Philadelphia should be at the heart of an East Coast global hub of education innovation. With few exceptions, Philadelphia has all the accoutrements to attract entrepreneurs in edtech.
From low-cost city living and an advantageous location between education policy-oriented cities like New York and D.C., to education needs here in Philadelphia, to the growing Philly EdTech Meetup to Mayor Nutter’s 2012 announcement of an initiative to increase the availability of seed-stage capital, the scene is set for Philadelphia to be a hotbed for entrepreneurial activity in how we teach our children.
In discussions of Philadelphia’s economy, it is inevitable that someone shares that our regions strengths are in “eds and meds,” meaning, universities and healthcare providers. The number and density of “eds and meds” together provide a unique opportunity for Philadelphia to lead in the growing demand for educational technology solutions. The region’s “eds” produce some of the finest graduates in the country, who are driven to “do well while doing good.” The region’s healthcare providers — hospitals, pharma companies, insurance dealers — know theirs is an industry ready for disruption.
In 2009 Penn’s Graduate School of Education began the Milken-Penn GSE
Education Business Plan Competition, which culminates with ventures pitching their ideas to VCs, and—uniquely—to both researchers and teachers. GSE’s Academic Innovation Team plans to build out an innovation-focused ecosystem, which will capitalize on the “eds” in Philadelphia—both K-12 and colleges—and on the reputation and expertise of one of the country’s foremost education schools. The aim is to tap into the City’s abundant resources in order to engage the existing educational, entrepreneurial community, even as they attract more education entrepreneurs to Philadelphia.
Some of this was in action this past weekend at the Big Think Conference at Penn, an exploration of what it takes to innovate, specifically at the university. When two undergraduate engineers presented their work, which uses the Leap Motion device as a base for a multi-user sign language gesture translator, it was clear from the crackle of electricity in the room that the audience was considering how their innovations could be put to use.
Nursing Professor Nancy Hanrahan’s interdisciplinary course Innovation and Technology in Healthcare has engendered health-focused apps and games; this year her students won first and third prizes at healthcare Startup Weekend Health.
This is just one example of the thousands of collisions of ideas that are emerging as the City sets its sights upon nurturing this economically and socially vibrant sector of American industry. If the Philadelphia region’s strengths are truly in ‘eds and meds,’ then movement in education technology should be a strength to be sure.-30-