TechConnectWV Assists Manufacturers with Innovation and New Product Development
TechConnect West Virginia aims to help make small manufacturers in the state more competitive through a new “Innovation Adoption Program (IAP),” which will offer funding and guidance for development of new products and processes. The IAP is the latest in a portfolio of business assistance and development programs that have been established recently by TechConnect.
“Manufacturers today face many challenges operating in the global economy, and they recognize that customers expect high-product quality, rapid introduction of enhanced product functions, and quick delivery on orders. The challenge for manufacturers is to stay one step ahead, continue to innovate, become more productive and improve quality,” said Anne Barth, Executive Director of TechConnect.
“As part of TechConnect’s growing innovation-based development efforts, and in collaboration with Pittsburgh-based Innovation Works (IW), we are launching the Innovation Adoption Program to help address the needs of existing manufacturing companies in areas such as new product development, operational excellence, and process improvement. We want to give our manufacturers the opportunity to develop or use cutting-edge technologies to accelerate business development and growth.”
Barth noted that the IAP is modeled after an existing successful program at Innovation Works that is a nationally recognized best practice model, having received awards from both the State Science and Technology Institute and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. In the six years since its inception in southwest Pennsylvania, the IAP has awarded funding totaling $1.6M to 38 manufacturing companies in all nine southwestern Pennsylvania counties, resulting in the creation or retention of 168 manufacturing jobs.
TechConnect will partner with the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) to launch the program. Later, other non-profit centers of excellence in the state, including higher education institutions and technical non-profit entities, may be tapped for participation, as well.
Barth added, “This initiative will make our existing small and medium manufacturers more technologically innovative, productive, and profitable through the creative use of the State’s non-profit and university technology commercialization resources. The intended outcomes of IAP projects are to help manufacturing companies continuously improve their manufacturing processes to more efficiently produce higher quality products, and/or develop new product offerings to stay ahead of the competition.”
TechConnect will provide up to $25,000 in project funding to help a selected company so they will be able to contract for services through one of the designated centers of excellence. This amount of IAP funding is capped at 50% of the total project costs, and thus each participating company will be expected to match (1:1) the funding provided by TechConnect for the project. IAP funds can be used for the technology and/or new product development needs of existing manufacturers by connecting them with the prototyping, design, testing, and analytical capabilities of the designated centers of excellence.
The IAP is funded from a grant provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, a regional foundation advancing initiatives in West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania, including those aimed at economic development.
TechConnect West Virginia is a statewide economic development organization dedicated to fostering and promoting innovation-based businesses and entrepreneurial activities across West Virginia. TechConnect encompasses a coalition of professionals dedicated to growing and diversifying West Virginia’s economy through innovation-based economic development. With members representing education and research, private industry, and the public sector, the organization serves as a forum and facilitator to enhance awareness, spur collaboration, and raise the discussion of issues needed to strengthen the state’s innovation ecosystem. For more information, go to www.techconnectwv.org.
Innovation Works is the Ben Franklin Technology Partner of Southwestern Pennsylvania, a nearly 30-year-old network of statewide centers that provide capital and business assistance to innovative and growing companies. Innovation Works focuses predominantly on growing new, high-potential technology companies as well as providing funding and other resources for small manufacturers to adopt technology to develop new products, improve processes and enter new markets. Innovation Works’ Innovation Adoption Program was created in 2008 in partnership with regional economic development leaders to overcome common barriers small manufacturers encounter due to limited access to research and development (R & D). By linking these companies to R & D resources, small manufacturers can more effectively compete in the global marketplace.