Civic News

B. PHL claims to be the ‘first’ citywide innovation festival. But is it?

The three-day series organized by IBX and the Chamber of Commerce looks to convene innovators across fields of healthcare, engineering, art, technology and more. Sound familiar?

The B. PHL logo illuminated at its launch press conference in 2019.

(Photo by Paige Gross)

Full disclosure: is the main organizer of Philly Tech Week, which is referenced in the below report and editor's note.

Independence Blue Cross announced Monday it will partner with the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and various education and other institutions for what organizers are calling Philadelphia’s first citywide innovation festival, to run in mid-October.

The three-day conference, dubbed B. PHL, is intended to be a gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators from the fields of healthcare, tech, engineering, art, music and academia for workshops across the city.

The name, concept and marketing of the the festival pay tribute to Ben Franklin: “You could really call him the first innovator,” Daniel Hilferty, CEO of Independence Health Group said at a press conference Monday.

Hilferty explained that B. PHL intends to keep that spirit of creativity alive through the conference and identify Philadelphia as an “innovation destination,” something that’s “long overdue,” he said.

Rob Wonderling, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, said he’s excited to be able call this an annual event going forward. Other speakers included Marques Colston, former NFL-player turned entrepreneur; Rui Jing Jiang, cofounder and CEO of Avisi Technologies; which is working to cure glaucoma; and City Representative Sheila Hess.

None of the speakers outlined exactly what to expect from the event series, but organizers expect about 2,500 attendees, from community residents to folks working in tech, education and healthcare sectors to attend. The conference has been in the works since December, Michelle Histand, the director of innovation at IBX, told Philly.

“We have our Science Festival, we have Philly Tech Week, we have Design [Philadelphia], we have all these pieces showing different parts of this, so the idea behind B. PHL was to bring all of them together and show the cross-disciplinary nature of innovation,” she said.

Histand added that organizers plan to host talks across the city in each general neighborhood of the city — North, South, West and Center City. B. PHL currently lists The Curtis Institute, Jefferson, Temple, Penn, InstaMed, The Science Institute and others as “location partners” where events may be held.


The festival will run October 15 to 17, and early bird tickets, on sale through July 31, are $200. From Aug. 1 on, they’ll cost $250. For each pass that’s purchased to the conference, one will be given to organizations around the city to increase access for folks who want to go but might not be able to afford entrance.


Editor’s note: Look, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that this conference is not unique in Philly, let alone the “first” of anything.

When Daniel Hilferty says Philly’s recognition as an “innovation destination” is “long overdue,” it makes us wonder if he heard about the massive international biotech conference that came through earlier this month. 

When we hear that the Science Festival, Philly Tech Week and Design Philadelphia — and for that matter, Thinkfest and newcomers Ideas We Should Steal Festival and GreatPHL, all one-day events run or supported by fellow local newsrooms — somehow don’t do enough to show off the multifaceted meanings of “innovation,” we question what the word even means.

Most of all, though — and, yes, there’s no way of us saying this without seeming biased — it sounds like IBX has no idea what actually happens at PTW, which last month celebrated its ninth (!) year. Despite the “tech” in its name, PTW is not just an event for self-described technologists. Look through the B. PHL events site to compare: Art and design? Got that and that. Healthcare? Covered. Engineering? Does software engineering count? Entrepreneurship, civic issues, social impact? Here, here, here.

Oh — and tech? Obviously.

And while hosts four major events within the week, including the multidisciplinary Introduced conference, the vast majority of the 100+ events are organized by community members — and oftentimes free.

Could B. PHL be successful in solidifying Philadelphia’s reputation as a destination for innovation? Sure, perhaps. But it seems that more time navigating the local map is needed.

— Managing Editor Julie Zeglen (

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