Innovation Beehive receives hefty grant

Samantha Weber, Staff writer

The Innovation Beehive Network of Northwest Pennsylvania has received a $1.5 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The network provides entrepreneurial support and business guidance to four local schools, which allow their students to get real-world experience in their labs.

Local colleges involved include Mercyhurst University, Gannon University, Edinboro University and Penn State Behrend. All four of these partners have decided to match the grant, generating a total of $3 million to help support local businesses.

Each college has its own lab that will benefit from this money and the students at these schools can embrace the full business experience. Students from the four schools also get to work with one another as part of the initiative.

Mercyhurst’s lab is called the Innovation Entente Lab and the grant will allow a mobile unit on campus to provide support for local businesses. The money will also add a third team of business intelligence services.

“Specifically at MU students utilize their Competitive Business Intelligence, analytical and graphic design education and training as part of the program,” Brian Fuller, the director of the Mercyhurst Branch of the NWPA Innovation Beehive Network, said.

Fuller also describes how the Beehive Network is further beneficial to students. “The students are also able to gain valuable experience in providing data in the way of products and briefs that enable clients to further develop business models, in bringing their product to market or expanding their business into the marketplace.”

At Gannon University, their Center for Business Ingenuity provides business consulting services and will now offer crowdfunding consultation, pitch-deck generation and recommendations for the best practices for managing startup capital.

At Edinboro University, their Center for Branding and Strategic Communication provides marketing services, digital design and video production. Using the grant to improve their services, the lab will now offer web design, social media management and podcasting lessons to enhance the promotion of companies.

And finally, at Penn State Behrend’s Innovation Commons, the grant will help provide support in the physical development of a product that will now add services with data analytics, sensor management and virtual and augmented reality.

The Beehive Network was formed in 2014 at Penn State Behrend and its sole purpose was to focus on rapid prototyping of products. After forming partnerships with three other local schools, if a business would like to receive funding then they must need assistance from more than one Beehive site.

Because all the support the program has received is from federal and local grants, the program offers their services at no cost to the startup businesses. This is especially beneficial because, in most cases, new businesses do not have the capital and resources to get help otherwise.

The network has already helped over 400 projects and has the support of over 100 students per year.

“With the new grant from ARC and existing grant from ECGRA (Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority) the Network is able to expand its reach into communities where were unable to before, finish the construction of a new state of the art Innovation Lab, expand our student lead teams and capabilities and bring in a full time assistant director to help with the day to day operations of the Beehive IEL. With the expansion of the new mobile capability and enhanced marketing campaign I believe the most productive years for the Beehive Network are ahead of us,” Fuller said.

Fuller is ready to continue growing this program and watch it succeed.