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Science Center and UNCF Partner to Increase Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Greater Philadelphia’s STEM Economy

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- (April 29, 2022) – The University City Science Center, Philadelphia’s premier catalyst of entrepreneurial activity, healthcare innovation, and economic growth and the UNCF, the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization have partnered to launch iRISE – Philadelphia a new initiative aimed at broadening the participation of African American and other underrepresented minorities in the Greater Philadelphia’s STEM economy. iRISE – Philadelphia represents a regional expansion of the Innovation and Research-Inspired STEM Entrepreneurship (iRISE) program that was established through a partnership between UNCF and Black Tech Ventures (BTV). The mission of iRISE is to build a robust and diverse pipeline of STEM entrepreneurs prepared for success as startup founders and entrepreneurial leaders.

While the ultimate goal of iRISE – Philadelphia is to promote entrepreneurial leadership and broaden participation in venture formation across all STEM verticals including tech and engineering, the initial focus will be on the life sciences. iRISE – Philadelphia will leverage UNCF’s extensive national HBCU network and the University City Science Center’s regional university network to recruit and engage underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research faculty into the program where they will be introduced to the fundamentals of tech-transfer, commercialization, and entrepreneurship. iRISE – Philadelphia will also have a K-12 component that engages local underrepresented youth attending high schools in the Philadelphia area exposing them to tech entrepreneurship, encouraging them to acquire critical thinking skills and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset.

Through a three-phased approach, the iRISE’s program will lead participants through a series of learning experiences facilitated by experienced industry professionals and subject matter experts who will provide insights into drug discovery and development, intellectual property management, technology transfer, licensing, and venture formation. Participants will ultimately choose between two-tracks: Startup Founders for those interested in launching new ventures; or Emerging Tech Leaders focused on driving the technology transfer and commercialization of highly impactful technologies. iRISE will also offer opportunities to access the Science Center’s existing commercialization programs including the Launch Lane Accelerator.

iRISE – Philadelphia will kick off with information sessions on May 5th and May 12th that will explore pathways to bio entrepreneurship and life science commercialization. Additionally, iRISE – Philadelphia will offer a scholarship opportunity for up to 20 underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research faculty to attend the 2022 BIO International Convention in San Diego.

“We are intentional about the Science Center’s commitment to serving diverse founders and building a pipeline of diverse STEM entrepreneurs that’s reflective of Philadelphia’s demographics,” says Tiffany Wilson, President & CEO of the University City Science Center. “That intentionality extends to our partnerships, and we’re committed to work alongside UNCF to bridge the divide between Black and Brown communities and the STEM industry.”

“UNCF is very excited to partner with the University City Science Center and extend the iRISE program to Philadelphia. We believe it is critical that we engage key stakeholders like the Science Center in Philadelphia who have the ability to reach and engage underrepresented students, postgraduate fellows and even faculty at local and regional universities and who operate in a variety of STEM disciplines,” says Chad Womack, Senior Director for National STEM Programs and Initiatives at UNCF. “Through our partnership, our goal is to build a robust pipeline of underrepresented STEM innovators and entrepreneurs and illuminate a pathway through iRISE programming that leads to venture formation at the Science Center.”

A 2020 report from the Center City District and the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation found that there are “1.8 Black-owned firms per 1,000 Black residents, just 14.6% of the overall number of firms per 1,000 residents.” What’s more, a 2019 Economy League report found that while Black people make up over 43% of Philadelphia’s population, they only represent 8.8% of the city’s tech workforce.

The Science Center has established several high impact entrepreneurial education and training programs that support the full continuum from tech-transfer to commercialization, which serves as the launchpad for new ventures, jobs and economic opportunity for the Philadelphia region. Since 2016, the Science Center has supported over 600 startups that raised over $1 billion, generated $125 million in revenue, and have an 85% persistence rate.

About the Science Center

The University City Science Center is Philadelphia’s premier catalyst of entrepreneurial activity, healthcare innovation, and economic growth. Established in 1963, the nonprofit has been recognized by The Brookings Institution as a best-in-class investor, mentor, and economic development partner for young technology companies. Working alongside industry partners and leading research and academic institutions across the globe, the Science Center has supported over 1,000 early-stage companies. Today, the organization advances healthcare innovation from idea to the marketplace through startup support services and building inclusive STEM pathways for Philadelphia youth and adults. For more information visit or follow us at @UCScienceCenter.

About UNCF

The UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students' education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF annually awards $100 million in scholarships and administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at more than 1,10colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at, or for continuous news and updates, follow UNCF on Twitter, @UNCF.

Media Contact:

Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing