This article is part of a series celebrating the five-year anniversary of Invent Penn State’s LaunchBox and Innovation Hub Network. Learn more here.
DuBOIS, Pa. — Located in the renovated Old Deposit Bank Building on East Long Avenue in DuBois, North Central PA LaunchBox powered by Penn State DuBois is providing a boost to Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson, McKean and Potter counties. Since opening its 5,800-square-foot facility in November 2019, it has helped 450 entrepreneurs, students, staff and faculty members. It also has leveraged more than $1.8 million in total external funds, consisting of grants and endowments.
The innovation space has helped startups and small manufacturers create new products, processes or applications, and 12 startups have graduated from its programs. In addition to accelerator programs, North Central PA LaunchBox offers no-cost services and resources that include legal and intellectual property advice and co-working space.
This fall, North Central PA LaunchBox unveiled a state-of-the-art makerspace and Idea Lab. Available to students, entrepreneurs and existing companies looking to expand their innovative environment, the new lab contains 3D printers, 3D-scanning hardware and software, and a vinyl printer and a laminator to support vinyl adhesives, banners and other materials. Currently, no-cost classes are running at the Idea Lab for training in 3D printing and scanning.
North Central PA LaunchBox, a public-private partnership facility, is a shining example of regional economic development collaboration, as it works with many community entities that provide a spectrum of resources including patent assistance, business startup, site selection, manufacturing improvements and workforce development. Collaborators include Ben Franklin Technology Partners, the Clarion University Small Business Development Center, Downtown DuBois Inc., SCORE, PA Wilds, and other economic development organizations and municipalities.
This collaboration also has extended to working with Clearfield County Commissioners, as both partnered to help businesses during the pandemic. Through the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP), North Central PA LaunchBox and Clearfield County Commissioners were awarded $897,671 in funds, which they distributed to help hospitality-related businesses struggling from hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. This came on the heels of their prior partnership administering $500,000 in relief funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to small businesses adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unique to North Central PA LaunchBox is its work to advance technologies for regional powder metal manufacturers. It also facilitates programming for industrial research and development and technical training for employers to modernize their understanding of automation and workforce development.
North Central PA LaunchBox supports innovations like an equipotential grounding system for mobile operations to protect personnel and equipment from static and stray electricity, and an artificial intelligence vision system to inspect parts produced by powder metal manufacturers.
In addition to helping local manufacturers advance their competitive prowess, North Central PA LaunchBox is supporting the DuBois School District, which received a PA Smart Grant to develop an innovative entrepreneurship curriculum. The school is equipping local powder metal fabricators and manufacturers and other businesses with GoPro cameras that can stream footage to local high schools with the goal of inspiring student interest in entrepreneurship and/or local employment. Partners also are showcasing businesses throughout downtown to teach students about small business entrepreneurship.
“We are helping today’s students become the vital workforce for tomorrow,” North Central PA LaunchBox Director Bradley Lashinsky said. “We are helping local companies transition from old manufacturing processes to advanced automation, as well as helping to reignite the downtown areas with boutique businesses that are the fabric of their communities.”
About Invent Penn State
Invent Penn State is a commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success.
The Invent Penn State LaunchBox and Innovation Hub Network is made up of 21 innovation spaces embedded in Penn State campus communities offering no-cost co-working space, makerspace, accelerator programs, pitch competitions, speaker series, access to experts and mentors, and legal and IP advice through Penn State Law clinics. Five years since opening, the Invent Penn State LaunchBox and Innovation Hub Network has supported 3,325 community entrepreneurs, created 194.5 jobs, and helped to launch 164 new Pennsylvania companies. Gifts to support the network, as well as select economic development initiatives across the commonwealth, are a priority of the University’s current fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.”
To learn more about how to make a gift and secure a match before the campaign concludes on June 30, 2022, contact Heather Winfield at [email protected]. Information about the campaign is available at greaterpennstate.psu.edu.
To find a location near you, visit invent.psu.edu/programs/pa-innovation-hubs.