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Gannon announces new $2 million partnership in I-HACK

Published: 07/21/2020

Timothy G. NeCastro '83, president and CEO of Erie Insurance, speaks to the significance of the collaboration.

Timothy G. NeCastro '83, president and CEO of Erie Insurance, speaks to the significance of the collaboration.

Gannon University is partnering with Erie Insurance – the region’s largest private employer – to leverage the university’s resources in its Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge, or I-HACK, to drive continued economic revitalization of the Erie community through industry collaboration, as announced in a news conference today.

As part of the agreement, Erie Insurance has pledged $1 million in support of the ongoing construction of I-HACK. Specifically, this gift will help create The Hatchery, a dedicated third-floor collaborative innovation space that will integrate industry and professional development with academic creativity and learning.

Also announced today was an additional $1 million commitment by Erie Insurance as part of a service agreement with the University.

The gift and partnership will lead to the creation of the Erie Insurance IDEA Lab, where Erie Insurance employees will collaborate with Gannon students, faculty and other future corporate and research partners on real-world projects that will impact the community.

Erie Insurance will interact in this shared environment to provide education, research and industry experiences for specific workforce development and student employment during their academic years and following graduation.

Gannon will provide Erie Insurance, and a growing list of partners, with consulting services that support their innovation and training needs establishing I-HACK as a powerful community asset for economic development.

The University will also offer courses in this space integrated into the school’s new program in innovation and creativity that will begin in Fall 2021.

Tim NeCastro, president and CEO of Erie Insurance, spoke to the significance of this collaboration.

“As the name implies, The Hatchery here at Gannon University will be the birthplace of big and bold ideas and a place where resources and meaningful connections come together to turn ideas into reality,” NeCastro said. “This space is purpose-built for exactly that type of innovation work. By leading this effort, Gannon University will be able to bring partnerships to the table to get the right students, faculty, businesses, entrepreneurs, and other experts aligned around an idea and get stuff done.”

Gannon President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., called this an important day not just for Gannon but its ongoing relationship with Erie Insurance as the two anchor institutions work to rebuild Erie’s downtown.

“We are proud to have Erie Insurance join this venture. This is a company that has done so much for this city and for our institution. Today’s announcement is just one more way we are linked together in defining Erie’s history and our future,” he said.

Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D., vice president of Academic Affairs, reflected on the progress of I-HACK’s development.

“Two years ago, we imagined a physical location that would bring our Gannon students, faculty, and staff together with corporate partners and community members who want to generate ideas and make those ideas come to life,” Iwanenko said. “Together with Erie Insurance, that idea will become a reality and we will transform lives and continue to build Erie as a top choice to live, work, play and learn.”

The news follows the announcement earlier this year of a partnership with Extreme Networks, which will be operating a training academy from The Hatchery early next year thanks to a $402,500 grant received last July from the Orris C. & Beatrice Dewey Hirtzel Memorial Foundation. The Hatchery will also house the Geographic Information Systems Center for Education and Engagement that is being created through a $110,000 grant from the George I. Alden Trust received in November.

The University announced its plans to develop I-HACK and rolled out new degrees in cybersecurity and cyber engineering in November 2018. Through continued community and individual support, construction to the first, second and third floors is well underway with strong enrollment in the new programs and additional academic programs soon to begin.

In total, Gannon anticipates renovations to I-HACK to cost $28 million.

The University plans to seek additional partners who can contribute to the vision that Gannon and Erie Insurance have for the City of Erie in alignment with Erie County and Erie Downtown Development Corp. plans.