Success Story

Invent Penn State’s OriginLabs receives $1.5M in funding to support equipment purchases, workshop delivery

OriginLabs, Invent Penn State’s all-new prototyping and product development facility located in the Eric J. Barron Innovation Hub was recently awarded an Appalachian Regional Commission grant that was matched 1:1 to by the University to fund the purchase of key equipment and delivery of free workshop programming.

“As Pennsylvania’s land-grant institution, we have a unique responsibility to serve the Commonwealth,” said James Delattre, associate vice president for research and director of the Office of Entrepreneurship & Commercialization. “This generous grant from ARC will allow us to further that service mission with new equipment and training opportunities that ensure that our region has a future-ready workforce.”

OriginLabs provides students, faculty, and community entrepreneurs with access to cutting-edge machinery and the latest in rapid prototyping technology.

The facility encompasses roughly 7,000 square feet across two floors and allows users to design, prototype and test potential solutions for their startups. The well-appointed facilities give users access to a breadth of materials and methodologies for production, including woodworking, metalworking, digital fabrication and additive manufacturing.

This award is part of a recently announced nearly $47 million package supporting 52 projects in 181 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative, which directs federal resources to economic diversification projects in Appalachian communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries. This is the largest single POWER awards package to date since the initiative launched in 2015.

“This grant will further enable us to expand our workforce development efforts in areas where we are advancing research so that the next generation workforce is highly skilled in these advanced technologies,” said Senior Vice President for Research Lora Weiss. “The work at OriginLabs will help accelerate the pace at which technologies move from research ideas and discovery to implementation by providing technical skills and capabilities not widely accessible elsewhere.”

The ARC grant will go toward purchasing multiple collaborative robotic arms, various 3D printing technologies, and laser scanning equipment. OriginLabs Director Ryan Mandell says the grant will also support delivery of 10 free workshops each year centered on automation, additive manufacturing, and AR/VR for “Smart Factory” environments utilizing the new equipment.

“This ARC funding is a tremendous opportunity in that it allows us to reach an entirely new cross-section of the regional population,” said Mandell. “Now, individuals looking to pivot in their careers by moving into rewarding and lucrative jobs aligned with research advances in advanced manufacturing can benefit from tailor-made workshop content while also learning side by side with students, research faculty, and entrepreneurs who are utilizing OriginLabs.”

ARC’s mission is to support economic revitalization of the Appalachian region through workforce development activities that re-skill or up-skill those affected by the languishing coal economy and is in alignment with Governor Wolf’s “Manufacture PA” initiative.

“Our coal-impacted communities are a vital part of Appalachia’s 13 states and 423 counties—when our coal communities thrive, our entire region is uplifted,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “This latest round of POWER grant funding will not only help struggling coal communities to once again compete in a global marketplace, but also expand support for the creation of new jobs through growing Appalachia’s food economy.”

“We will connect with regional workforce development boards, chambers of commerce, regional manufacturers, our local student population, and our research faculty to drive attendance in our short-form, hands-on, technical training sessions on advanced manufacturing processes, led by research and industry professionals,” Mandell said.

About OriginLabs

Located at the Eric J. Barron Innovation Hub in downtown State College, OriginLabs provides access to world-class prototyping facilities to students and faculty from across campus, as well as members of the public from State College and beyond. The OriginLabs facilities enhance the suite of resources available to researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs in the region in the form of sophisticated equipment, free workshops, and expert advice and technical guidance.

 About the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 423 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia.