Allegheny joins NWPA sustainable innovation network

Allegheny College announced in a press release on Monday, Aug. 22, that it joined the Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive network with the Allegheny Center for Sustainable Development.
The Beehive network centers around innovating and encouraging entrepreneurship through institutions. According to the NWPA Beehive Network website, the centers connected to institutions exist to benefit the outside community as well as those part of the universities. Combining students and outside businesses, the Beehive Network is able to enhance student experiences and boost economic growth in the Northwest Pennsylvania area.
Every institution involved with the Beehive Network has a different center relating to that university’s needs and goals. The Beehive includes the Idea Lab at the Erie County Public Library, the Center for Business Ingenuity at Gannon University, the Innovation Entente Lab at Mercyhurst University, the Innovation Commons at Penn State Behrend and the Center for Branding and Strategic Communication at Edinboro University.
At Allegheny College, the Center for Sustainable Development combines the Beehive Network goal to increase entrepreneurship and innovation with the college’s sustainability goals. Students will be able to use innovative thinking to build sustainable solutions. According to the press release, the center will operate collaboratively with the Allegheny Lab for Innovation and Creativity and other programs focused around sustainability.
Allegheny Director of Academic Innovation Partnerships Byron Rich explained how sustainability goals and innovation will progress through the Allegheny Center for Sustainable Development.
“Sustainability is about acknowledging that we live in a capitalist society and the ways in which we can build products and services that aren’t that detrimental to ecological systems,” Rich said. “Meadville doesn’t have a lot of startup culture at the moment because it’s a much smaller community. We are trying to foster that sense of possibility within this community.”
Director of the Innovation Entente Lab at Mercyhurst University Abbey Lesniewski described how Innovation Entente Lab has made a difference for entrepreneurs in her community.
“Essentially what we do is competitive market research so we look at competitors within the industry with the client and evaluate what they have done successfully and what they’ve failed at,” Lesniewski said. “The small business can use those successes and failures as something to benefit them and not lose money on advertising in a way that won’t be effective.”
Centers that are a part of the Beehive Network have seen growth in entrepreneurial attitudes and collaboration.
Jacob Marsh, industry relations coordinator at Penn State Behrend, described the growth he has witnessed in his area partially as a result of the Beehive Network.
“Entrepreneurial cultures are hard to build and they are hard to build in a way that’s really effective,” Marsh said. “What we have been doing in Erie is trying to be a part of building that ecosystem and try to drive that. What we have seen, and we are not entirely responsible for this, is a growth of that ecosystem to one where entrepreneurs are helping each other instead of working alone.”
Although Allegheny’s Center for Sustainable Development has just been established, businesses have started to reach out. Because the center is new, each client will have different needs where students in the Environmental Science program will be able to assist.
“Every client will have different needs,” Rich said. “Some businesses will want to build energy sustainability into their business and others will be interested in a sustainable supply chain so that will take on a different set of students and professors to oversee that research.”
Rich explained that the work students involved with the center will be doing will mainly be based around research under the direction of faculty.
According to Marsh, organizations that had not worked together in the past started collaborating through centers in the Beehive Network. As a result, the businesses have been able to have a bigger effect through their services.
In order for the Beehive to continue being successful, they actively pursue economic development grants and investments.
“We have had money from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (and) funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Federal Economic Development Administration,” Marsh said. “Universities have invested in this as well so we have skin in the game.”
Director of Entrepreneurial Operations at Gannon University Brad Gleason added that a big part of the economic growth for the Beehive Network is making sure the startups are supported so that they can start to make revenue.
“Our goal has always been to collaborate, refer, keep the customers interested in getting to market because eventually they pay taxes, hire employees and they give back to the economy,” Gleason said.
The Beehive seeks to boost economic growth and entrepreneurship through universities and collaborations throughout Northwest Pennsylvania.
“The knowledge power universities have is enormous and we want to share that with the communities that surround us because we care about them and Allegheny is no different,” Marsh said.