$1 Million Grant Partners the Regional Universities in Erie Business Innovation Development

Posted: October 17, 2017

Gannon University announced on Tuesday, Oct. 17 it has received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) to further advance the Innovation Beehive Network as the collaboration framework among Erie's regional universities.

This grant will accelerate and enhance business consulting services provided by Gannon to startups, and boost development of Erie's emergent Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network, which includes Gannon University, Penn State Behrend, Mercyhurst University and Edinboro University.

The universities have been collaborating on a broad variety of projects since the inception of the Innovation Beehive Network. The network was conceived and launched by an initial Ignite Erie grant with Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, serving as the driver of the network's early accomplishments. This new $1 million EDA grant will allow the universities to take these initial successes to the next level. Each university will bring a particular asset and expertise to bear on maximizing business growth and improving the economic health of our region.

Gannon University's association with the Erie Technology Incubator (ETI) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), located in the Center for Business Ingenuity (CBI), combines efforts to provide a wide range of business consulting resources to accelerate business ideas moving from concept to market. Penn State Behrend's Innovation Commons, where the first Beehive was established, will expand its services as a regional asset and resource for product development. A new node at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania will provide advertising, marketing and public relations strategies for business startups, and Mercyhurst University will support business intelligence through its emerging center.

Gannon University is proud to support the work of our regional university partners and is excited to enhance its activity in the Innovation Beehive Network. This is an ideal and efficient environment for the creation of a pipeline to help populate the area with high-potential startups and supply them with the intellectual resources they need to grow and flourish.

"As Erie's urban university, Gannon University is passionately dedicated to the economic health, growth and vitality of Erie's downtown," said Steven Mauro, Ph.D., vice president of academic administration. "This grant will accelerate our longstanding and successful efforts in new, small business development by allowing us to more effectively utilize the assets we have created at CBI to transform the community. At the same time, the activities at the node provide a platform for meaningful hands-on education for our students and those across the region."

This federally awarded grant is part of relief efforts meant to stimulate the economy and generate jobs for areas impacted by the declining coal industry. The Erie geographic area qualified due to the extensive support services it lends to that industry. This award allows the partner universities to focus on rapid small business development to achieve that goal.

"Small businesses are the engines that drive job growth, commerce and economy in a city our size," said Mauro. "Erie is uniquely positioned to be able to be fast and nimble enough to coordinate such development. The newly created Innovation Beehive Network is a completely novel approach not implemented anywhere else in the nation, but is able to occur here to achieve that goal."

In just 10 short months, the collaborative efforts of the universities has been successful in securing over $3 million dollars in funds and matching commitments to support the Innovation Beehive Network. This includes funds awarded to Penn State Behrend from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and support from the Dr. & Mrs. Arthur William Phillips Charitable Trust, also awarded to Gannon University.

Gannon University has a longstanding history of dedication to and providing services for the development of new businesses in Erie. Gannon founded ETI nearly a decade ago to focus on business development by providing a wide-range of services and programming for entrepreneurs and high-tech startups. ETI currently houses 16 startups in software, manufacturing automation and medical technology, and offers a network of more than 70 professional providers as its mentor team. Since its inception, startups at ETI have raised more than $36 million in private funding.

Gannon also hosts the SBDC, a state and federally-funded program that has helped thousands of entrepreneurs plan and execute successful new businesses. SBDC provides consulting services at no charge and a variety of low cost workshops to entrepreneurs and existing businesses in Erie, Crawford, Warren and Mercer counties. Since January 2017, the SBDC has been essential in creating 56 jobs, assisting with raising over $21 million in capital assistance, and serving 343 clients.

At the University's College of Engineering and Business, students participate in joint projects with the startups and entrepreneurs. Some students, who are also business owners, also lease space at ETI and seek services at the SBDC, thus transmitting entrepreneurial ideas and methods into a one-of-a-kind learning environment for the next generation of business innovators.

"What makes the Innovation Beehive Network different from existing efforts at Gannon or elsewhere is the coordination that is occurring between local universities. Our combined forces create a comprehensive business assistance infrastructure that is nationally recognizable," said Mauro. "This federally awarded grant is a testament to that."