When Governor Tom Wolf gives his budget address Tuesday morning, Innovation Works will learn how much extra state funding it could receive this year.
Pittsburgh-based Innovation Works is part of a statewide network called the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which Wolf announced last week would receive an additional $5 million in funding for the 2020-2021 budget, if passed by legislature.
Currently, Ben Franklin Technology Partners receives $14 million in funding annually, split evenly between four regional organizations, according to Ryan Glenn, director of statewide initiatives for the Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Glenn said that number used to be $28 million per year, but dropped significantly with the 2008-2009 budget.
The initiative has four regional organizations— the other three in Philadelphia, Bethlehem and State College— along with a statewide office in Harrisburg. Glenn said he’s not sure how the $5 million will be broken down, but if it’s divided equally between the four then Innovation Works will likely receive $1.2 million of the additional funding.
A news release from the governor’s office stated that the funds will be “driven out competitively and tied to achieving new levels of innovation and collaboration with institutions of higher learning.”
Rich Lunak, president and CEO of Innovation Works, said the state funding has proved extremely valuable to the technology and entrepreneurship economy of Pittsburgh. He said many of the large international tech companies that establish offices in Pittsburgh do so for access to potential startup acquisitions.
“These programs are a proven economic development engine for the commonwealth and have over the years provided some of the early funding to support some of Pennsylvania’s largest tech companies,” Lunak said, referencing ANSYS, II-VI and Wombat Security Technologies as just a few companies that can trace their roots back to the Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
Additional state funding will allow Innovation Works to provide assistance and funding to more of the about 1,000 startups that reach out to the organization on an annual basis.
“We are thankful for the recognition that there are additional resources,” Glenn said. “...What we would like to hear [during the budget address] is that this is a first step in the right direction and not the total answer.”