PITTSBURGH, May 23, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Innovation Works, the Pittsburgh region's most active investor and advisor for seed-stage technology companies, will assume support for the region's digital and robotics industry cluster as The Technology Collaborative (TTC) transfers its key programs to IW and winds down operations later this year. Innovation Works (IW) will provide assistance to develop and commercialize advanced electronics and robotics technologies, recruit world-class talent, incubate and mentor early-stage companies and facilitate networking. IW is also committed to sustaining TTC's commercialization awards which have had a significant impact on the progress of TTC's member companies.
"It will be a smooth transition from the Technology Collaborative's programs to Innovation Works, as IW already provides vital investment and business assistance to start-up robotics and digital technology companies," said Rich Lunak, president and CEO of Innovation Works. "Since there is already a fair amount of co-investment and mentoring to companies supported by both organizations, I'm confident the stakeholders in the electronics and robotics community will find this to be a good match for their needs," Mr. Lunak said.
Since 1999, TTC (resulting from the merger of the Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse and the Pittsburgh Robotics Foundry) has been delivering programs and services that have helped make the digital and robotics cluster an important part of the region's innovation economy. TTC portfolio companies have generated more than 3,100 high-value jobs and attracted more than $525 million in follow-on funding.
David Ruppersberger, president and CEO of the Technology Collaborative, will become the joint director for strategic economic initiatives for Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. He also will act as liaison with the City of Pittsburgh's PowerUp initiative. "The region's entrepreneurs are fortunate that we have an organization like Innovation Works that can assume and build upon TTC's core programs, thus preserving the prior investment of the Commonwealth and local foundation supporters," Ruppersberger said.
A significant award from Pennsylvania's Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) bolsters the transfer of programs. A Discovered in PA – Developed in PA grant of $800,000 will enable Innovation Works to administer the 21st round of the Technology Commercialization Initiative, a competitive selection process that awards funding for projects that address key engineering design challenges, show a high degree of innovation, and identify a clear path to commercialization for digital and/or robotics-related companies in Pennsylvania.
"Governor Corbett introduced the Discovered in PA – Developed in PA program to support programs like the Technology Commercialization Initiative," said DCED Secretary C. Alan Walker. "This program is highly valuable in continuing Pennsylvania's leadership in commercializing robotics, electronics and related technologies, starting companies and fueling their job growth."
DCED has been a long-standing partner with TTC, having funded the Technology Commercialization Initiative since 2005 through the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority. Since that time, 55 companies have received $14 million in funding that has attracted more than $220 million in follow-on funding – almost $16 of additional capital for every one dollar invested by the state.
"Pennsylvania must maintain its competitive edge in this important economic sector, and we are very excited that Innovation Works will keep this program active," continued Secretary Walker.
"Our region is fortunate to have strong, dynamic technology and economic development expertise that helps to commercialize university research, fuel the process for green-lighting start-up companies and grow industry clusters. We are delighted to have David Ruppersberger on board with us," said Dr. Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University. "Meanwhile, the companies involved with the Technology Collaborative will have a great champion in Rich Lunak – who is a robotics technologist, successful entrepreneur and passionate advocate for tech start-ups. These transitions will be beneficial to the region's technology ecosystem."
"President Cohon and I have worked closely with David Ruppersberger for many years, as the co-chairs of the TTC board, and we have enormous respect for him. He will bring a deep reservoir of experience, connections and expertise to his new role as the leader of joint technology efforts for our two universities, and one of his most important responsibilities is to provide support for Mayor Ravenstahl's PowerUp Pittsburgh initiative," said University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. "Our shared goals include attracting and retaining top talent, spinning out new companies, growing high-paying jobs, and extending the benefits of the innovation economy throughout the broader community. "
The City recently hired an innovation strategist who will work directly with Mr. Ruppersberger to help start-ups go from idea mode to job-creating mode. The hire is part of the mayor's and local leaders' PowerUp Pittsburgh initiative, which seeks to improve collaboration across sectors in order to capitalize on the city's burgeoning tech- and innovation-based start-up community. From helping entrepreneurs find an affordable space to start their businesses to providing funding and technical and referral support, the new position will bring forth available City assets that can help entrepreneurs.
"Part of PowerUp Pittsburgh's mission is to make sure that local government provides as much support as possible to the city's growing innovation and technology economy," Ravenstahl said. "This partnership has already experienced early successes, and with the hiring of two unique positions at the City and universities, we are poised to see more jobs and economic development result."
SOURCE Innovation Works, Inc.