Making Entrepreneurship Accessible in Rural America

About the Playbook

Universities play a key role in spurring economic development, but they can do more.

As institutions of higher education, land-grant universities were created to make education on agriculture, military tactics, and mechanical arts accessible to the working public. In short, to educate the next generation of farmers and engineers.

In addition, through their research efforts, these institutions have played a critical role in the invention of new products, industries, and opportunities that improve our daily lives and spur economic growth.

Lessons learned from an ongoing experiment.

In 2015, Penn State started an experiment of sorts working to identify new ways to support and spur economic development for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

This playbook outlines the goals, process, and lessons learned from the first seven years of this ongoing experiment which has lead to a network of 21 (and counting) public-facing innovation spaces across the state.

While launched as part of our land-grant mission, we believe that community leaders, entrepreneurs, residents, leaders of institutions, elected officials, and those who want to play a role in uplifting, growing, and building thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems, both in rural and urban areas, may be able to benefit from our missteps and successes.



Universities have historically supported economic development for their regions and communities by:

  • helping individuals gain skills that result in higher wages
  • hiring a significant number of individuals within a community
  • purchasing goods and services locally
  • paying state and local taxes
  • stimulating innovation in their regions through research

(2015, Brookings,What colleges do for local economies)

Read the foreword from the desk of President Emeritus Eric J. Barron.