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Biz Journal: Turn Philadelphia into an innovation hub with these simple steps, says Chamber

January 20, 2015 Category: Uncategorized

This article originally appeared in the Philadelphia Business Journal here.

The Philadelphia region is good at research. But it’s not so good at turning discoveries into products that can be commercialized.

That’s where the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Council for Growth is coming into play. The group released a new report this morning detailing recommendations to advance the region’s technology commercialization — or invention — potential. The report was released at the Chamber’s “State of Entrepreneurship”event in Mount Laurel, N.J.

Within 10 years, the CEO Council hopes to help the region’s research institutions birth 10 companies that each grow to a liquidity event (an acquisition or initial public offering) of $100 million or more.

Recommendations to get there include:

  • Funding: A need for both public and private participation to help find additional pre-venture capital funds and business acceleration services.
  • Advocacy: The region should advocate for policies at all levels of government that show commitment to innovation economics.
  • Collaboration: Figure out a way to work together, and encourage it. For example, companies and institutions should share capital, co-invest in tech equipment and share space when possible.
  • Promotion: Make the region known as an innovation hub, to attract venture capital firms seeking deals and entrepreneurial talent.

Russel Kaufman, president and CEO of the Wistar Institute and CEO Council for Growth board member, said the goal really rests on pre-venture capital funds.

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“We all know that’s essential,” he said. “But none of the recommendations can lead alone. You need advocacy to get more funds, you need collaboration to make better use of funds. They’re all interconnected.”

Kaufman said the new report, commissioned by Philadelphia consulting firm Econsult Solutions, comes just in time for the upcoming BIO International Convention, slated to be held in Philadelphia in June. It boasts itself as the world’s largest biotechnology gathering.

The last time Philadelphia hosted BIO was in 2005 — and Philadelphia learned a lot from it.

“When BIO showed up, it allowed us to take into perspective other regions strong in biotechnology,” Kaufman explained. “Many regions that were biotech powerhouses were similar to us [in terms of research]. But they commercialized much better than we did.”

That realization prompted the CEO Council to commission a study in 2007 on technology transfer and commercialization, which proved even more that the gap between research and invention existed.

The report released Wednesday is meant to take a look at the region’s progress since. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, it showed the area’s rank in technology transfer metrics declining across the board, creeping slowly behind Boston, New York and San Francisco, among other popular tech transfer towns.

Kaufman said if the region could just meet its goal in helping create some top companies that make millions, it would generate the “buzz” the region needs to “attract talent, money and activity.”

Image via Flickr User Afshin Darian

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