Acquisitions / Universities

What does the PhilaU-Jefferson merger mean for startups?

Thomas Jefferson University, as the institution is now called, aims to keep connecting to tech and local startups.

Stephen Klasko. (Courtesy photo)
Looks like there’s a new “new Jefferson” in town.

After officially gobbling up East Falls’ Philadelphia University last week, the medical college has a spiffy new logo and everything:

“Welcome to a new era centuries in the making,” the university’s website now blares. The combined institution will play host to nine colleges and three schools from both universities, climbing up the rankings to become the 5th largest university in the Philly area thanks to these numbers: 7,800 students, 4,000 faculty members and 63,000 alumni.

Though seeming disparate, PhilaU and Jeff’s core areas of expertise (design and health, respectively) have common ground. One not so distant example of that is the Independence/Jefferson Health Hack, which has partnered for two straight years with makerspace NextFab to let participants have access to design tools like imaging software, laser-cutters and 3D printers. 

That’s also in sync with what the institution says is a model based on “interprofessional and transdisciplinary approaches to learning,” with support from “design and systems thinking, innovation, entrepreneurship, empathy, and the modes of thought central to the liberal arts and scientific inquiry,” per the press release announcing the merger.

So how is all of this relevant to startups in Philly’s tech ecosystem? According to President and CEO Stephen Klasko, Jefferson will continue to reach out to the local innovation community.

“We want Jefferson to be the easiest place for people to transform any industry,” Klasko said. He pointed to one concrete example: Jefferson has data on 2 million patient encounters, which could greatly benefit entrepreneurs in the medical space.

Klasko, who came aboard the top chair at Jefferson in 2013 and is credited with leading Jefferson’s recent push towards the tech space, also told the ability to host activities like the Health Hack will double.

“We’ll also extend the JAZ Tank [the institution’s Shark Tank-like pitch competition with a healthcare focus] to the other campus,” Klasko said. “We also have hackathons and an entrepreneur-in-residence program available now to the design space as well as healthcare.”

But what the CEO thinks is the best way to connect with local startups is through the “experiential learning” component of the “new Jeff”: startups around the city can now link up with students to work on projects related to innovation across a broader swath of areas.

“We will use this combination to ‘start over’: building preeminence in experiential, professional education, research and discovery,” Klasko said.

Companies: Philadelphia University

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