President Barron Makes Appearance

On April 12, the Ben Franklin Networking Luncheon, a monthly event, brought together individuals from various Innovation Park resident companies. 

Penn State President Dr. Eric Barron, who had been touring the Technology Center earlier in the day, stopped by the luncheon and spoke briefly about Invent Penn State. He described the four-pronged initiative: incentivizing entrepreneurship for faculty and staff, garnering visibility through the creation of a branded Penn State platform to pull in angel investors and venture capitalists, creating an ecosystem across all Penn State campuses, and focusing on involving and energizing students.

Barron’s message was that his administration will support, encourage, and celebrate entrepreneurship. 

Guest speaker, Heather Fennessey McWhorter, Director of the Penn State Small Business Development Center, described the free, confidential assistance available to small businesses through the SBDC, which is located in the Technology Center at Innovation Park. The team can assist with securing funds and establishing a business plan. They also offer educational seminars throughout the year. 

Of clients the SBDC serves, 75% are first-year or pre-venture companies. According to McWhorter, the SBDC greets prospective clients—recently established and yet to be established businesses—with open ears and open doors. Staff is always looking to improve and expand the services they provide.

Frank Dorman of Peak Diagnostics, LLC. was the final speaker and described the process of transitioning from academia to the marketplace. For university faculty in scientific fields, securing funding through traditional NIH and NSF grants presents many challenges. Utilizing all available resources to move toward the marketplace has been key for Peak Diagnostics and other resident companies at the Park. Dorman said he needed guidance to sort out some of the unfamiliar details—understanding accounting and finding usable space, for example. At Innovation Park, those resources were available.  

Ben Franklin Technology Partners hosts one luncheon a month, showcasing resources available to current and hopeful entrepreneurs and creating a space for making connections and exchanging ideas.