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Thanks to Allentown's Zzyxx Polymers, plastics recycling may never be the same

It’s spelled Zzyxx, pronounced "ziziks," and aims to be the last word in the plastics and recycling industries. The Allentown startup is developing a novel plastic polymers manufacturing process called continuous mechanochemical compatibilization (CMC).

"It has the ability to literally change the way people think about plastics," co-founder Mark Tapsak told the Allentown Economic Development Corporation's (AEDC) "In the Zone" newsletter. "It can be huge."

The National Science Foundation awarded Zzyxx Polymers a $737,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant in August to demonstrate the first commercial-scale processing of post-consumer plastic materials for high-value applications using CMC. AEDC says the technology can be used to manufacture anything from ballpoint pens to automobile bumpers. Unlike traditional plastics recycling, where the original materials must be meticulously cleaned and separated before being melted and remolded into new products, CMC pulverizes and combines the materials at a molecular level. No sorting or cleaning makes recycling of plastics more cost-competitive.

Zzyxx recently moved into AEDC's Bridgeworks Enterprise Center where it has set up its manufacturing equipment, aided by a significant electrical upgrade to meet the company's power needs. The company has also received support from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania

Phil Brunner, who co-founded Zzyxx with Tapsak and Mike Janse, says the company is "weeks away from turning our machines on" and expects to start producing prototype plastic resins by the middle of this month.

As Zzyxx moves towards commercializing its technology (licensed intellectual property from Northwestern University in Illinois and Bucknell), they already have ambitious goals, hoping to reach over $2 million in revenue and employ 10 by year three.

Source: Phil Brunner,Zzyxx and “In the Zone,” AEDC
Writer: Elise Vider

Ed tech company Frontline grows with new products, financing and a bigger HQ

Fast-growing Frontline Technologies is moving to Malvern, nearly doubling its space. In recent months, the company -- which is at the forefront of web-based tools for K-12 education -- has also attracted venture capital and expanded its product line.

Currently located in Exton, Frontline is initially leasing 60,000 square feet at Malvern's Endo building, and will take an additional 30,000 square feet in 2017.

"The relocation of our headquarters into the Endo building illustrates just how quickly we are growing," says co-founder and managing partner Michael Blackstone. "This move will support the current momentum we are experiencing as a result of the expansion of our K-12 product line and the rapid adoption of our products in the K-12 market."

Blackstone founded the company in 1998 with Roland Thompson. Earlier, the pair founded CF InFlight, which developed Skycam. They launched Frontline with Aesop, a breakthrough product that was the first to employ both phone and Internet for automated K-12 substitute teacher placement and employee absence management. Aesop is now used by more than 4,000 school districts in every state in the U.S. -- more than all similar systems combined -- as well as educational clients in Canada and Russia.

Other products followed, including VeriTime, a time and attendance management system for school districts, and Jobulator, a desktop and mobile tool that notifies substitutes of new jobs available for them.
With more than 500 new customers in 2013 alone, the company's rapid expansion drew the attention of Insight Venture Partners; they made a significant investment in May.
Since then, Frontline has acquired Aspex Solutions, creator of the popular AppliTrack collection of tools for K-12 recruiting, selection and HR file management. In September, Frontline launched Teachwise, an online marketplace for teachers to buy and sell original teaching materials.
"Frontline's success, we believe, is due to building web-based solutions driven by the needs of the market," explains company spokesperson Lisa Wolfe. "We seek out and listen to feedback from school districts to inform our new products and improve our current ones."
At its new headquarters, Frontline anticipates further acquisitions and new product development, including a new focus on direct-to-consumer products.

Source: Lisa Wolfe, L. Wolfe Communications for Frontline
Writer: Elise Vider

AmerisourceBergen expands to Conshohocken; 185 jobs to follow

AmerisourceBergen, a global pharmaceutical services company, is expanding into a new location in Conshohocken and expects to create at least 185 new jobs over the next three years.

"As a company, we just crested $100 billion in annualized revenues, and our growth in business is driving the opportunity to expand our presence in the Philadelphia area," says Brett Ludwig, the company's vice president of communications. "The company will retain 1,200 existing Pennsylvania-based positions, 850 of which are in the Philadelphia area, and has committed to creating at least 185 new jobs over the next three years. In addition to the new office in Conshohocken, AmerisourceBergen will maintain its presence in the Valley Forge campus location."

Ludwig adds that the new office will provide workspace for a variety of professional-level roles in finance, human resources and information technology.

AmerisourceBergen will lease and renovate Millennium III, an existing 70,000-square-foot office building in Conshohocken. The company plans to make a multi-million dollar investment at the site and the expansion is expected to be completed by end of 2014.

The company received a funding proposal from the state Department of Community and Economic Development, including a $675,000 Pennsylvania First Program grant that facilitates investment and job creation ,and $555,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits. AmerisourceBergen has accepted the funding proposal, applied for each grant and agreed to the terms prior to award receipt.

The expansion, said AmerisourceBergen President and CEO Steve Collis, "will give us the opportunity, in both our new and current locations, to make our associate work experience even more collaborative, rewarding and efficient."

Source: Brett Ludwig, Amerisource Bergen
Writer: Elise Vider

Ben Franklin invests $475,000 in five Central PA startups

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA is investing $475,000 in five high-tech startups.
Located in the Hershey Center for Applied Research, Simulation Systems, Inc. is developing a virtual reality simulator built around the company’s patent-pending Universal Hand Tool, a computer input device that allows the user to manipulate a virtual micro-surgical tool in a simulated environment for instruction or skill validation. 
A recipient of seed funding from the Kaufman Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education, State College’s Flip Learning has reinvented the textbook from a static and solitary reading tool into a multi-user, digital experience rooted in applied and collaborative learning. Flip's textbooks integrate a student's individual engagement with foundational digital content and a practical "learn by doing" application. 
Super Abrasive Machining Innovation (SAMI) in State College is a subcontracting machining business that offers the latest in super-abrasive machining capability on a job-shop basis to a wide range of markets including the automotive and industrial sector. The company offers cost-effective stock removal processes that provide complex geometric shapes while maintaining tight tolerances. 
Founded in State College in 2000, KCF Technologies develops and sells wireless conditioned monitoring systems for the defense and industrial markets. The company's "SmartDiagnostics" gives machines a voice, enabling a company to predict and detect problems with their equipment prior to experiencing a failure.  
Carlisle's CrimeWatch has developed a software platform designed to operate on web and mobile technologies, allowing law enforcement agencies to manage, organize and control fugitive/offender information. The company's web-based framework links and connects local, state and national agencies, enabling them to organize and immediately essential data. 

Source: BFTP/CNP
Writer: Elise Vider

Make it to the Greater Philadelphia Manufacturing Summit

There are over 5,000 small, medium and large manufacturers in greater Philadelphia, one-third of all manufacturers in Pennsylvania. They design and produce everything from chocolate to rocket launchers to medical devices to state-of-the-art helicopters, powered by high-precision machining, electronics and electrical-equipment-contract manufacturing. 

On Friday, October 3, the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center (DVIRC) is hosting the Greater Philadelphia Manufacturing Summit to demonstrate the vigor of this essential sector.

According to DVIRC, "manufacturing is a healthy and diverse economic powerhouse that supports over 150,000 jobs, and contributes millions to the regional economy."  

"DVIRC’s entire focus in on helping manufacturers to grow profitably as they are a critical component of our regional economy in terms of jobs, technology and innovation," adds DVIRC president Barry Miller. "The goal of the summit is to share manufacturing best practices, particularly around workforce but inclusive of advanced manufacturing practices as well."

Miller expects about 250 manufacturers and those who support the manufacturing sector to attend, especially economic development professionals and representatives of the region's workforce investment boards.

The program will feature keynote speaker Adam Steltzner, lead landing engineer of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover Project; his topic: "Breakthrough Innovation: Making the Impossible, Possible." Other programming will focus on strategies for growth, strategies for continuous improvement, innovation in workforce development and energy. 
The all-day summit will be held at Simeone Automotive Museum (6825-31 Norwitch Drive) in Philadelphia. 

Source: Barry Miller, DVIRC
Writer: Elise Vider

New robotic arms from Pittsburgh's RE2 reach for a range of markets

The reach of Pittsburgh’s RE2 continues to grow, both in terms of its business and its robotic manipulator arms.

The company launched its Highly Dexterous Manipulation System (HDMS) product line in July. HDMS was originally designed for bomb squads, explains Douglas Peters, RE2's vice president of operations. Most explosive ordnance disposal robots include a single, low-dexterity manipulator that significantly limits the tasks that can be performed. With two arms, HDMS offers the same level of dexterity, speed and strength as a human torso and arms, and can perform more complex tasks such as screwing the cap off a pipe bomb.

The system was developed through combined funding from internal sources, the Army and the Navy. The first commercial system was sold to MIT for an ongoing research project looking at automation. RE2 now has two versions of the system in the final stages of development, preparing for wider commercial release.

Last month, RE2 closed on $2.25 million in funding led by Pittsburgh-based Draper Triangle Ventures with participation from Riverfront Ventures. RE2 says it plans to use the capital to further accelerate product development and penetrate new markets such as agriculture and healthcare. In June, the company announced a partnership with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to assess and recommend robotic technologies for the winemaking industry.

HDMS, says Peters, is suitable for "any application that requires near-human capability to interact with the world." 

Source: Douglas Peters, RE2
Writer: Elise Vider

Spin-off StratisIS EMS opens another market for Philly's BuLogics

Philadelphia's rapidly morphing BuLogics has spun off another company -- only a year in, the new enterprise is already profitable, with a growing list of clients and strategic partners.

BuLogics certifies, designs and builds wireless systems for the Internet of Things, the rapidly growing arena in which everyday objects are connected (think thermostats, locks, lights). In 2011, BuLogics spun off its consumer products division to a new firm, Zonoff

In October 2013, BuLogics subdivided again, spinning off StratIS EMS "in an effort to give focused attention to a scalable growth model inherently difficult to create when providing hourly engineering and certification services in what remains a niche (though potentially explosive) market," explains CEO Felicite Moorman. "StratIS is software as a service, with limited hardware, maximizing margins and reducing our overhead."

Like Zonoff, StratIS is focused on the "extremely neglected" multi-family energy efficiency market.

"StratIS has yet to pursue funding but has already attracted interest from some of the most influential housing authorities in the United States and some of the largest manufacturers in the world," says Moorman. "It's a game changer within the multifamily industry, and we wanted to make sure we could take advantage of funding opportunities, independent of BuLogics, should our growth require it."

StratIS recently released a new product, an iOS Estimator App that gives facilities managers and owners a simple way to explore and execute rapid return-on-investment energy management and control systems. 

"Multifamily is low hanging fruit for us and it is absolutely just the beginning," insists Moorman. "As a bootstrapped technology company, profitability and managed growth are of primary importance. While remaining true to our core offering, we've just expanded to access management [wireless door locks], demonstrated a security offering for a proven international serial entrepreneur, and we're working with a local health alliance to expand into the aging in place and health management for senior living centers -- all based on software requiring relatively minor iterations."

BuLogics and StratIS are co-located in Philadelphia; the two companies are actively hiring and expanding. 

Source: Felicite Moorman, StratIS EMS
Writer: Elise Vider

$35 million in capital is a breath of fresh air for Yardley's OptiNose

Yardley’s OptiNose, a specialty pharmaceutical company built around an innovative nasal drug-delivery technology, is breathing easier with the infusion last month of $35 million in new capital to continue development of its treatment for serious chronic nasal inflammatory diseases (CNID).

The naval cavity, the company explains, "is a complex landscape, making it hard to deliver drugs to the right place." The new treatment, called OPN-375, uses OptiNose's patented technology to deliver fluticasone, a topical steroid, deep into the nasal cavity. 

According to Terrence Terifay, the company's chief commercial officer, the treatment is aimed at moderate-to-severe suffers of CNID, debilitated by conditions like chronic rhinosinusitis with or without nasal polyps, perennial rhinitis, severe allergic rhinitis, as well as other related diseases of the upper airways. It is a huge market, estimated at up to 15 percent of the population, making it even more prevalent than heart disease. (Seasonal sufferers – you know who you are – are not the target and remain better served by over-the-counter and traditional treatments.)
"We believe OPN-375 will be a transformational blockbuster product," says CEO Peter Miller. "Chronic nasal inflammatory disease represents a serious and debilitating condition for a very large population that has been frustrated and underserved for many years by currently available treatment options."

A late-phase clinical trial of OPN-375 is underway; once regulatory approval is obtained, OptiNose anticipates commercial launch in the second half of 2016.

OptiNose was founded in 2000. A migraine treatment using its delivery technology is awaiting approval. Other treatment areas in the development pipeline include pain, inflammation, autism and other disorders. The recent financing was led by existing investors, notably Avista Capital Partners. The company is also considering an IPO in the near future.

Source: Terrence Terifay, OptiNose
Writer: Elise Vider

Exton's EMS opening an independent simulation center for healthcare training

For years, Exton's Education Management Solutions (EMS) has provided the medical field with software and audio-video devices for training.

Now CEO Anurag Singh is preparing to open a state-of-the-art training facility at the company's headquarters, where medical personnel, emergency medical technicians, home health providers, first responders and other health professionals can learn and practice skills.

Singh has invested more than $1 million in the "Global Institute for Simulation Training," a 5,000-square foot facility equipped with full-body mannequins, 10 individual training rooms and two large conference spaces, all integrated with EMS training software. 

Simulation training is an essential component for accreditation and continuing education for many medical practitioners, but they are also expensive and many community colleges, small hospitals and other institutions lack such facilities. 

As an independent (and nonprofit) center, the new institute will offer "interactive, onsite training in a safe environment with leading-edge technical solutions" to the Philadelphia region, explains Singh.

The center is set to open on November 13. EMS already has two commitments for active use. Singh's hope is that the Exton center will serve as a pilot for a nationwide network to serve hospitals and education programs that lack their own facilities. 

The goal is for the center to eventually have its own dedicated staff. For now, EMS staff, currently at 78 with six open positions, will run it.

Source: Anurag Singh, Education Management Solutions
Writer: Elise Vider

Major solar system will power Urban Outfitters' new center

Urban Outfitters' huge new direct-to-consumer fulfillment center is under construction in Salisbury Township. When complete next summer, its vast roof will support the largest roof-mounted solar energy system in Pennsylvania and the seventh largest energy system in the state.

Solar will provide up to half of the company's energy needs at the site.

URBN, as the corporate entity of the Philadelphia-based retail giant is known, is eagerly anticipating the 970,000-square-foot, $110 million center. The project is on schedule and on budget, according to several press reports. When fully operational next year, it will employ 500, even more at peak times. 

URBN purchased the 52-acre tract last year in a newly created Keystone Opportunity Zone. The site is adjacent to the company's much smaller distribution center that opened it 1996; that facility employs 117. This summer, the state announced that it had awarded a $3 million Economic Growth Initiative grant to the company for the solar array. 

URBN is also on the grow at its headquarters at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, where it already occupies over 400,000 square feet.

Source: Office of the Governor
Writer: Elise Vider

Greater Reading Economic Partnership marketing campaign wins President's Award

Thanks to its inventive marketing campaign featuring local companies, the Greater Reading Economic Partnership (GREP) has won the prestigious President’s Award from the Northeastern Economic Developers Association (NEDA).

Entries for the NEDA 2014 Annual Literature & Promotions Competition were accepted from across the economic development industry. The key factors considerd by the committee were design and layout, clarity of message, production quality, functionality and overall creativity and impact.

"One of the ways we work towards our mission is to empower our local companies to share their stories of thriving in Greater Reading," says Aaron Gantz, GREP’s marketing manager. "The success story campaign series featured four companies (Bills Khakis, Cambridge-Lee Industries, Metals Your Way and TAB Industries) and their leaders, centered around three main themes that support the Greater Reading brand: a community built for business; a highly skilled workforce -- and great lifestyle; and a heritage where great things happen."

Check out the campaign here.

Writer: Lee Stabert
Source: GREP


PA colleges win funds to grow the state's economic might

Three Pennsylvania higher education institutions are the beneficiaries of large grants aimed at ensuring the state’s economic future -- though in different ways.

Westminster College in New Wilmington won $1.027 million through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program of the National Science Foundation, an initiative aimed at increasing qualifications of secondary educators in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

The school's IQ STEM program will work with high-need secondary schools in four Western Pennsylvania school districts to narrow the achievement gap. Also included is the Noyce Scholar Program, which supports academic scholarships for undergraduate STEM majors who commit to teaching in high-need K-12 school districts.  

According to Westminster, the program is projected to lead to a 53 percent increase in highly qualified STEM teachers in Western Pennsylvania and produce a cohort of 20 educators at the end of five years.

In a separate development, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Lehigh University in Bethlehem will each receive $1 million to support the state’s Research in Advanced Manufacturing in Pennsylvania program (RAMP), created support collaborative innovation projects with Pennsylvania manufacturers.

Carnegie Mellon will receive $1 million from the Discovered and Developed in PA program to support CMU and Lehigh's research on additive manufacturing (also known as 3-D printing). A $1 million grant to Lehigh from America Makes and private industry contributions has also been provided in matching dollars to fund the partnership.

The grants will support 10 projects that include the fabrication of medical instruments for knee and hip replacement, and complex additive processing parameters with various materials.

Additive technology employs computer design and computer-driven machinery to build complex parts and devices in microscopic layers, using plastics or powdered metals. The technology makes it possible to create shapes and designs previously impossible with traditional manufacturing methods.

Sources: Westminster University, PA Office of the Governor
Writer: Elise Vider

New midtown mural aimed at Harrisburg's youth debuts

Tomorrow's Hope, a new midtown mural to be unveiled this week, offers inspiration to Harrisburg's next generation.

BARAK, a community arts group, commissioned Megan Davis, a co-founder of  Sprocket Mural Works, to "speak a message of empowerment to youth as the future leaders of our city."

Davis designed the 16-by-16-foot mural at Third Street Studio and painted it with help from Philadelphia artist Jacintha Clark and about 25 neighborhood children ages eight to 18. The mural faces the UMC Neighborhood Center and the children depicted in the mural have all taken part in the Center's programs.

"Public art should reflect the community it adorns, and this mural is meant to speak specifically to the children of Harrisburg," says Davis. "It's a dynamic place to grow up in, and this message is meant to empower our young ones toward a brighter future."

Davis co-founded Sprocket with Jeff Copus and Liz Laribee. The citywide mural project works with neighborhoods, artists, organizations and government agencies to create vibrant community murals across the city, and to tell the stories of its rich mural history. The mission is to increase community pride and civic engagement in Harrisburg through united creative action.

Davis says the new mural is the first in a series of collaborations.

"Our goal is to act as a natural hub and gathering place for the people and elements needed to carry out these projects," she explains. "We are identifying walls, meeting artists, gathering supplies and cultivating partnerships in the community." 

Tomorrow’s Hope, located at 1725 N. Third Street will be unveiled at 4 p.m. Sunday, September 14. A panel discussion about the mural is set for 2 p.m. at the Midtown Scholar (1302 N. Third Street). 

Source: Megan Davis, Sprocket Mural Works
Writer: Elise Vider

Philly startup Grand Round Table brings technology to medical ritual

Grand rounds are a medical ritual -- regular conferences held at academic medical centers, where doctors, med students and other health care professionals convene to discuss challenging cases, share experiences and talk about relevant research.

Now, with the mass adoption of electronic health records (accelerated by the Affordable Care Act), a Philadelphia startup is aiming to modernize the grand rounds model by sharing best practices through technology.

Eric King, a former medical student and self-described data nerd, launched Grand Round Table (GRT) with co-founder John Schaeffer "because I saw the potential to enhance patient care with the same big data technologies that touch our everyday lives with Google and Amazon," he explains.

GRT's software both enables hospitals and health systems to fulfill upcoming government mandates requiring the implementation of clinical decision support solutions, and saves clinicians time digging for patient-centered resources.

Accorind to King, the company "is using the latest big data technologies to make it possible to continuously connect health care providers in any setting with the collective intelligence of the whole health system for any patient when it’s needed at the point-of-care... Our clinical decision support software automatically transforms the information that clinicians enter into the electronic health record about their patients into actionable insights based on the latest medical literature."

In a partnership with Philadelphia’s Einstein Medical Center, the company is performing at 70 percent accuracy making correct diagnoses on past cases, and two-thirds of residents report that the software enhances their educational experience during daily clinical conferences.
Within the next six months, GRT expects to launch a closed beta of its electronic-health-records application at several outpatient primary care sites in the Philadelphia area. Further along, GRT plans to expand into other kinds of health records and inpatient sites, and to launch another product for health plans.

Besides King, the company has two other employees and hopes to make two more hires in the next year. GRT is a graduate of the inaugural DreamIt Health program. The company stayed in Philadelphia, and is now located at the co-working space Indy Hall. Earlier this year the company received a $50,000 investment through the Technology Commercialization Fund of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Source: Eric King, Grand Round Table
Writer: Elise Vider

Raising Capital: Harrisburg Startup Week runs September 29 to October 5

Harrisburg is getting ready to roll up its sleeves once again at the 2014 Harrisburg Startup Week. About 1,500 attendees are expected from September 29 to October 5 at daily events, all aimed at boosting the tech startup scene in Central Pennsylvania.

The week culminates in Startup Weekend, October 3-5 -- more than 100 would-be entrepreneurs are expected to build startups from scratch. Organizers promise over $20,000 in prizes via products and services.

The event started last year as a three-day festival focused on entrepreneurship and the region’s tech ecosystem. This year’s incarnation, featuring 15 events and a number of open houses, is not just a festival, but a movement, says organizer Chuck Russell, a senior partner at Collective Intelligence

One theme this year is children and youth.

"We're very excited to get the younger folks involved," explains Russell. "On Wednesday, October 1, we'll be holding the Fish Tank High School Pitch contest for high school seniors in Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties. And on Saturday, October 4, we'll be hosting the CoderKidz, a group of elementary ed and junior high students passionate about hacking, coding and learning how to build modifications to Minecraft, an online game."

Anyone is eligible to participate in Startup Weekend.

"We look for a combination of business[people], developer/engineers and creatives to come together to build companies," says Russell. "The ideas range from hardware gadgetry to software as service products. We don't focus on any particular vertical market solution."

Of 50 participants last year, one of three winners, Date My Apartment, is actively developing its product. 

"There are a number of takeaways from a Startup Week," adds Russell. "We educate, learn, network and build in seven crazy days. Founders find cofounders, startup teams find talent, products are built and connections are made."

Source: Chuck Russell, Harrisburg Startup Week
Writer: Elise Vider
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