Stay connected. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

University City Science Center turns 60 this year. Here’s why IP protection remains a priority


President and CEO Tiffany Wilson reflects on the org's value for life sciences innovators and the growth that lies ahead.

Anniversaries are the perfect opportunity to stop and take stock of all the ideas, voices and partnerships that have led us where we are today.

Sixty years have now passed since the University City Science Center’s founding in 1963, where leading academic and research institutions joined forces to create a hub for innovation. Though our work has grown and evolved in countless ways since those early days, we still serve as a conduit for turning bright ideas into businesses and nurturing a STEM workforce to spur inclusive economic growth across our region.

I can point to several milestones over the years — from the Science Center opening the city’s first shared life sciences lab space in 2000, to the launch of our FirstHand STEM education program for middle and high school students in 2014, to the evolution and expansion of our footprint into uCity Square in partnership with Wexford Science + Technology in 2015 — that demonstrate the Science Center’s continued commitment to filling startup ecosystem gaps and ensuring all Philadelphians can benefit from and participate in the innovation economy.

Much has changed in 60 years, but the strength of our country — and our city’s — knowledge economy has not wavered, nor has the Science Center’s role of empowering the entrepreneurs who serve as the backbone of our economy.

I came on board as president and CEO of the Science Center in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when the intellectual property of life sciences innovators were looked to as beacons of hope — as the heroes who were responsible for the health and survival of millions of people. COVID created a pivotal shift in the conversation around IP protections for vaccines and treatments, but there are countless other areas of healthcare reliant upon US IP rights to transform and address the critical needs of communities everywhere.

IP includes things like patents, which give innovators the legal rights to their unique technologies, processes, research and more for a period of time. These protections support companies in their efforts to explore cutting-edge solutions by rewarding their time and monetary investments with legal ownership. And life or death for a startup can hang on this razor-thin edge of novelty.

After taking on my role as the CEO of the Science Center, I was quickly exposed to the myriad ways the Science Center prioritizes IP through work and outreach with innovators across the Philadelphia region and beyond. I became aware of the lasting footprint we’ve made through honoring IP protections and the role they play for scientific advancement and the economy, and for the health and wellness of everyone, particularly underserved populations who often lack of access to affordable, convenient healthcare.

It’s through our relationships with academic researchers, universities, patent advisors and others that we have been able to cultivate a community where the protection of IP is not only valued but is essential.
A woman in a lab coat is preparing samples.

The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) has often spoken about how invaluable IP protections are for the national economy. As shown in the Science Center’s 2023 Economic Impact Study, they have tremendous impact on local economies, too. The annual regional economic impact of Science Center-supported companies within Greater Philadelphia is estimated at $7.6 billion, supporting more than 29,100 full-time equivalent jobs with $2.6 billion in employee compensation.

This year, we launched a campaign featuring interviews with three founders from different parts of the country, who recognize how strong US patent and licensing policies have enabled them to create life-saving technology and diagnostic tools that defy socioeconomic, geographic and other barriers to healthcare access.

Another one of the many ways the Science Center has supported innovators is through its Founders Fellowship, a 12-month experiential program that offers hands-on startup experience for those with advanced STEM degrees to transform concepts into a business reality.

Our 2023-2024 fellows are spearheading projects that embody the critical importance of IP protections and the availability of cost-effective, accessible solutions for a diverse range of demographics, from doctors to engineers, patients and everyday people and communities.

We know life sciences innovation impacts everyone, not just scientists and business owners. IP protections open doors for intellectual freedom and discovery, create jobs that enable people to earn a living wage, and promote economic growth and access to lifesaving care and resources.

I don’t have a crystal ball to reveal the future, but I can say with absolute certainty that protecting and uplifting the work of innovators across the country will remain the top priority for the Science Center in the years ahead.

As we lay the groundwork for the next 60 years of advancing bright ideas into solutions for all, I urge everyone to make this mission their own by investing in the innovation of forward-thinkers everywhere, and encouraging your workplaces, communities and elected officials to prioritize policies that protect IP and the power of knowledge and innovation.

Media Contact:

Kristen Fitch Headshot 2024

Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing