In 2013, Nina Jenkins, a research professor of entomology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, parlayed her research into a new company focused on indoor pest control. Jenkins’ startup, ConidioTec LLC, developed and patented Aprehend®, an environmentally-safe spray for eliminating and controlling bed bugs that received EPA approval in 2017 and is now available in all 50 states and Canada. In 2018, the company won $10,000 and the People’s Choice Award in the Tech Tournament at Invent Penn State’s Venture & IP Conference, one of the largest tech startup conferences in the Mid-Atlantic.
With only six employees, ConidioTec supports 73 jobs throughout the supply chain and generates nearly $2 million in economic impact. Key to its success is the federal funding it received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We received a total of $61,000 in grant funding from USDA, which enabled us to adjust and develop our biopesticide technology specifically for use against bed bugs,” said Jenkins.
"With only six employees, ConidioTec supports 73 jobs throughout the supply chain and generates nearly $2 million in economic impact."
“Sparking Economic Growth” in Pennsylvania and Beyond
ConidioTec is just one of 53 companies highlighted in an economic impact report from The Science Coalition, a nonprofit organization composed of U.S. public and private research universities, that was released in April. Titled “Sparking Economic Growth,” the report highlights the impact of Penn State research: more than 2,500 jobs and nearly $200 million in economic impact since 2015.
The companies profiled all trace their roots to federally-funded research, which the report shows is key to job creation, innovation and a flourishing economy, said Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research at Penn State.
“We are proud that Penn State research exemplifies the outstanding benefits that federal investment has for fundamental research and, in return, our economies,” Weiss said.
"the report highlights the impact of Penn State research: more than 2,500 jobs and nearly $200 million in economic impact since 2015."...
Penn State research expenditures total $1.01 billion, and the university’s research enterprise is tied for first nationally in breadth and depth of expertise with 16 different top 10-ranked research fields in expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) rankings.
“Thanks to the strong partnership between our federal research agencies and Penn State, companies are developing life-changing innovations, creating jobs and reinvesting in their communities,” said John Latini, director of federal relations at Penn State and president of The Science Coalition.
The Happy Valley Advantage
Affiliation with a major research university and the access to federal funding it provides is just one advantage of establishing a business in Happy Valley, said Don McCandless, CEO of ConidioTec.
“It’s great to be close to Penn State when we need expertise or collaboration,” said McCandless. “In addition, operating costs are reasonable compared to major metropolitan areas. And the quality of life is very attractive. You can drive across town in 10–15 minutes with little to no traffic. The schools are top notch. We have adequate public transportation, including an airport served by four passenger airlines. And you can drive to the major Northeast metropolitan centers in four hours or less.”
It’s a story that Happy Valley entrepreneurs tell again and again. The region’s ties to a major research university, combined with its affordable standard of living and quality of life, tick all the right boxes for a growing company, allowing founders to access valuable resources while retaining employees in a way that might be impossible in a larger market.
Want to learn more about what Happy Valley offers to both thriving tech companies and startups alike? Read about how private equity is currently investing millions in Happy Valley, and why.