Ben Franklin Clients Answer Call to Combat COVID-19
By Ryan E. Glenn, Director of Statewide Initiatives
Ben Franklin Technology Partners
Ben Franklin Technology Partners has long been focused on supporting revolutionary technological developments that improve the human condition and address critical challenges now and in the future. That mission takes on an entirely new meaning today as our state and nation come together to respond to this pandemic.
With cases of COVID-19 confirmed in all 67 counties, no corner of our commonwealth is left untouched. That makes Ben Franklin uniquely situated to support the state both in terms of managing this crisis and eventually helping our economy recover. Ben Franklin serves all 67 counties through four regionally based centers in Pittsburgh, State College, Bethlehem, and Philadelphia, with several satellite offices spread across Pennsylvania.
Most recently, Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development tapped Ben Franklin, along with several other life sciences, health-care, and business organizations, to create the “Pennsylvania Manufacturing Call to Action Portal” to mobilize manufacturers that can produce critical medical supplies and products in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are honored to partner with the state to find solutions to these pressing challenges.
Of course, almost from the very first days of this crisis, Ben Franklin clients have been working around the clock and contributing to efforts to address this public health issue in various ways, from treatments to testing to logistics to other support mechanisms.
Southeastern Pennsylvania’s life sciences community, including many emerging companies backed by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, are working on tremendous innovations to help stem the spread of the virus, mitigate the effects of the virus, and prevent or minimize future outbreaks. That includes work on vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, surveillance/epidemiology, devices, manufacturing and supply chain.
(Learn more about SEP’s client work HERE.)
Similarly, clients of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania are working directly and indirectly in the effort. Clients are innovating against COVID-19 by developing and producing face shields and 3D-printed biocompatible medical masks for frontline health-care workers and first responders, by developing and producing PPE sanitizers, by providing a remote clinical services platform to support health-care providers that triages and assesses ill patients, and in myriad other ways.
(Learn more about NEP’s client work HERE.)
While companies work to innovate and protect their employees in this uncertain time, some are also offering extraordinary resources to support response time and healing. Innovation Works’ clients are offering their software for free to essential care services, so health-care customers can hire medical staff faster; innovating on drug therapy that could treat COVID-19; and providing the bridge to recovery for patients who had to endure ventilators that save lives but may damage the lungs. Moreover, a number of alums from Innovation Works-funded companies with their experts in manufacturing have organized a supply pipeline to manufacture and distribute needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers.
(Learn more about IW’s client work HERE.)
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania clients are answering the call to assist the commonwealth on a number of fronts by manufacturing face shields and medical devices, offering students virtual college and career readiness distance learning options, providing a video-based order platform for families to accurately communicate the preferences and desires of critically ill patients with health care providers, and by utilizing their medical expertise to share helpful health and supply chain information with the community.
(Learn more about CNP’s client work HERE.)
At Ben Franklin, everything we are doing right now, in conjunction with our clients, is about innovating against COVID-19. Innovation has proven to be key in our response to this pandemic and it will remain central to our recovery.
We are fortunate that Pennsylvania has such a robust innovation economy. The success our state has achieved over the last 35 years to build this ecosystem is among the reasons Ben Franklin Technology Partners is one of the most widely known and emulated state technology-based economic development programs in the nation.
Unfortunately, many of the same startup firms and entrepreneurs who are helping us respond to this crisis are particularly vulnerable to decreases in their revenue streams, as many early-stage firms are at their most vulnerable point --- the early stages of commercialization and market development --- making the crisis even more impactful.
Most entrepreneurs and startups are entirely exempt from accessing support through existing programs available to most established businesses. Moreover, most economic recovery programs provide access to capital for larger corporations and more established businesses, or are narrowly targeted at qualified small businesses.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a 2020-21 General Fund budget that included a $5 million increase for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority (BFTDA), which funds the statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partners initiative. If investing in innovation made sense in the best of times, it is even more critical post-pandemic, especially as we see firsthand how many of these innovative companies are helping us respond to this crisis.
Ben Franklin continues to work with the administration and General Assembly as it develops its own economic stimulus packages. We are proud of the work our clients are doing during these trying times. It is an inspiration. Innovation is all around us, and all of us are beginning to understand how investments in innovation truly change lives.