2020 Impact Report
Innovation Drives Pennsylvania’s Economic Recovery & Sustained Growth
Innovating against COVID-19
Launched more than 35 years ago, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners was ahead of its time. In 1983, with steel and other industries in decline, unemployment was high and Pennsylvania’s economy was reeling. The state needed a bridge between its struggling heavy manufacturing economy and the technology-based economy that would carry it forward.
Ben Franklin, a statewide initiative serving all 67 Pennsylvania counties through four regionally based centers, worked to accelerate the development of technology-based industries, investing in startups and funding innovation in established manufacturers. By every measure, the plan worked, as Ben Franklin became one of the most widely known and emulated technology-based economic development programs in the nation.
In 2020, with the world in the grips of a global pandemic caused by COVID-19, and our state and nation suffering both medically and economically, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners once again rose to the occasion.
Almost from the very first days of COVID-19, Ben Franklin clients have been working around the clock and contributing to efforts to address this public health issue in various ways, from treatments, to testing, to logistics, to other support mechanisms, including mobilizing or retooling manufacturing to produce the critical medical supplies and products to keep people safe.
The fact is that at Ben Franklin, the focus in 2020 was on innovating against COVID-19 and putting Pennsylvania on a path to a brighter economic future. Innovation has proven to be key in our response to this pandemic and it will remain central to our recovery.
Improving the Human Condition
As every level of government and the public and private sectors continue to combat a crisis that resulted in higher unemployment than the Great Recession, leaders have prioritized finding avenues to get Pennsylvanians working again. They seek opportunities to support growth industries that have the best chance to create and retain good jobs, and to generate revenue for Pennsylvania today, tomorrow, and in the future.
These industries include computer hardware and software and other technology-based devices that push the boundaries of what we think is possible. They also include manufacturing, biotech, and many other innovative products, processes, and services that Pennsylvanians utilize every day --- thanks to Ben Franklin clients’ contributions.
Through strategic investments, business expertise, and networks of proven expertise and resources that foster innovation, Ben Franklin supports client companies that create highly paid, sustainable technology-based jobs. And it also enables clients to improve the human condition and address critical challenges like COVID-19 now and in the future.
Powering Economic Growth
The agility of early-stage technology firms and innovative manufacturers to respond quickly to a crisis or market opportunity is emblematic of Ben Franklin clients. COVID-19 has demonstrated clearly that investments in innovation will help both reboot the economy and save lives.
Since its inception, Ben Franklin has invested in more than 4,500 technology-based companies and boosted the state’s economy by more than $25 billion, helping to generate 148,000 jobs through investments in client firms and spinoff companies in Pennsylvania. These are jobs that pay well; the jobs created by Ben Franklin’s client industries pay an average of $79,364 annually, which is 52 percent more than the average non-farm wage in Pennsylvania. These are also jobs that will help Pennsylvania attract and keep talent and jumpstart the Commonwealth’s economy.
Ben Franklin’s return on investment is precisely why supporting its work represents Pennsylvania’s best chance to recover from the economic damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also provides a proven opportunity to elevate our economy to greater future success.
Fostering Innovative Ecosystems
Ben Franklin invests more than money alone. It surrounds clients with internal and external experts in accounting and finance, marketing, intellectual property protection, supply chain management, and other disciplines. This process is Ben Franklin’s “secret sauce,” developed and customized over more than three decades of experience, which is why many clients cite these high-value support services as being key factors in their eventual success.
Clients come from a variety of industries --- from computer software, hardware, and telecommunications, to robotics and industrial machinery manufacturing, to life sciences, including pharmaceutical, biotech, instrumentation, and medical devices. Clients are technology-intensive, investing in research and development, intellectual property, and capital equipment, and creating highly paid, sustainable Pennsylvania jobs.
Ben Franklin identifies and evaluates investment opportunities, selects the most promising ones, and provides companies with crucial resources as they strive to succeed in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Because of this, Ben Franklin significantly increases the success rate of the highest-potential early-stage technology firms. It also supports established manufacturers by leveraging technological innovation in Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities to implement product and process improvements that allow clients to be more globally competitive.
Over the last year, while public health and safety were top priorities, Ben Franklin remained hard at work serving its clients. This consistency was of paramount importance to the small businesses and entrepreneurs who call Pennsylvania home and count on Ben Franklin for support and expertise. These companies were among those that served as first responders to the state’s pandemic response and as essential economic contributors to their communities, employing local work forces, providing family-sustaining wages, and delivering vital services.
Investing in Innovation
Investing in innovation made sense in the best of times. It is even more critical now.
In May 2020, the state provided $1 million to each of the four statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partners, matched by each, to invest in promising clients that were experiencing hardships due to the impact of COVID-19.
Recognizing the agility of early-stage technology firms and innovative manufacturers, the state also tagged Ben Franklin to help launch the “Pennsylvania Manufacturing Call to Action Portal” to rapidly mobilize innovative manufacturers to produce critical medical products in response to the virus.
In true bipartisan fashion, the state included Ben Franklin in the short-term budget adopted in June, even amid these most difficult budget challenges, and ensure stable funding through the entire fiscal year. That enabled Ben Franklin to continue its work with promising companies and ensure Pennsylvania residents remained employed.
Jobs created by client companies
Jobs retained by client companies
New products and processes launched
2020 ECONOMIC IMPACT
Jobs created by client companies
Jobs retained by client companies
New products & processes launched
Patents & software copyrights awarded to client companies
Companies assisted by BFTP
Sales revenue generated by client companies
Post-BFTP financing secured by client companies
Regional Success Stories
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA
For nearly 40 years, Ben Franklin Technology Partners/CNP has been focused on revolutionary technological developments that improve the human condition and address critical challenges. This year, our efforts, in conjunction with our clients, have been focused on innovating against the pandemic. Almost from the very first days of COVID-19, many of Ben Franklin’s portfolio companies pivoted from their normal activities and began offering products and services that addressed the realities of the virus head on.
For example, Actuated Medical is a 20-person company which normally develops medical devices that integrate electronically controlled motion technologies. This year, they switched their focus and started manufacturing face shields for first responders and medical professionals on the front lines of the pandemic.
Several other innovators emerged with inspiring responses to the pandemic. WaveClear is a medical device and design company that is developing ultrasonic therapeutic devices for the treatment of blood clots, a common side effect of the COVID virus. OhanaLink Technologies developed a mobile communication tool that creates a virtual hospital waiting room for friends and families of patients who are unable to visit in person because of COVID restrictions.
Acoustic Sheep has been selling comfortable headphones designed to be worn while sleeping for the past 10 years. In March 2020, in response to COVID-19 mask mandates, Dr. Wei-Shin Lai and her team shifted their focus to a DIY mask solution that utilizes a downloadable template targeting those who wear glasses or have beards.
These few examples represent dozens of Ben Franklin clients whose ability to adjust, respond and drive community-benefitting innovation has been inspiring. Investing in innovation has always made good sense – but perhaps never as much as it did in 2020.
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA
Ben Franklin companies in southeastern Pennsylvania are developing innovation that provides for the safety and wellness for Pennsylvanians and beyond.
Biomeme’s revolutionary mobile diagnostic platform gained approval to distribute its COVID-19 testing materials in spring 2020. Biomeme created the world’s first mobile end-to-end molecular diagnostic platform, transforming a smartphone into a mobile lab for advanced DNA diagnostics and real-time disease surveillance. Biomeme expanded to a staff of 250 full-time employees and will move to a new 40,000-square-foot headquarters in Philadelphia this year to expand manufacturing of its products, now used in both frontline applications and leading research institutions across the country.
Roundtrip created the first digital healthcare transportation marketplace that enables healthcare professionals to schedule, dispatch and monitor non-emergency transportation for patients. Using existing ridesharing and transportation platforms and systems, Roundtrip ensures that patients get their scheduled care when they need it --- from basic rideshares and medical sedans to wheelchair vans and stretcher vehicles --- avoiding the compounded consequences and costs of missed appointments. The NIH, Jefferson Health, and Johns Hopkins Medicine are among its clients.
Biotech firm Navrogen is focused on the immuno-based treatment of cancer by removing defense mechanisms that tumor cells employ to inhibit cancer-fighting effects of therapeutically administered and patient immune-generated tumor attacking antibodies. Based at Cheyney University, Navrogen is engaged with the university’s mission of exposing students to emerging concepts in translational medicine and hands-on biopharmaceutical lab training through coordination with faculty in order to provide students experiential learning as they pursue careers in biomedicine.
Innovation Works has provided invaluable resources and funding to help transform the southwestern Pennsylvania region into a center for innovative startups and tech investors from around the country. From the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic, clients have been working on the front lines to keep the community safe.
ALung Technologies received the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), permitting the company to use its Hemolung device on patients with severe COVID-19. The Hemolung removes carbon dioxide directly from the blood in patients with acute respiratory failure. This technology allows individuals with breathing problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to avoid or minimize the need for intubation.
CytoAgents is innovating on a drug therapy that could treat COVID-19. CytoAgents' lead drug candidate modulates the body's immune response to reduce tissue damage caused by an excessive immune reaction. This approach would decrease the tissue damage resulting from the excessive release of pro-inflammatory cytokines induced by influenza and other viral infections like COVID-19.
Flexable Care’s all-female team is acutely aware of the simultaneous pull of working while parenting, particularly as it affects the millions of women who have left the workforce due to childcare issues. Flexable, which used to provide on-site childcare only, has revolutionized work-from-home for parents with their “Always There Childcare” events. The company launched Virtual MiniCamps to engage kids age 3 to 10 with online modules that keep them connected with fun content, peers, and caring adults so parents or caregivers can concentrate on work, meetings or take a needed reprieve to attend to other kids.
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern PA
Several clients throughout BFTP/NEP’s 21-county service area provide products or services that are directly applicable in the fight against COVID-19; others have pivoted their technologies. The ability to adapt quickly to changing needs is emblematic of Ben Franklin clients.
The proprietary and transformational air purification systems originally developed for highly sensitive In Vitro Fertilization facilities by LifeAire Systems, LLC, Allentown, are capable of killing infectious airborne pathogens including COVID-19. In addition to placing the technology in hospitals and senior living facilities to reduce infections, illness, and length of stay, LifeAire has applied its proven kill technology to help during the COVID-19 pandemic in protecting dental practices, offices, and transportation and school facilities. The company has also developed a portable, rapid decontamination unit for N95 masks that kills COVID-19 and other pathogens within all layers of the mask. More than 1,650 masks can be safely decontaminated in a day, helping with the PPE shortage, and reducing costs by $297,000 per month.
The pandemic has forced health system leadership to address disparities in remote care capabilities. Signallamp Health, Scranton, provides a turnkey platform for remote clinical services, white-labeled to a patient’s chosen provider. Signallamp extends the reach and clinical capacity of healthcare providers to manage vulnerable patients, including those affected by COVID-19, outside of the traditional clinical setting. With more than 100 employees, the company was recognized on the prestigious Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S., ranking No. 240 overall, No. 18 in the health industry, and No. 1 in Pennsylvania, with a three-year growth rate of 1,844%.
US Specialty Formulations LLC, Allentown, and VaxForm LLC, Bethlehem, recently announced first successes in their joint development program to bring oral and injectable COVID-19 and other vaccines to market. With funding through the Governor’s Action Team, USSF will expand its 41,000-square-foot production facility. Both USSF and VaxForm started in Ben Franklin TechVentures. Starting with three staff members, USSF now employs 14 in high-value jobs, and VaxForm employs five.
CENTRAL & NORTHERN PA
President & CEO
200 Innovation Blvd, Suite 150
State College, PA 16803
Angelo J. Valletta
President & CEO
Ben Franklin TechVentures
116 Research Drive
Bethlehem, PA 18015
President & CEO
Two Allegheny Center, Suite 100
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
President & CEO
Building 100 Innovation Center
4801 S. Broad St, Suite 200
The Navy Yard
Philadelphia, PA 19112