New partnership jump-starts university’s CollegeTowne initiatives
Alvernia University and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) have collaborated to provide incubator support and potential funding to support innovative projects developed by local entrepreneurs and industry partners through the university’s O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship.
Alvernia’s O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship joined BFTP/NEP’s Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network. Thirteen members strong, this network is among the largest in the nation. Through the new partnership, Ben Franklin will explore investment opportunities in defined projects with a network of innovative expert resources to local businesses via O’Pake’s business incubator and Alvernia faculty and students.
“The Reading CollegeTowne economic development strategy goes beyond nurturing entrepreneurs and launching new businesses,” said Alvernia President John R. Loyack. “Our relationship focuses on enhancing local businesses through creative project-based problem-solving. Ben Franklin’s support and resources, combined with Alvernia’s faculty experts and exceptional students, creates the perfect recipe for local business expansion and innovation.”
Alvernia’s innovation projects usually require a considerable investment of time and human capital, resources companies value most and typically have in short supply. However, the university has an abundance of human resources via hardworking students and faculty and staff, as well as time, through defined experiential learning opportunities.
“Universities are good at solving problems that are not time-sensitive but require out-of-the-box thinking,” said Vice President, Associate Provost and Chief Operating Officer of the O’Pake Institute, Dr. Rodney Ridley. “This partnership allows us to approach local companies to develop defined projects that provide an educational component for students and help provide an answer to a company’s problem. Ultimately, what is a win-win for business and a university is a completed project that would never have gotten done without the project partnership. This sets the stage for a long-term relationship.”
Establishing a business incubator in 1984, Ben Franklin is one of the nation’s pioneers in business incubation. BFTP/NEP owns and manages both Ben Franklin TechVentures® and the Bloomsburg Regional Technology Center. Ben Franklin TechVentures has been recognized twice with International Business Innovation Association Incubator of the Year awards. Business incubation provides a venue, setting, and culture that are critical components of the entrepreneurial and technology ecosystem in northeastern Pennsylvania.
“Working with the Alvernia and the O’Pake Institute will provide Greater Reading early-stage technology firms and established manufacturers access to resources to support them in all aspects of their businesses,” said Connie Faylor, BFTP/NEP Regional Manager, Greater Reading/Berks/Schuylkill. “The student-led business incubator will benefit from Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ 37 years of experience, award-winning performance in business incubation, and the synergies of our networks of resources. We look forward to leveraging our financial investments in Greater Reading companies with the crucial support provided by a regional business incubator.”
Through a new student fellows program, O’Pake serves as the catalyst for educational and business expansion in center city Reading. In addition to the partnership with BFTP/NEP, O’Pake recently announced partnerships with SCORE Berks Schuylkill Chapter, Lehigh Valley Angel Investors and Kutztown University’s Small Business Development Center as well as the institute’s first corporate sponsors, Pepsi® and Customers Bank.
In December, Alvernia unveiled Reading CollegeTowne, a strategic model for economic development in downtown. Alvernia assumed ownership of its newly acquired building at 401 Penn Street June 30. The downtown location is also where the new O’Pake offerings will operate.