Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday that Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) had made $4 million in new funding available to help tech-based companies in Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ (BFTP) portfolio that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding will be distributed equally between the state’s four BFTP entities, which operate in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, State College and Bethlehem.
“Our tech companies have been stepping up to provide us with innovative ways to produce personal protective equipment and other supplies, and we must make sure they remain in a position to provide those critical services and ideas in our response to this pandemic,” said DCED Secretary Dennis Davin in a statement.
The funds, spun up in just three days, will be delivered to each BFTP entity through a Technology Development grant. Each region’s org will match the funding, then distribute it to companies that it identifies as experiencing hardships due to the impact of COVID-19. Companies in BFTP’s portfolio will be prioritized, though others will be considered as well — especially those “working toward new technologies relevant both to the pandemic and its effects: think both life sciences and remote learning, for example,” said Jason Bannon, BFTP’s VP of marketing and communications for the southeastern region. Some of that funding may come in the form of small prototyping grants worth between $5,000 and $10,000, Bannon said.
“No sector of our economy is untouched. But Pennsylvania’s innovation economy is especially vulnerable,” said Ryan Glenn, BFTP’s director of statewide initiatives. “Most economic recovery programs only provide access to capital for larger corporations and more established businesses, or the programs are narrowly targeted at qualified small businesses, so they don’t apply to startup firms and entrepreneurs.”
In Philly, a handful of the 35-year-old seed and early-stage capital provider’s companies have been working on fighting the virus, according to the southeastern entity: Biomeme, CromaTan, Puresyn, MBF Therapeutics, Near Miss Management and Excision BioTherapeutics are all working on COVID-related solutions in their respective fields, including via vaccines, diagnostics, epidemiology, devices and manufacturing.
“We are proud of the work our clients are doing to improve the human condition in these trying times,” Glenn said. “Innovation is the key to resolving this crisis. It truly demonstrates that investments in innovation save lives.”
Separately from this grant program, BFTP has fought for increased funding from the state’s budget in recent years after its annual allocation was cut if half back in 2008, and as of February has been working with DCED to add $5 million for an initiative to work with area colleges and universities. The southeastern entity also signed a lease in June of last year on a 28,500-square-foot “innovation floor” within University City’s 3.0 University Place that will support early-stage technology-focused companies with incubation space, support services and strategic resources.