The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) named Ben Franklin TechVentures®the 2012 Randall M. Whaley National Incubator of the Year on May 8 at NBIA’s International Conference on Business Incubation in Atlanta. Ben Franklin TechVentures also won the Dinah Adkins Incubator of the Year, Technology Focus at the NBIA event. Ben Franklin TechVentures is owned and managed by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus in Bethlehem, PA.
Ben Franklin TechVentures provides a high-energy and professional environment in which to facilitate connections between early-stage technology firms and the funding, people, technology, colleges and universities, and other resources they need to prosper. Since 1983, the program has been fueling economic growth throughout northeastern Pennsylvania and has graduated 55 successful companies.
Beginning in 1983 with 10,000 square feet of incubator space in a former photography lab on the research campus of Bethlehem Steel, BFTP/NEP converted photo processing rooms into wet labs and offices, becoming one of only a handful of technology incubators in the U.S. at the time. When the final Bethlehem Steel operation, a coatings research facility, closed in 2005 and became part of Lehigh’s campus, BFTP/NEP purchased the 45-year-old facility and converted it into Ben Franklin TechVentures, with 35,000 square feet of rentable space for incubator clients. The $8 million renovation project was completed in 2007, opening with 13 clients.
Just 18 months later, with the facility nearing its 29-client capacity, the need for an expansion was clear. In October 2011, Ben Franklin TechVentures2 was completed, adding 47,000 square feet of space and providing the incubator with room to house up to 40 clients.
Business incubation programs like Ben Franklin TechVentures catalyze the process of starting and growing companies by providing entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools they need to make their ventures successful. NBIA estimates that in 2005 alone, North American incubators assisted more than 27,000 start-up companies that provided full-time employment for more than 100,000 workers and generated annual revenue of more than $17 billion. Approximately 7,000 business incubators operate worldwide.
The National Business Incubation Association is the world's leading organization advancing business incubation and entrepreneurship. Each year, the NBIA Incubation Awards honor the business incubation programs, graduates and client companies that exemplify the best of the industry.
"The judges for NBIA's Incubation Awards program were unanimous in their selection of Ben Franklin TechVentures for their highest honor, the Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year Award,” said Tim King, NBIA International Programs Operations Manager. “Our judges feel that Ben Franklin TechVentures best exemplifies the qualities of an outstanding business incubation program, and serves as a model that other incubators will follow when striving to best serve their client companies."
The 2012 Whaley award represents a noteworthy repeat honor. In 2001, the Ben Franklin Business Incubator, predecessor to Ben Franklin TechVentures, won this same top worldwide incubator award.
The awards were announced locally for the first time at the Ben Franklin i xchange event on Tuesday evening, May 8.
About the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) links companies with business and technical experts, universities, funding, and other resources to help them prosper through innovation. The organization is a non-profit corporation that is part of a four-center, state-funded economic development initiative. The Ben Franklin program (benfranklin.org) was created by the Commonwealth in 1983 to play a leadership role in strengthening regional economies, building the state's technology economy, and creating and retaining high-wage, high-skilled jobs.
BFTP/NEP's strategy encompasses three key areas:
1. Developing early-stage, technology-oriented companies;
2. Helping established manufacturers creatively apply new technology and business practices; and
3. Promoting an innovative community-wide infrastructure that fosters a favorable business environment for high-growth companies.
Since 1983, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania has achieved the following results:
• Created 15,479 new jobs;
• Retained 21,459 existing jobs;
• Started 429 new companies;
• Developed 1,127 new products and processes.
The northeastern center is headquartered on the campus of Lehigh University, and also operates, an award-winning incubator/post-incubator facility, on Lehigh’s campus.