The University City Science Center has had a big year.
The Center itself has been around for half a century, created as a place for innovators to collaborate and advance science and technology-based economic development. And while a lot has changed in 55 years — it finally has a Wikipedia page, after all — Center leaders say the mission has largely remained the same.
The Center released an impact report this week, looking back at an “eventful year,” marketing director Kristen Fitch said.
Notably, the Center took over a new space at the end of 2018, moving to 3675 Market Street, a facility with 345,000 square feet of work space. The Center also named Steve Zarrilli CEO last July. As Technical.ly Philly reported, this came after he stepped down as Safeguard Scientifics CEO following a tumultuous battle with investor groups who called for his resignation. Zarrilli’s been a board member of the U City organization since 2014.
From July 2018 to the present, the center supported 149 research projects and early-stage companies through its commercialization programs and invested $1.82 million in those projects and companies, which yielded $49 million in follow-on funds. The impact report estimates that 139 jobs were created in the process.
And of those projects, 40 percent were lead by foreign-born founders, 42 percent were female-founded and 48 percent were lead by minority founders.
Quorum, an event space at the Center and its Venture Café —a Thursday evening gathering for Philadelphia-area’s innovation ecosystem to convene, connect and spark new ideas —brought in about 12,000 members of the innovation community to different programs and events.
The Science Center also relocated its FirstHand lab for middle- and high-school students, which aims to give Philadelphia School District students real-world learning experiences and filling and diversifying the pipeline of STEM talent.
“They now have access to a light-filled, state-of-the-art learning space that’s three times the size of its predecessor—with the capacity to serve more students from more schools, and open more doors for the minds of tomorrow,” the impact report states.
This year’s group included 282 students who can work on projects in two wet labs with microscopes, a fume hood, soldering stations, centrifuge, and equipment for DNA analysis and a space with prototyping tools.
The Center also touted the 18 artists in six different exhibits that were featured at the Esther Klein Gallery, which explores the intersection of science and art.
“The Science Center has 31 shareholders and as the needs of entrepreneurs have evolved over the last half century, so have our efforts,” the report summarizes. “Yet our mission of supporting science and tech-based economic development remains steadfast and reflects our capacity to meet the needs of today’s entrepreneurs.”