University City Science Centre Insipres Innovators of Today to Fuel Change of Tomorrow

Authored by

What Dreams are Made of

University City Science Centre (further the Centre), established in 1963, came a long way from what started as an urban project to become one of the most active and influential epicentres of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology in the USA and beyond. Located in the heart of Pennsylvania’s innovation ecosystem – UCity – the Centre boasts a vast constellation of scientists, entrepreneurs and change-makers. This ever-growing, vibrant community ensures that every visionary and innovator that crosses its path could have their ideas flourish and thrive.

USA’s first and oldest urban research park had a crucial role in the nation’s urban revival. The Center came about through the joint undertaking between University of Pennsylvania as the senior partner and the Drexel Institute of Technology (now Drexel University), the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia), Presbyterian Hospital (Penn Presbyterian Medical Centre), and the Osteopathic Medical School (Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine) as the junior partners. Beset with lack of funding and pressure from the Redevelopment Authorities, and embroiled in racial politics, the Centre had a thorny start. However, it was under the leadership of the innovator Randall Whaley in early 70s that the Centre started flourishing and made a quantum leap. The rest is history.

What the Core Mission is All About

The main mission of the Centre and the points where it wants to make its mark boil down to three avenues:

  • helping entrepreneurs, start-ups and growing and established companies throughout Greater Philadelphia as they move technology into the marketplace, where it can benefit the region and the world;
  • amplifying and accelerating the commercialisation of some of the nation’s most important research;
  • providing a platform for cultivating and enriching the innovation ecosystem in Greater Philadelphia through its dynamic portfolio of support services and office and lab space for scientists, entrepreneurs and start-ups.

University City Science Centre in a Nutshell (created by Alina Meloyan)

Since its inception the Centre has helped over 400 budding ideas from the areas of IT, healthcare, emerging technologies, etc. turn into successful businesses, thus providing over 12,000 jobs for the people in the region and generating $13B in annual economic output. With over 30 stakeholders from all walks of life – universities, hospitals and research centres – and with partnerships with the likes of Microsoft, SeventySix Capital and Wex-ford Science+ Technology, the Centre makes sure that their influence and impact remains comprehensive and relevant in their endeavour to enable promising ideas come to life and spring into successful businesses to drive, shape and dictate regional innovation and economic growth.

What Activities Drive the Centre

Activities facilitated by the Centre can be categorised into five clusters: business incubation, connections to capital, community building, education and workforce development, and infrastructure for development. The Centre aims to provide support in the most critical stage of the business development when budding start-ups are in the negative cash flow. This involves two core activities of securing finances and finding the right talent, whose services are provided by the Port Business Incubator and the Innovation Centre @ 3401 (ic@3401) as well as two complementary community initiatives: Global Soft Landing and Regional Affinity Incubation Network. Further important mechanisms of support provided by the Centre includes securing partnerships between aspiring entrepreneurs with universities, hospitals and investors as well as providing guidance in the commercialisation procedures through specific programs. The important role of the Centre is to stimulate and contribute to creating a flourishing community in the Greater Philadelphia by creating a space where ideas, knowledge and innovation can flow between various relevant stakeholders. In its wide array of supportive measures, the Centre is active in educating the future workforce in STEM areas. This is achieved through educational programs aimed to impact young minds such as FirstHand and FirstHand Lab. Lastly, an essential contribution to the budding innovation ecosystem provided by the Centre involves access to the infrastructure. Located in the sprawling area of 250,000m2, the Centre provides a rich space for various stakeholders through gathering spots such as Innovation Plaza, Innovators Walk of Fame and Esther Klein Gallery.

With all the supporting mechanisms and initiatives, the Centre has made sure to leave an indelible mark in creating and nurturing a unique space where visionaries of Greater Philadelphia are truly empowered to create a better tomorrow.

Would you like to learn more about the University City Science Centre and its approach to entrepreneurship and technology commercialisation? Please find the original case study report here.

©all rights on images used in this article belong to University City Science Centre.