Pennsylvania’s once trailblazing innovation economy has grown stagnant. To combat this downward trend, nearly 150 business and civic leaders from around the Commonwealth joined us at Penn State Harrisburg on October 25th to spark ideas to jumpstart innovation in the Keystone State once again.

Watch ABC27’s feature on the event below.

Brookings’ researchers, Mark Muro and Robert Maxim, shared the devastating results of their report Ideas for Pennsylvania Innovation: Examining efforts by competitor states and national leaders and detailed the challenges facing Pennsylvania, including:

  • The absence of a comprehensive state innovation strategy
  • Below-average industry R&D that has gone flat in recent years
  • Reduced investment in state resources for early state companies
  • Significant disparity between Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and State College compared to the rest of the state.

Brookings’ report shows that while other states are advancing in innovation, Pennsylvania is missing out on job growth as it falls behind other states fostering investments in innovation. Maxim cited that “Pennsylvania’s innovation economy is going in the wrong direction. It no longer competes with national innovation leaders, and now is also falling behind competitor states such as Maryland and North Carolina.”

Attendees at the program also heard about efforts made by competitor state, North Carolina, and its initiative InnovateNC, an incremental approach to growing innovation in rural areas of the state. Christopher Gergen, Co-founder of Forward Cities, noted that Pennsylvania and North Carolina have similar characteristics with high population centers, excellent post-secondary institutions, and rural areas that have been largely ignored by advances in innovation.

Following the Brookings and Forward Cities presentations, participants were asked how to begin establishing an innovation agenda: Should Pennsylvania’s innovation strategy should be incremental, having a narrow focus but leveraging fewer public resources OR should it be aspirational, requiring more significant investment, but may have a larger impact?  Ultimately, 65% of participants thought the state should pursue an aspirational strategy, indicating that the absence of a strategy was the most important challenge to address.

Participants later heard from leaders who are pioneering new initiatives in their communities, both urban and rural. From the Scranton region, Ken Okrepkie, NE PA Regional Manager, Ben Franklin Technology Partners and from the Erie region, Chris Marsh, Community and Economic Development Officer, Erie Insurance both discussed efforts in their local communities to innovate.

The efforts around innovation will continue, as Grow PA pushes to raise awareness about the need for an innovation strategy with members of the General Assembly, including conducting an asset map of Pennsylvania’s strengths – particularly in R&D, and examine what the state is currently investing in innovation.

Urge your legislator to support Pennsylvania’s innovation economy.

Share Brookings’ Ideas for Pennsylvania’s Innovation Policy with your legislator and tell them to prioritize a comprehensive state innovation strategy.