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Student entrepreneurs win more start-up space

Ben Franklin’s new TechVentures2 building, shown here in an architect’s rendering, will house new incubator space for student entrepreneurs.

The Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation has expanded Lehigh’s student incubator space, adding two new locations for aspiring and award-winning entrepreneurs.

The move accommodates Lehigh’s growing entrepreneurial infrastructure, says Todd Watkins, director of the Baker Institute. More students participate in the Eureka! Venture Series Competition than ever before, and their interest in Lehigh’s burgeoning entrepreneurship minor is at an all-time high.

In addition to a location for their new business, students who are awarded incubator space also obtain access to faculty expertise, computer and other resources, and, in some instances, funding.

Lehigh students—both graduate and undergraduate—now have access to offices in Chandler-Ullmann that abut a conversational area called the “Collaboration Lounge.” The former civil and environmental engineering lab now serves both Lehigh’s design arts and entrepreneurship students.

The new arrangement, says Watkins, will create a creative atmosphere where ideas can be exchanged between design arts and entrepreneurial-minded students.

Rubbing shoulders with professionals

The second new incubator space is in Ben Franklin’s new TechVentures2 building on the Mountaintop Campus. The LEED-certified building, which officially opened this fall, increases the number of established companies at the incubator and provides space for student entrepreneurs starting technology-related ventures.

The site, named by Inc. magazine as one of the nation’s top ten “Start-up Incubators to Watch” this year, is of particular interest to the winners of the annual Michael W. Levin ’87 Advanced Technology Award.

Several student startup companies have already evolved into Ben Franklin Technology Partner portfolio firms. Watkins, the Arthur F. Searing Professor of Economics, believes the new incubator will promote that growing economic development partnership.

R. Chadwick Paul Jr. ‘76, president and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, agrees.

“Lehigh students already have the opportunity to apply their classroom experiences with early-stage technology firms that reside in Ben Franklin TechVentures,” says Paul.

“This is a mutually beneficial relationship in which our clients enjoy an extra pair of hands to help them ramp up and the students gain real-world experiences that can translate into jobs when they graduate.”

Lehigh previously offered incubator spaces in Wilbur Powerhouse, but these no longer meet the needs of the program, says Watkins.

“We want to give our students the tools they need to get their ideas off the ground. These two venues just seem like a perfect fit.

“Chandler-Ullmann inspires creative collaboration in a comfortable garage-like environment that innovators will want to hang out in,” Watkins says, adding that the space comes complete with couches, work spaces and an entrance that was once a delivery bay.

“The TechVentures2 space puts students right in the middle of one of the country’s most successful technology incubators,” he adds. “This venue deepens the interaction between Ben Franklin and the growing pipeline of student start-ups here at Lehigh.

“The students will now have access to all the regular mentoring and support infrastructure of the professional incubator.”


Story by Tom Yencho

Posted on Wednesday, November 23, 2011

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