PA’s innovation economy is not “flat” in the “suburbs”. Here’s where it’s growing – and why

A report recently published by Brooking says Pennsylvania’s innovation economy is stagnant, especially outside of hubs like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The report blames a few factors, such as declining state government investment in start-ups and below-average R&D spending for Pennsylvania-based companies, and goes on to say that to improve the performance of its industry innovation, Pennsylvania should borrow economic development strategies. competing states.

But in Chester County, we have found that being innovative in our actions and policies, and not just replicating what is happening elsewhere, is essential to supporting technological and entrepreneurial growth from our busiest suburbs to our busiest enclaves. more rural.

We do this by teaming up with business leaders, economic development and government in our community to create resources that are both impactful and sustainable. For example:

  • Last year, the County of Chester awarded $ 100,000 to the Chester County Economic Development Board (CCEDC) and his Ideas x Innovation Network (i2n), a public-private partnership founded in 2012 to support locally launched technology companies. i2n has grown to help over 100 businesses a year access funding, workspace, mentorship and key connections. The county grant builds on the state’s investment in the Keystone innovation zone tax credit program, which i2n administers for the region. The grant is 100% complemented by contributions from the private sector.
  • That same year saw the creation of VentureChesco, a $ 4 million fund in partnership with the Chester County Pension Board and the state supported Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania provide seed funding to technology and life science companies operating in the county.
  • In 2019, with the support of the public and private sectors, CCEDC established the Entrepreneur roundtable, a peer group where start-up founders and new entrepreneurs come together to address critical business needs, such as access to start-up funding and professional development resources.
  • When formulating the innovation strategy, we rely on the contribution and expertise of local leaders in the technology industry such as Evolve IP’s Guy Fardone and Tim Wallace from iPipeline, who also serve as mentors to the next generation of technology innovators. Their businesses, and many more like them in Chester County, started out as startups and became anchors for the region, employing hundreds of people in high paying jobs. Their expansion is attracting new waves of tech talent, and their successes (like the $ 1.6 billion acquisition of iPipeline last month) are drawing the attention of investors around the world to southeastern Pennsylvania.
  • We know that more people must have the opportunity to lead our technological economy and share its fruits, regardless of gender, race or economic background. That’s why we are focused on educating, expanding and diversifying our future tech workforce through youth programs that have helped over 4,500 students explore STEM careers throughout the year. last.

Thanks in part to this strategy of long-term planning, coordination across the private sector and across multiple levels of government, and creative problem-solving based on local challenges and resources, Chester County excels in several indicators of innovation success. They include the number of invention patents per capita, the number of technology and life science companies, and the levels of allocation of KIZ and R&D tax credits.

There is still work to be done, both here and across the state. And we agree with the Brookings Report’s call for a renewed statewide innovation strategy, as well as the deployment of more private and public resources to improve Pennsylvania’s competitive advantage.

But before we look to our out-of-state neighbors for policies that may or may not suit our local communities, or reflexively recreate the strategies of the past 20 years, let’s try to build on our local strengths, enhance existing collaborations and advance new ideas to support the innovation economy.

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