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  • Writer's pictureBen Franklin 4 PA

New Report Challenges PA to Lead Again on Innovation

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

by Ryan Glenn, Director of Statewide Initiatives

Ben Franklin Technology Partners

When Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) launched more than 35 years ago, it was way ahead of its time, forming a bridge between Pennsylvania’s declining heavy manufacturing economy at that time and the emerging technology-based economy that would carry the state forward.


By every measure, the plan worked. Ben Franklin quickly became the gold standard for tech-based economic development organizations and one of the most widely emulated programs for investing in early startups and innovation. It remains one of the longest-running programs of its kind in the nation.


In the meantime, other states have adopted technology-based economic development programs of their own. And while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, these states are now moving ahead of Pennsylvania in a highly competitive sector.


According to a new independent report by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, Pennsylvania’s leadership has gone sideways and the state could be missing out on job and economic growth as it falls behind other states in fostering investments in innovation. The study, “Ideas for Pennsylvania Innovation: Examining Efforts by Competitor States and National Leaders,” looked at spending by state and local governments, as well as businesses and universities, on research and development and other incentives.


Ben Franklin is the perfect example. Since 2007-08, “Challenge Grant” funding for the four statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partners centers dropped approximately 50 percent, from $28 million to $14.5 million per year, split among the four regionally based centers that serve all 67 Pennsylvania counties. The final 2019-20 fiscal year perpetuated the reduced level.


Whether we like it or not, Pennsylvania is engaged in a competition with other U.S. regions --- and now, countries across the globe --- to secure its future economic well-being.

Innovation has long been a source of successful and sustained economic growth, and that has only grown more important in this era of rapid technological change.


Among the takeaways from the Brookings analysis is that the “winner-take-most” nature of the current tech-driven economy has highlighted what is at stake for states that wish to retain their viability. In other words, we have to invest to remain competitive.


Needless to say, the Brookings report captured a lot of attention across Pennsylvania. Here’s a look at some of the stories and the reporting in your area of the state: (last updated Nov. 12, 2019)


Penn State News (Oct. 28, 2019)

Penn State, Grow PA host meeting to discuss state's innovation economy:

CBS21 News (Oct. 25, 2019)

Report finds PA lagging behind in innovation https://t.co/ihWzwlgsi9?amp=1


abc27 News (Oct. 25, 2019)

Inaugural Grow PA meeting aims to spark innovation


Express Times (Oct. 15, 2019)

Opinion: Pa. must do more to help tech-based entrepreneurs


Philadelphia Business Journal (Aug. 13, 2019)

Pa. lags behind peers in funding its ‘innovation economy,’ Brookings report says


Pittsburgh Business Times (Aug. 13, 2019)

Is the state holding back Pittsburgh’s status as an innovation leader?


Technical.ly Philly (Aug. 13, 2019)

Brookings report: ‘Pennsylvania’s innovation economy has gone flat’


Pittsburgh Business Times (Aug. 13, 2019)

Pittsburghers agree with a need for more state-level support for innovation. Here’s what they think that looks like.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Aug. 14, 2019)

Brookings report: Pa.’s innovation policy lagging behind other states


Philadelphia Inquirer (Aug. 14, 2019)

The state ‘has gone sideways’: Innovation is stagnating in Pa., report says


Allentown Morning Call (Aug. 15, 2019)

Pennsylvania falling behind other states on innovation, report says


Philadelphia Inquirer (Aug. 18, 2019)

EDITORIAL: Pennsylvania leaders need to figure out how to jumpstart innovation economy


Centre Daily Times (Aug. 19, 2019)

How can Pa. fight ‘chronic underinvestment’ in innovation? Universities like Penn State, report says


Central Penn Business Journal (August 29, 2019)

Key details of Washington-D.C. report show Pennsylvania falling behind, will continue to fall if adjustments aren’t made.


Pittsburgh Quarterly (August 2019)

State’s Innovation Economy Needs a Boost to Compete


Lehigh Valley Business (Sept. 3, 2019)

Report says Pa. is losing its innovation mojo


Allentown Morning Call (Sept. 7, 2019)

Readers React: Pennsylvania is falling behind in business innovation


Technical.ly Philly (Sept. 12, 2019)

VIEWPOINT: PA’s innovation economy is not ‘flat’ in the ‘burbs. Here’s where it’s growing — and why


Erie Reader (Sept. 12, 2019)

Brookings Institution's Insights on Innovation: Erie plots course for progress as majority of Pennsylvania lags behind


Reading Eagle (Oct. 6, 2019)

How Berks fits in to Pennsylvania's innovation economy

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