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Penn State Behrend Opens Innovation Commons

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Penn State Behrend’s Innovation Commons — an idea laboratory, maker space, technology playground, legal office, marketing agency and entrepreneurs’ gathering spot rolled under one roof — has opened to support small businesses and start-ups.

A January 8 ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by Penn State President Eric Barron and new Penn State Behrend Chancellor Ralph Ford celebrated a $50,000 Invent Penn State seed grant that supported the lab’s development. Invent Penn State is an initiative launched last year to leverage the University’s research, knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit in order to drive job creation, economic development and student career success.

Barron has committed $30 million to putting into place across the University the organization and people to guide and support its partners along their entrepreneurial pathways: working with students to encourage ideation, then helping them to kick-start those ideas into promising new companies; collaborating with communities and corporations, making available Penn State’s intellectual resources; and partnering with alumni to mentor students, shepherd fledgling businesses and invest in promising, innovative start-ups.

Penn State Behrend’s Innovation Commons lab, which is located in the Jack Burke Research and Economic Development Center, also is part of the $1.5 million Ignite Erie job creation initiative, a partnership of Penn State Behrend, Mercyhurst University and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority. It will house the first of several planned “Innovation Beehives” in Erie County, where students and others can consult with business professionals — bankers, patent attorneys, marketing professionals and other experts — at no initial cost.