Business, Education and Research: How Innovation Park Provides the Perfect Environment for Industry Innovation

April 13, 2021

Image: Salimetrics

In 1989, Penn State University Trustees designated an area near the university’s football stadium for a research park “where collaboration between the university and private sector companies can grow," transferring university-based knowledge "to the market place and to foster economic development." Today, Innovation Park at Penn State is an ecosystem where business, education and research come together. 

Its unique offering of office, manufacturing and research space, along with access to Penn State’s scientific, engineering, technology and business resources, has made Innovation Park a catalyst for innovation and industry. 

But don’t just take our word for it. Here are 10 companies that recently told us how Innovation Park and its resources have helped them achieve success. 

1. Blackhawk Energy

Image: Blackhawk Energy

Blackhawk Energy  is a next-generation U.S. oil and gas company that focuses on identifying and acquiring under-valued oil assets and maximizing their production and profit by utilizing stringent, cost-effective, low-overhead operation programs.

How Innovation Park has helped their success: “We considered several locations for Blackhawk Energy’s offices, but we decided on Happy Valley because we believe it’s a great place to raise our children. Once we established the office at Innovation Park, we discovered the incredible professional community which is always at work supporting businesses of all kinds. The Innovation Park network is invaluable to us and has been one of the greatest positive influences on our business. I’d like to thank Dan, Michelle, Brenda, Scott, Kate and all of the others here at Innovation Park for their continued support. The Happy Valley community is always rooting for success — that’s a contagious vibe!

2. Aleo BME

Image: Aleo BME

Aleo BME has a proprietary technology platform and a family of natural and synthetic polymers with an exciting array of potential uses in the medical, biological and environmental fields. In January 2018, ElaSkin® liquid bandage, made with biopolymer technology from Innovation Park-based company Aleo BME, was approved by the FDA and has since gone on to top Amazon charts as a best-selling liquid bandage.

How Innovation Park has helped their success: “We have some ability to access material-testing facilities at the university through our service contract. The community here in Innovation Park is filled with tons of startup companies, creating a community of entrepreneurship. With the university being right here, we have access to many experts, including those in biomedical engineering and material science. This has been helpful both scientifically and from a technology standpoint.

3. Argolytics

Image: Argolytics

Argolytics is a veteran-owned, woman-owned software company, producing TRENDABLE™, a lightweight and affordable quality-control solution built specifically for small and medium-sized businesses. 

How Innovation Park has helped their success: “The Invent Penn State initiative has been integral in providing us with the connections and resources we needed to get started. We participated in the Happy Valley LaunchBox Accelerator and Summer Founder’s programs. Through those programs, we launched the first versions of TRENDABLE™ and hired our first employee. Ben Franklin Technology Partners has been our advisors and initial source of funding. The closeness to Penn State allowed us opportunities to work with students and do grant-funded research [and] we are currently working with Penn State’s Department of Industrial Engineering on a research project funded through the PA DCED Manufacturing PA Innovation grant. 

We are also working with partners we’ve found through connections with the Williamsport MRC, Harrisburg ASQ, South-Central PA Manufacturers Association and the MANTEC office in York. If we were not so centrally located in Happy Valley, these opportunities to participate in organizations on both the east and west sides of the Commonwealth would be harder to find!”

4. Phospholutions

Image: Phospholutions

Phospholutions utilizes its patented technology to increase efficiency and alleviate the environmental impact of phosphorus fertilizer. Current commercial products aim to deliver phosphorus more efficiently to the plant within the soil to increase farmer profitability while reducing unwanted losses to the environment. The brand recently received $10.3 million in Series A funding led by Continental Grain Company. One of the investors was Innovation Park resident 1855 Capital. 

How Innovation Park has helped their success: “We are thrilled to have such strategic investors on board, like 1855 Capital. We’re grateful to them for their continued support of Phospholutions as a Penn State-born startup.”

5. RTD

Image: RTD

RTD specializes in innovative, quality computer, data acquisition and control products for industrial, military, transportation and aerospace applications. 

How Innovation Park has helped their success: “Innovation Park is nice. It’s easy to access. There is not a lot of traffic that you have to worry about. People in the park are friendly. It’s a nice place to walk during lunch or breaks. There are food trucks here from time to time… Penn State has a vibrant community. Our people feed off of that.

6. spotLESS

Image: spotLESS

spotLESS is a team of experts in materials, mechanical and bio-inspired engineering who aim to address global challenges and commercial interests, including viscoelastic solid-repellent coatings for extreme water-saving and global sanitation.  

How Innovation Park has helped their success: “The support of the Penn State and Happy Valley community has been invaluable. From access to Penn State facilities like its Materials Characterizations Lab to proximity to investors like 1855 Capital, the unique entrepreneurial ecosystem has nourished our startup in countless ways.

I have some friends in the startup world who are located in big cities and they have to pay a lot for their lab space. Our location in Innovation Park has given us access to the equipment we need. As a startup, it would be very limiting to have to find that kind of equipment and buying it would be very challenging.”

7. Morgan Advanced Materials

Image: Morgan Advanced Materials

Morgan Advanced Materials, based in Berkshire, United Kingdom, is a global leader in materials science, using carbon, advanced ceramics and composites for a broad range of markets. In 2018, Morgan opened its Carbon Science Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Innovation Park. 

Why they chose Innovation Park: Penn State is known as the birthplace of carbon science, and continues to offer strong contributions in carbon today. Its research expertise surpasses that of any other university in the country; according to National Science Foundation rankings of Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) released in November 2019, this university ranks first in materials science and second in mechanical engineering and materials engineering. Its central location makes traveling to manufacturing hubs easy. And the cherry on top was that people really like living there. “It’s not hard to recruit here,” says Phil Armstrong, lead at the Carbon Science Centre of Excellence. “People want to raise their families here, buy houses here. The region is a big attractor. Plus, the general climate is really good for collaboration.”

8. Magnitude Instruments

Image: Magnitude Instruments

Magnitude Instruments incorporates cutting-edge noise-suppression technology that advances transient absorption spectroscopy toward unprecedented sensitivity with decreased scan times.

How Innovation Park has helped their success: “It’s close to all the people who have helped us launch. Ben Franklin’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Scott Johnson, TechCelerator entrepreneur coach Bob Dornich, Associate Director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Jim Pietropaolo and so many others, especially with Ben Franklin, have helped us in this journey. Having resources so close has been invaluable.”

9. Impulse Technology

Image: Impulse Technologies

Impulse Technologies specializes in high-impact mechanical and energy applications and is currently developing a below-knee prosthetic component designed to function much like a natural leg. 

How Innovation Park’s resources have helped their success: After deciding to start their company, its co-founders received entrepreneurial training, business setup guidance, business development and investment support from Ben Franklin Technology Partners. “We also got legal counsel and support through PSU Law and IP clinics at the Happy Valley LaunchBox,” says Dr. Nahan. “We had access to other services, too, including Penn State Venture Connection conferences, Penn State Leadership Network conferences and PA Tax credit services through CBICC.”

Happy Valley was the natural location to choose as the duo launched their business. They have since become a vital part of the region. “We’re a member of Invent Penn State’s incubator program and a portfolio company of Ben Franklin Technology Partners,” says Dr. Nahar. “We’ve also partnered with Ability P&O, a prosthetic company that’s headquartered in Exton. Our sponsors include the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense.”

10. Salimetrics

Image: Salimetrics

Salimetrics was founded in 1998, and has led the cutting edge in salivary bioscience from Innovation Park ever since. It is committed to supporting saliva research around the world. Salimetrics assays have been used in more saliva-related published papers than any other assay in the field. 

How Innovation Park’s resources have helped their success: Founder Douglas Granger continues his work as chief scientific and strategy advisor for Salimetrics and is also a Chancellor’s Professor of Psychology, Public Health and Pediatrics and founding director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research at the University of California, Irvine. He muses that if he had started Salimetrics while he was a faculty member in California, it never would have gotten off the ground. 

“The workers would have been much more expensive, and it would have taken a much larger investment to get it off the ground. Plus there weren’t resources like Ben Franklin to help us in California. There is startup help, but most investors are looking for the next big thing – the next million-dollar idea – not the next little thing that could grow.”

Even for Penn State, he says the idea was a fairly new one. “You have all these super-smart people at Penn State, but in the late 90s, relatively few companies were coming out of the university. We were one of the early success stories. At first, the deans didn’t know what to do with the idea, but it was Dan Leri and his team who got Penn State to realize that this was something it should endorse.” 

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