focus will be on business development.
Erie County’s four universities have formed a collaborative to help entrepreneurs and small business start-ups make their dreams reality.
A $200,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and another $200,000 of matching funds provided by Ignite Erie Industry+University Business Acceleration Collaborative will help establish a support network for business ventures.
The project is being coordinated by Penn State Behrend, but involves three other Erie-area universities: Gannon, Mercyhurst and Edinboro.
Together they will create the Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network.
Each will host entrepreneurial or “beehive” labs that will focus on different stages of business development.
Behrend’s innovation beehive opened in 2016 with the assistance of the Invent Penn State Initiative, which has funded 17 such hubs across the Penn State school system.
Called the Innovation Commons, the site offers engineering and design expertise to prospective start-ups.
3D printing and product design, CAD assistance and consulting is also offered at Innovation Commons through Gannon University’s Small Business Development Center, which thus far has assisted on more than 50 projects, according to a news release from Penn State Behrend. Students staff the lab.
The $400,000 of grant money allows the vision of establishing a network of beehive sites to take shape.
That vision began forming in 2014, when the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority established Ignite Erie Industry, an initiative to nurture an entrepreneurial culture and spark job creation and business growth.
ECGRA set aside $750,000 to distribute over three years to the local universities.