University City Science Center: A Nucleus for Support and Thought Leadership

Interested in commercialization? The Science Center works with teams daily to turn bright ideas into business.

By Hannah Spector

Located a quick 10-minute walk from Penn’s campus in the heart of University City is the Science Center, a mission-driven nonprofit that commercializes promising technology, convenes people to inspire action, and cultivates talent. For over 50 years, the Science Center has supported startups, research, and economic development across the emerging technology sectors. “We meet people daily wherever they are in the innovation lifecycle. Our team can get involved at any stage and complement the great things happening at the University of Pennsylvania,” says Tiffany Wilson, President and CEO of the Science Center.

Scientists at uCity Square-based biotech start-up Integral Molecular. The company was launched by a team of scientists who met at the University of Pennsylvania.

Commercialization

The Science Center focuses many of its efforts on identifying, supporting, and commercializing promising technology, turning bright ideas into businesses. Their success is proven by the numbers: with over 600 startups supported over the last decade, they have invested $14 million in companies, resulting in $1 billion in follow-on funding and over 600 jobs created (as of January 1, 2020).

“Our team can get involved at any stage and complement the great things happening at the University of Pennsylvania.”

Accelerating Innovation through Launch Lane

One program focused on commercialization is Launch Lane, an accelerator supporting tech and tech-enabled startups as they transition from prototype to sales and customer acquisition. Applications for the next cohort will open in late Fall 2021. The accelerator uses an anonymous application to de-bias the selection process, resulting in over half of the participants being women or minority-led and 85% of participants still in business. “We emphasize that applicants be sure to follow instructions to maintain anonymity and reduce bias during the process,” says Aron Starosta, Vice President of Commercialization & New Ventures at the Science Center. The Launch Lane curriculum matches companies to professionals with specific skills to help meet individual milestones, with a focus on piloting a prototype, generating first revenue, establishing corporate partnerships, hiring talent, and raising capital. “We look forward to a Launch Lane cohort that is medical device focused in the near future,” says Wilson.

Launch Lane Advisors

Where to Start: Venture Café

Starosta encourages potential applicants to bring their ideas to Venture Café before applying to Launch Lane. Venture Café is a place to connect with makers, doers, and thought leaders for free every Thursday, aiming to foster deeper connections in the digital and local innovation ecosystem. It is a great opportunity to introduce your idea to the Science Center team before Launch Lane. “We can help you create a great pitch and ensure that what you’re conveying will be received well by the Launch Lane selection team,” says Starosta

Future Plans

The Science Center looks forward to future collaborations with the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Health-Tech. With Tiffany Wilson as one of the newest members of the Penn Health-Tech Strategic Advisory Board, be on the lookout for joint programming and events coming soon. “As innovation activities continue to grow at Penn, we look forward to continuing to enhance our community partnership with complementary activities to help advance the Philadelphia region,” says Wilson.

A special thank you to Tiffany Wilson, President and CEO of the University City Science Center, and Aron Starosta, Vice President of Commercialization and New Ventures for taking the time to speak with Hannah Spector.

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