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Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse strategically focuses its investments

Established in 2002, the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG) has plenty to brag about: 178 investments totaling $19 million in 76 companies, leveraging $840 million in additional capital.
Still, a relative scarcity of investment dollars has prompted PLSG to embrace a new focus on later-stage companies. Simply put, says President and CEO John Manzetti, "there's not enough capital to put more fish in the pond."
PLSG recently announced $315,000 in investments for the first half of the year to Wellbridge Health, PHRQL Inc.  in Pittsburgh and NewCare Solutions in Warrendale in the growing healthcare information technology (HIT) sector and Alung Technologies in Pittsburgh, ATRP Solutions  in Pittsburgh, MS2 Array and Quantum Ops in Pittsburgh.
PLSG is also doubling down on two specific life sciences sectors that it judges have the best growth potential.
HIT (which uses technology for needs such as record keeping, managing clinical trials, insurance paperwork, etc.) is especially attractive to investors because, with a simpler regulatory burden, "it is simpler to get to market and returns are faster," says Manzetti.
Therapeutics are attractive, he explains, because research and development, once the province of the pharmaceutical companies, is now done largely by small start-ups, which represent potentially lucrative acquisitions for drug makers.
Still, Manzetti adds, PLSG "is not abandoning pre-seed and seed companies. We will go back to more early-stage investment when we have more capital." In fact, PLSG has launched its "Think-Q-Beta program" to incubate young HIT companies, providing office space and other services. Its first tenant is Quantum Ops.
Source: John Manzetti, PLSG
Writer: Elise Vider

Made in Somerset, shipped globally: Guy Chemical is SBA exporter of the year

It is only fitting that Guy Berkebile, founder of Somerset's Guy Chemical Company, launched his company after an Egyptian customer asked him to provide silicone produced in the United States.
Overseas sales have been the lynchpin for Guy, which specializes in filling viscous materials into metal and plastic squeeze tubes and cartridges, since that 1995 Egyptian encounter, says Berkebile. At first, he adds, exports accounted for more than 90% of his business, so much that "we made a concerted effort to boost domestic sales."
Today 70% of Guy's products – all still manufactured in Somerset – are shipped overseas and the Small Business Administration recently named the company Western Pennsylvania's Exporter of the Year. Guy's biggest overseas customers include the former Soviet republics, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
Exports have kept Guy less dependent on the local and state economy and helped buoy it during the economic downturn, says Berkebile. In fact, the company has seen huge growth. This time last year, the company's workforce stood at 52; today it is at 85 and Berkebile anticipates adding another 10 or so jobs by year's end.
The company is also growing physically, breaking ground next month for a new 30,000-square-foot warehouse on its 85-acre campus, near the 40,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.
Berkebile says the company is also expanding its focus on research and development in order to develop more of its own products for the market. A new line of silicone greases is in the works.
Source: Guy Berkebile, Guy Chemical Company

Writer: Elise Vider

Matchmaker, matchmaker: PSU Learning Factory's accepting proposals

Like an industrial matchmaker, the Penn State Learning Factory is once again preparing to pair teams of engineering students with companies, large and small, on semester-long projects.
It's a win-win-win, says director Mary Frecker, a professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering. "The students can apply all the theory and all they've learned to real-world problems with real-world clients," she says, getting feedback and mentoring from working professionals. Students propose solutions and are responsible for budgeting, managing design, identifying potential customer needs, prototyping and testing. It's a chance "to interact with professionals and behave as professionals," she adds, comparing it to a "semester-long job interview."
Larger sponsoring companies often view the Learning Factory as part of their recruiting process. For smaller companies, the Learning Factory provides a low-risk and low-cost way to engage a semester-long engineering workforce.
PSU doesn't keep track of how many jobs have resulted, but reports that since the Learning Factory's inception in 1995, more than 1,250 projects have been completed for nearly 350 companies. Past projects include the refillable Evive water station in Pittsburgh, an improved "intelligent" walker for TPC Innovation and Design in Hummelstown and an amphibious boat dock dolly for Narrow Valley Engineering.
The Learning Factory is now soliciting proposals from potential company sponsor, a one-page submission of project goals and which types of engineering majors are needed. The deadline is Friday, August 9.
Source: Mary Frecker, PSU Learning Factory
Writer: Elise Vider

Let the games begin! PA Energy Games get underway September 7

Pennsylvania Energy Games, an all-volunteer nonprofit, is hosting an all-day, family-friendly shindig showcasing homegrown energy production, delivery and conservation. 
The event, set for September 7 at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds in Hughesville, celebrates all forms of energy: clean, coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, hydro, solar, wind, biodiesel and biomass. The goal, says Todd Stager, a State College engineer and board member, is to encourage "a better awareness for the public of the vital role energy plays in our everyday lives."
The idea grew from an informal networking group of engineers and others involved in energy-related industries.  
PA Energy Games includes a heavy equipment rodeo, safety/obstacle course competitions, truck show, children's games and activities, exhibit booths, energy industry educational displays, food vendors, fireworks and live music. Recording artist Clay Walker is the headliner and country artists Oilfield Cowboy, Chris Higbee and Morgan Myles will also perform. Proceeds will go to Wounded Warriors and The United Way.
Stager says the organizers expect this to be an annual event and have set an ambitious goal of 10,000 attendees, though their more realistic expectation is about 5,000. They are also actively seeking sponsors, with a goal of 100.
Source: Todd Stager, PA Energy Games
Writer: Elise Vider

Pittsburgh's Kroff expanding its markets and hiring

Pittsburgh's Kroff, Inc.,  already a fast-growing, full-service specialty chemical company, is investigating expansion into new industries outside water treatment and expects to add as much as 20% to its workforce in the next 12 months.
Kroff was founded in 1988 by Keith Kronk and Fred Potthoff who identified a need for a water treatment chemical company that hires only experienced consultants and provides them with independence and state-of-the-art analytical equipment to do a professional job. 
The company's primary focus remains water and wastewater treatment.  "With patented chemistry, experienced consultants and a commitment to innovation, Kroff engineers solutions for clients that ensure environmental compliance and save money," says spokesman Jeff Donaldson.
Kroff prides itself on being green, adds Donaldson. "Consider our approach to water treatment as it relates to natural gas exploration … Kroff Well Services has engineered an innovative process that enables natural gas companies to reuse 100 percent of the flowback water for subsequent fracturing.  Through sophisticated testing and a highly scientific chemical treatment process, natural gas drilling companies can ensure the water they are using is safe and effective.  Kroff’s strategy reduces the amount of fresh water withdrawn from natural resources. Most importantly, our strategy ensures that companies are compliant with strict state and federal environmental regulations," Donaldson says.
Kroff's growth and expansion is driving its anticipated hiring of up to 20 new professionals in a variety of disciplines in the next 12 months. The workforce currently stands at more than 100.
Source: Jeff Donaldson, Elias/Savion Advertising, Public Relations and Interactive for Kroff, Inc.
Writer: Elise Vider

Innovation Works invests nearly $3.7M in the first half of 2013

In the first half of 2013, Innovation Works (IW) put nearly $3.7 million to work for Southwestern PA technology companies through a variety of funding programs.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, ten new companies joined the portfolio and another ten existing portfolio companies received follow-on investment.  In total, the portfolio companies received nearly $2.7 million in investment from the IW seed fund during this time period. In addition, IW provided more than $565,000 in funding to commercialize promising technologies, including four Technology Commercialization Initiative projects for robotics and electronics companies and six grants made to universities to bring innovations out of their labs and into the marketplace.

AlphaLab, a program to fund and develop capital-efficient companies that can launch a technology product within a 20-week timeframe, completed two cycles of investment and intensive mentoring.  IW invested $400,000 in 16 AlphaLab companies in the first half of 2013.

Finally, the Innovation Adoption Program, which helps existing manufacturing companies use technology to gain competitive advantage, provided $31,000 to help a mature company specializing in industrial and commercial water treatment systems to develop a new product. 

First-Time Portfolio Company Seed Fund Investments:
Accel Diagnostics, LLC  
BoardBookit, Inc.
Digital Dream Labs, LLC
Inteligistics Inc.
Liquid X Printed Metals, Inc.
MyMedCoupons, LLC
PoweredAnalytics, Inc.
The Efficiency Network, Inc. (TEN)
Wexford Farms Pet Food LLC

Portfolio Companies Receiving Follow-On Investment:
8020 Select
CommunityVibe Inc.
Cognition Therapeutics, Inc.
FutureDerm Inc.
HeadRight Games, LLC
NewCare Solutions, LLC  
NoWait, Inc.
Propel IT, Inc.
Voci Technologies Incorporated

Technology Commercialization Initiative  
Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
Nanophoretics, LLC
Qualaris Healthcare Solutions, Inc.  

Existing Manufacturers Innovation Adoption Program
All Water Systems, Inc.  

AlphaLab Winter/Spring Cycle
Digital Dream Labs, LLC
Meaningfy, Inc
NetBeez, Inc.
PoweredAnayltics, Inc.
Sole Power, LLC
Woo with Style
Workshirt, Inc.

AlphaLab Summer/Fall Cycle
AthleteTrax, LLC
Collected Inc.
MegaBits, LLC
ProfilePasser, Inc.
Spacefinity, Inc.
Wing Ma’am, LLC

Penn State invention covers multiple agricultural bases

Cover crops offer multiple agricultural benefits. But farmers have typically had to wait until after the fall harvest to plant among their primary crops – not ideal. "You wouldn’t be planting flowers around your house in November," says Corey Dillon, a grad student at the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences
Now Dillon and Chris Houser, who recently completed his ag sciences master's, have made a significant contribution to the field with the invention of a machine that helps reduce the time, energy and costs of planting cover crops amid corn and soybeans. Their device plants cover crops, fertilizes the primary crop and sprays weeds, all in one pass and much earlier in the growing season.  (The pair is at work on a fourth, still secret, functionality.) 
Cover crops, often grass or clover, are increasingly recognized as a key element in sustainable agriculture. They help protect soil quality, prevent erosion, improve moisture retention, suppress weeds, boost yields and minimize runoff.  
With a patent pending, Dillon and Houser are moving towards commercializing their invention. They have built nine units, working with a Pennsylvania contract manufacturer. The so-called interseeder is being tested by the US Department of Agriculture, Cornell University, Penn State and elsewhere. 
With early coverage in trade publications, top prize of $7,500 at the recent Ben Franklin TechCelerator@StateCollege Boot Camp  and another $25,000 from Penn State's Research Applications for Innovation (RAIN) grant program, they have already sold two units to farmers in Clarion County and in Missouri and expect to launch a company, still unnamed, by fall in order to fill orders in time for spring planting. 
Source: Corey Dillon and Chris Houser
Writer: Elise Vider

Dimples saves $$$ and environment by cutting ink and toner use

Remember all the talk about the paperless office? News flash: it never happened. Along with all that paper comes vast – and costly  – amounts of ink, ink cartridges and toner, releasing harmful chemicals when manufactured and clogging landfills when discarded.
To the rescue comes Dimples,  an Ashville-based startup. Mother-and-son founders Mem and Jonathan Miller were awarded a patent last month for their proprietary technology that saves ink and toner when printing.
Miller developed the algorithm that strategically creates little bits of negative space and specialized bleed zones in fonts while maintaining the crispness and legibility of the text.  Dimples plugs right into MS Word and other software. 
Dimples addresses both the environmental impact of ink and toner use and the costs. The manufacture of ink and toner releases CO2 and other harmful chemicals into the atmosphere; Dimples claims to reduce CO2 emissions by over 1.0 kg per toner cartridge. On the cost side, Dimples quotes data that finds office-printing costs accounting for up to 3% of total corporate revenue and increasing 20 to 40% per year. Dimples claims to cut printing costs by 31.8% on ink and toner.
The target market, Miller says, is any large, paper-driven enterprise: government, large companies, hospitals and universities. Saint Francis University in Loretto has been a long-term beta partner. 
Now, the company, founded in 2011, is ready to start selling its product and is able to customize Dimples to specific user needs. In recognition of its success so far, the Small Business Administration in Pittsburgh recently named Miller its Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Western Pennsylvania.
Source: Jonathan Miller, Dimples
Writer: Elise Vider

Doylestown's KannaLife Sciences and Colorado firm enter joint medical marijuana agreement

A Doylestown company is at the vanguard of research and development of pharmaceutical products derived from plants – specifically cannabis.
KannaLife Sciences (its name is derived from the Greek word for cannabis) has entered into a 50/50 joint venture agreement with Biotech Inc., a Colorado firm and creator of Cannatol,  a phyto-medical compound derived from a highly standardized, consistent and high-yielding cannabidiol phyto stock, free from pesticide and mold contaminants.
Dean Petkanas, KannaLife's CEO, says that the company, established in 2010, conducts research and development at the Bucks County Biotechnology Center. But the joint venture will be housed in Colorado, where a mature medical marijuana industry follows best practices for quality control and assurance. (Colorado, along with Washington State, is also legalizing marijuana for recreational use.)
Petkanas notes that $25 billion in illegal marijuana arrives in the United States every year, without sufficient controls on its cultivation and safety. Working with Biotech CEO Jason Cranford, a horticultural scientist and winner of the "Cannabis Cup," Petkanas says the new South Park Ventures will establish and elevate industry standards.
In a statement, Cranford added, "In the field of cannabis related medicine, there is a widespread problem with contaminated crops being grown by illegal market participants and sub-standard producers. These products are largely in demand by a variety of patients across a pantheon of disease indications, most notably cancer patients. It is vitally important not to compromise chemotherapy with products containing trace elements, mold and pesticides consistently found in low-grade, untested and unsanitary products. Through South Park Ventures, we believe we will put forth, among other things, a gold standard from seed to sale on cannabis related medicaments."
Source: Dean Petkanas, KannaLife Sciences
Writer: Elise Vider

PA's first flywheel energy storage facility underway in Hazle Township

As many as 40 Pennsylvania construction workers are hard at it, building an innovative flywheel energy storage plant in Hazle Township.
Designed and built by Beacon Power of Massachusetts, the facility is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania and is projected to save state ratepayers $2 to $5 million a year. 
Flywheel energy storage systems are an efficient and cost-effective way to achieve frequency regulation, the fine-tuning of the ongoing imbalances of electricity supply and demand to maintain grid stability. The facility will insure a steady supply of power, absorbing electricity from the grid when there is too much, storing it as kinetic energy, and returning it back to the grid when there is not enough power to meet demand. These cycles can occur multiple times in time periods as short as one minute.
Beacon spokesman Gene Hunt describes the facility as "a shock absorber for the grid" with abundant green advantages. Rather than relying on additional power plants for increased generation at peak demand, the plant will recycle existing power, minimizing costs and benefitting the environment. It will help promote renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, by smoothing out their inherent variability. And it will do it all efficiently, "without pollution, emissions or consuming fuel," Hunt says.
The plant, being built on almost 10 acres in a Keystone Opportunity Zone for PJM Interconnection, will eventually have 200 flywheels. The first four megawatts of energy storage are scheduled to enter commercial operation in September, with the full 20 MW plant online during the second quarter of 2014. Once operational, Hunt says, the plant will be fully automated and controlled remotely by PJM.
Source: Gene Hunt, Beacon Power
Writer: Elise Vider

ACF Industries reopens its shuttered Milton railcar plant, creating 230 jobs

Four years ago, ACF Industries closed its railcar manufacturing facility in Milton, a victim of the recession and declining sales.
Now the more-than-100-year-old company has reopened the plant, hiring 230 employees. ACF expects to create a total of 333 jobs in the next three years, according to the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
Gov. Corbett spoke at the plant’s reopening earlier this month, attributing it to the state’s “booming energy sector [which] has led to an increase for demand in railcars to transport goods.”
DCED said that railcars manufactured in Milton will be shipped to gas fields in the Dakotas and Canada and used to carry crude oil to refineries across the country, including in Philadelphia.
Corbett noted that three Philadelphia refineries were saved last year. “Making sure that those refineries stayed open didn't  just save jobs, it opened up opportunities not directly related to refining and the proof is right here … at this rail yard in Milton,” he said.
DCED said that because of the increased extraction of propane from Marcellus Shale and continued growth in the natural gas industry, ACF is making plans to begin manufacturing propane tanks at the Milton location by the end of the year.
DCED also said that ACF chose to reopen in Milton, rather than elsewhere in the United States because, as a large natural gas consumer itself, the low cost of energy in Pennsylvania was a draw.
ACF, headquartered in Missouri, was formed in 1899 as the American Car and Foundry Company. Over the decades, it has made cars for New York City’s then-fledgling subway system and the London Underground and materiel for use in World War I and II.
Besides Milton, it also has a manufacturing plant in Huntington, West Virginia.
Source: DCED
Writer: Elise Vider
1988 Articles | Page: | Show All
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