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  • Writer's pictureBen Franklin 4 PA

Policy Agenda Roadmap Challenges Pa. to Fully Commit to Innovation

Brookings Institution encourages the state to ‘produce a true innovation strategy’

The Berks Alliance, a collaboration of institutions committed to community development in Berks County and Greater Reading, on March 14 hosted another round of discussions on the Brookings Institution’s recent roadmap, “Commonwealth of Innovation: A Policy Agenda on Revitalizing Pennsylvania’s Economic Dynamism,” which examines what Pennsylvania must do to foster high-tech, high-pay advanced industries.

Report co-authors, Mark Muro and Rob Maxim of Brookings Metro, have been deeply invested in surveying Pennsylvania and making recommendations to build upon the state’s already successful ecosystems. While Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed 2023-24 state budget, unveiled March 7, holds the line on funding for Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Muro and Maxim are challenging the state to commit more fully to innovation.

What would that look like in this new administration? According to Muro and Maxim, that would require the state to do the following:

· Rebuild the state’s innovation budget by restoring full funding to Ben Franklin and the Life Sciences Greenhouse.

· Elevate agencies that can contribute to the state’s core innovation programs.

· Expand the state match fund for SBIR/STTR awards to help startups win federal funding.

Maxim added that the new administration should even out the rest of the state by fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas. Recommendations include a 20-region challenge grant and strengthening the Penn State’s LaunchBox and Innovation Network.

Pennsylvania has a rich innovation history with groundbreaking innovation programs like Ben Franklin Technology Partners, one of the most widely known and emulated state technology-based economic development programs in the nation. Additionally, the state’s advanced industries, world-class research universities, and bipartisan tradition of investing in innovation have been in place for decades.

However, the state has been struggling to generate solid economic growth in recent years. That said, there are innovation bright spots in the advanced industry sectors highlighted by Brookings and others, including manufacturing, tech, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals. But because investments in innovation remain highly competitive nationally, Pennsylvania must do more to keep pace and remain attractive to luring early-stage startups and entrepreneurs.

The Brookings’ report built off a 2019 study, “Ideas for Pennsylvania Innovation: Examining Efforts by Competitor States and National Leaders,” which looked at spending by state and local governments, as well as by businesses and universities, on R&D and other incentives to foster innovation and drive economic growth.

The findings of both studies are significant for Pennsylvania as the commonwealth continues to examine policies that ensure the state remains competitive in a high-tech economy.


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