by John Meier, Physical and Mathematical Sciences Library, Strategic Action Plan Blogging Team
Since President Barron announced the Invent Penn State initiative at the beginning of 2015 the many startup and entrepreneurship efforts already underway at Penn State have gained new momentum. The commitment of $30 million drew the most interest in the beginning. The emphasis on innovation and commercialization from our university leadership, recently praised by the governor, has shown far-reaching results both geographically and in impact. One of the most visible Invent Penn State successes has been the opening of Launchbox and Innovation Hubs across Pennsylvania from Great Valley to Lehigh Valley to Happy Valley (a.k.a. University Park). These spaces support teams just starting their businesses with new technology, networking events, and training. Another event to level-up the many “Shark Tank”-like pitch
competitions around Penn State is the biannual Invention to Venture Conference that brought serious inventors and dozens of Penn State startup companies together with interested investors. There is a massive economic impact from bringing millions of dollars of investment into Pennsylvania and creating new successful businesses here.
The Invent Penn State Action Team in the University Libraries began our work in 2016 to develop a plan for engaging with this initiative. We immediately realized that the Libraries had been supporting entrepreneurship already through teaching and research support in many Colleges and many Campuses. The Entrepreneurship & Innovation (ENTI) minor, programs in business and engineering, as well as startup events in Information Sciences & Technology (IST) were already part of our instruction and liaison programs. There were new opportunities, like Global Entrepreneurship Week at University Park, where the Libraries hosts many events and delivers programs on business, patent, and government information. We discussed the challenges of providing information, often restricted by license agreements for non-commercial purposes, to entrepreneurs and found both alternative sources and partners in Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) and public libraries.
Moving forward the University Libraries has a plan to improve and increase our impact with teaching and resource guides, both through deeper integration into the ENTI program and through broader expertise in intellectual property and business resources across the state.
“At Altoona, we have expanded our guide for EMET 403: Electromechanical Design Project Preparation to include their joint design projects with the Sheetz Fellows Program,” Reference and Instruction Librarian Lori Lysiak notes. “We also retooled our guide for ENTR 320: Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation to a second, similar guide that supports World Campus students enrolled in the fully online section of ENTR 320.”
We are building strong connections to key stakeholders, including new opportunities like the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Penn State Harrisburg. Both print and electronic collections have been identified to enhance the information resources and professional reading for our users. We were approved to hire an Entrepreneurship Librarian, who can focus on the growing curricular needs, bring expertise in new venture creation, and help to coordinate our many efforts across the Commonwealth. The most important element to our success in this area is communication. With the pace of innovation speeding up, keeping track of news and identifying where the Libraries can bring our unique value will determine our success.