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Home > News > Keystone Innovation Zone cash links firms, faculty

Keystone Innovation Zone cash links firms, faculty

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(As featured in the Central Penn Business Journal)

There are thousands of faculty members at the colleges and universities in Central Pennsylvania's Keystone Innovation Zones.

Finding just one? Sometimes that can be difficult.

KIZ coordinators and early-stage firms face that challenge when they try to connect with the right professors to help in research and development.

"Seed-assistance grants are a good way to find these faculty that are already doing research and connect them with private-sector partners," said Brian Reilly, coordinator for the Harrisburg Market KIZ.

The result is a deeper index of academics whose research can be applied to the work done by early-stage companies in Central Pennsylvania, Reilly and others said.

The Innovation Transfer Network, a joint effort between the Harrisburg Market and Lancaster KIZs, will dole out about $120,000 this year in seed grants to researchers at colleges and universities in the next couple months, said Jennifer Hammaker, the network's director of business development.

Hammaker and others at the KIZs are evaluating applications. Each researcher could receive about $10,000 to aid research with commercial potential.

"We actually want to see these ideas get out into the private sector, so the more companies involved, the better chance they have of receiving those grants," she said.

The short-term goal is to broaden the number of patents and products from researchers and companies in Central Pennsylvania, she said.

The long-term goal includes building a roster of faculty members to connect with companies.

"They have all kinds of things going on and different expertise," Reilly said. "And it's hard to find them because there isn't one list of all the faculty and their specialties."

The network is working to develop that list, Reilly and Hammaker said.

The York KIZ is working on a similar index, Coordinator Aeman Bashir said. Two weeks ago, the KIZ started a database that lists the skills and expertise of professors at Harrisburg Area Community College's York campus, Penn State York, York College and York Hospital, a teaching hospital operated by WellSpan Health.

The York KIZ has a program to reimburse early-stage companies conducting scientific research for expenses such as patent applications, interns and other costs of research and development. The micro-grants do not exceed $10,000 and are given to companies on an individual basis, Bashir said.

Support from the KIZ is helpful, said Rich Wurzbach, president of York Laboratories. The money doesn't cover all the expenses, but it defrays the cost enough to give young companies breathing room while they research technologies, processes and products that have potential to be moneymakers down the road, he said.

"We're a small, developing company, so often we don't have budgets for those types of things," he said.