(Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 19) – The sheer size and dynamism of Philadelphia, with its bustling urban center, thriving universities, and active suburban communities, can make it difficult to identify any one particular trend. So let us do it for you.
Hey, Philly, you are officially a national leader when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship. With all due respect to Ben Franklin and his bifocals, we’re talking about 21st-century innovation that will drive job creation in the region for the next 20 years and beyond.
Sure, Philadelphia’s reputation as a hub for innovation was secure once Mr. Franklin and his scientific pursuits in electricity, mathematics, and mapmaking became the stuff of legend. But what’s happening today in the City of Brotherly Love is truly remarkable – and deserves recognition as the world celebrates Global Entrepreneurship Week.
This week is the world’s largest celebration of innovators and job creators, the people who launch start-ups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth, and expand human welfare. In just the last few weeks, we have seen more evidence of how Philadelphia is contributing to that ideal.
The University City Science Center, the first and still largest urban research park in the United States, continues to innovate and inspire young entrepreneurs.
The Science Center last month received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) for Phase 1 Ventures, a new multi-institutional commercialization program. Operating as an accelerator for the launch and growth of new companies, Phase 1 Ventures offers a comprehensive turnkey approach to effectively and efficiently test business feasibility.
Stephen Tang, the Science Center president and CEO, and his team continue to help Philadelphia’s innovators move from proof-of-concept stage to getting enterprises up and running. The center already has helped to create more than 15,000 jobs, contributing more than $9 billion annually to the region’s economy.
Just like its namesake, Ben Franklin Technology Partners is constantly looking for a new problem to solve. This tech-based economic development group has invested more than $170 million in capital to grow 1,750 regional enterprises across Philadelphia and the commonwealth. Just recently, BFTP was awarded $600,000 by the EDA for a job-creation initiative centered on the growing medical-devices industry. The shared goal is to make Philadelphia a worldwide leader in medical-device manufacturing, generating new jobs for the region and spurring millions in private investment.
Philadelphia’s higher-education community is also driving innovation and entrepreneurship. Philadelphia University recently opened its Design, Engineering, and Commerce center. Temple University’s Fox Business School launched its Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute. Together, Temple and Philadelphia University also have started the Blackstone Launchpad Program. Drexel has its Close School of Entrepreneurship, and the University of Pennsylvania boasts its “Pennovation Center” along the Schuylkill. It is an impressive commitment by these, and other, outstanding schools that is helping to cement Philadelphia’s lead position as a hub for innovation.
Leadership from City Hall also has been critical. Mayor Nutter’s StartUp PHL effort is strengthening the entrepreneurial environment by backing smart proposals to energize the startup scene all across the city. Both the Commerce Department and Industrial Development Corp. have demonstrated a real commitment to this effort. Experience tells us that it takes true public-private partnerships to drive meaningful results, and Philadelphia is proving that yet again.
It’s worth noting that just as Philadelphia and other major urban centers have transitioned from a manufacturing-based economy to technology-based, the support mechanisms have changed, too. Decades ago, the U.S. Commerce Department’s EDA focused almost exclusively on traditional economic-development approaches, such as funding for basic infrastructure like utilities and transportation needed by manufacturing and large industry. While those core needs are still important in many communities, the EDA has evolved to making investments in community capacity-building, with the understanding that both culture and ecosystems position communities to be more agile and resilient, leading to greater and more sustainable economic prosperity.
What’s next? The Commerce Department is leading a $15 million national grant competition to spur regional innovation. If history is any indication, we expect to see Philadelphia competing for its share as it continues to stake its claim as one of America’s leading innovation centers.
Article written by Tom Ridge & Jay Williams.
Original article can be found HERE.