Dr. Ralph Ford

Chancellor, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

United States

Innovative Methods in Addressing Barriers to Commercialization


Regions that have transformed their economies for the prosperity of their citizens have one common and powerfully undeniable characteristic – they are built on collaborative networks of innovators, entrepreneurs, individuals, and industry partners who are committed to the long term success of the region. These transformations build on existing regional strengths, require a shared vision and a long term commitment, but at their core they are built on a network of innovation. The author is at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, part of Penn State University, a major research university that is implementing strategies to support the growth of the region’s economy as it transitions from traditional manufacturing to a more diversified economy.

One of the components of this is through the development of open prototyping spaces and advanced R&D facilities that are available to the community and to industry partners. At Penn State Behrend we have created the Innovation Commons prototyping facility and in two years this the students and faculty engaged in it have undertaken nearly 100 projects, served over 60 entrepreneurs, supported the startup of 3 new companies, and generated 5 patents. At the other end of the spectrum, shared university R&D facilities developed in Knowledge Park at Penn State Behrend have been enable large industries to advance their technologies.

Engaging students as a key stakeholder in technology and economic development, along with the access to facilities is at the core of the Open Lab strategy the Penn State Behrend has developed. The presentation will also discuss approaches to reduce barriers to commercialization, including Penn State University’s groundbreaking approach to intellectual property, where industry partners are able to own the intellectual property from projects they fund.


Dr. Ralph Ford, chancellor of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, has more than 25 years of leadership experience in higher education and industry. As Penn State Behrend’s chief academic and administrative officer, Dr. Ford has responsibility for all teaching, research, and outreach programs and activities of the college as well as overall campus operations, including strategic planning, human resources, enrollment management, fundraising, marketing, alumni and community relations, and intercollegiate athletics.