Pennovation Center Poised to Rewire Science, Spirit of Entrepreneurship


Every shimmering detail of the University of Pennsylvania’s new business incubator and lab is cutting edge, right down the 3D printed scissors ushered on stage by a robot to cut the ceremonial ribbon.

Over the past few months, the futuristic Pennovation Center has quietly gotten to work on a mission that seeks nothing less than to change the way Philadelphia’s community of scientific entrepreneurs connects with the city, the region and the world.

In a city that has sometimes been faulted for favoring competition over collaboration among start-up ventures, the 23-acre Pennovation Works campus is as much a social experiment — an agora for local entrepreneurs — as it is a West Philadelphia birthplace for commercial-grade technology.

“The future ain’t what it used to be,” Penn President Amy Gutmann told a crowd of several hundred people, quoting Yogi Berra via French poet Paul Valéry. “It’s better.”

Six years ago, the University of Pennsylvania bought the old DuPoint industrial site with the vision of a village for the city’s most knowledgeable innovators in business, medicine, technology and social engagement. The ultramodern facility that emerged last summer, a 58,000-square-foot adaptive reuse of the former paint plant, was designed by New York-based HWKN and KSS Architects, with management led by Benjamin’s Desk.

“Our goal was to create these run-ins that change the game of innovation,” said HWKN co-founder Matthias Hollwich, “where biochemists meet engineers and entrepreneurs. This building won’t be famous for architecture but for innovations that will change the world and make it a better place.”

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