Happy Valley is synonymous with a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem — one that’s branched out to support Pennsylvania entrepreneurs in other regions of the Keystone State as well. Today, nearly all Pennsylvania residents live or work within a half-hour drive of a LaunchBox or Innovation Hub — 96% of Pennsylvanians to be exact — both of which are initiatives that began in Happy Valley. These LaunchBox and Innovation Hub locations, in many cases, provide economically underserved populations with vital access to startup support and other business resources, and are just one more proof of Happy Valley’s role in the entire state’s ability to innovate.
How It Started
“The Invent Penn State initiative was launched… by President Eric Barron to spur economic development, job creation and student career success,” explains Ashley Palmer, Interim Director of Marketing & Communications for Invent Penn State, the organizational facilitator of the LaunchBox and Innovation Hub network.
“His vision was to foster innovation across the Commonwealth through deliberate strategies to promote economic development and reward entrepreneurship to benefit generations of Pennsylvanians. Penn State is uniquely positioned to accomplish this through our Penn State campus network and, thus, the LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network was born by embedding innovation spaces in campus communities,” she says.
What started with five campuses and five, $50,000 seed grants has now grown to encompass 21 Innovation Hub and LaunchBox locations.
“Innovation both in Happy Valley and across Pennsylvania has grown exponentially and, with it, so has the network, which has provided a helping hand in the launch of 164 new Pennsylvania businesses”…
How It’s Going
Now, five years in, the LaunchBox and Innovation Hub network has expanded to provide a blanket of opportunity throughout the state. Innovation both in Happy Valley and across Pennsylvania has grown exponentially and, with it, so has the network, which has provided a helping hand in the launch of 164 new Pennsylvania businesses and created more than 194 new jobs.
As Penn State President Eric Barron notes, “Our commitment to empowering entrepreneurs and driving innovation and economic development across the Commonwealth through the Invent Penn State initiative continues to produce incredible results. In just five years, we have succeeded in building a network of Innovation Hubs that each act as unique and vital parts of their respective communities, driving local economies and job creation across the state.”
When asked about the results the initiative’s team is most proud of, Palmer’s response is two-fold: “First, the number of community entrepreneurs that have been supported by the LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network is what we’re most proud of. For example, over the last five years, the LaunchBox & Innovation Hub network has assisted 3,325 entrepreneurs, engaged 10,759 students and faculty and had 345 startup teams graduate from accelerator programs. Playing even a small part in helping someone fulfill their dream is extremely rewarding.”
Palmer continues, “Second, over the last year, COVID was tough on everyone, but it was amazing to see how the network pivoted to support their communities in a time of great need.”
Across the state, the network offered programming and services digitally amid facility closure, and the directors used technology to reach entrepreneurs and startups, providing online mentoring, webinars, virtual speaker series and programming.
“Over the last five years, the LaunchBox & Innovation Hub network has assisted 3,325 entrepreneurs, engaged 10,759 students and faculty and had 345 startup teams graduate from accelerator programs”…
The Future is Bright for Pennsylvania Innovation
Five years in, and it’s still full steam ahead for the Launchbox and Innovation Hub network. The network is currently constructing the Penn State Innovation Hub, near Penn State’s University Park campus, which is slated to open in Oct. 2021. The new home of Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank will offer a brand-new physical and digital makerspace.
“The network is still growing, not only in number, but also in service offerings,” says Palmer. “We are always looking for ways to leverage the expertise of the collective network to mobilize services across the state to benefit all Pennsylvanians.”
To learn more about the thriving grassroots LaunchBox and Innovation Hub network, visit https://invent.psu.edu/programs/pa-innovation-hubs/