Duquesne is the only university in western Pennsylvania and the only private institution in the state to receive a five-year federal award to strengthen the region’s toolbox for economic development options.
The University is receiving $500,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration—as part of the University Center Economic Development Program Competition—to expand regional economic development tools for practitioners. The money is part of a new federal initiative to help convert ideas from universities and research labs into new products and to provide workforce development.
“It was exceptionally competitive funding, and we have at least 20 collaborative partners on board, including Duquesne’s new Institute for Energy and Environment,” said Dr. Alan W. Seadler, associate academic vice president for research. “Duquesne’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) will be the lead organization.”
The award will be used to provide support for researchers and scientists working to turn their discoveries into marketable goods and services as well as to provide training and support to develop green building, environmental management and renewable energy industries, and to support innovation and workforce development.
“Pittsburgh’s involvement has grown from traditional energy alone to include alternative and green energy and encompasses a long-standing concern of stewardship of the environment,” Seadler said. “All of these align for Pittsburgh becoming a center for energy.
“Pittsburgh is both the present and the future of energy and has deep concern for the wellbeing of residents and the environment. These have been transformative as Pittsburgh has moved from a steel town to a city embracing sustainability, technology and education,” Seadler continued.
Duquesne’s lead in the project comes naturally from long-standing efforts, through the SBDC, to promote the economy and workforce development, Seadler said. “The University has been clear in its commitment to the region and its population, including those who are underserved, and to quality of life issues,” he said. “We bring together the expertise and existing programs that make us ideal for this award.”
In 2010, the SBDC helped to establish 60 new businesses, creating 104 jobs and landing $8 million in export sales. “We look forward to expanding our clientele to include industries such as green building construction materials, environmental management and renewable energy,” said Dr. Mary McKinney, director of the SBDC. “American green products are in demand overseas, and we are eager to help these companies explore international exports. Also, as new technologies emerge, our technology commercialization program will support these firms in all facets of their startup and growth.
“We look forward to reaching these companies through our array of management consulting capabilities, training programs and conferences,” McKinney said. “We’re delighted that many successful regional businesses and organizations have agreed to serve as trainers, mentors and collaborators on this important program.”
Collaboration will be key to this effort’s success, agreed Dr. James Phillips, senior director for sponsored research and principal investigator for the application. “We look forward to the excitement of bringing together private, academic and nonprofit groups to work together for the benefit of the region,” he said.
Duquesne was selected along with Penn State University, Temple University, the University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, Syracuse University and others, through the Philadelphia Regional Office, which covers 13 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In all, 21 universities were awarded $12 million through the Philadelphia and Chicago Economic Development Administration regional offices.
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