Education and Training
Start-Up Incubator and Accelerator
Currently under development, the PA FDC start-up incubator will provide critical support and services to customers. Entrepreneurs and start-ups will have access to resources and services such as space, tools, and a network of technical and business mentors. The new location of the PA FDC allows for flexible hoteling space and dedicated areas for the four AFFOA Manufacturing Thrusts – Computer Aided Design of Integrated Textiles (CAD-IT), Fiber and Yarn Devices (FYD), Textiles Systems Assemblies (TSA) and System integration (SI).
Customers will benefit from a community of complementary and collaborative expertise comprised of the AFFOA Pennsylvania members and their academic networks and organizations geared towards advancing the functional fabrics innovation. Customers will be able to leverage the community of peers and other stakeholders in support of their idea or technology. This includes, but is not limited to, government and venture development organizations, non-profit organizations, industry and academic innovators, and seed capital investors.
The accelerator component of the PA FDC will use customer-developed approaches to validate the assumed value propositions of a given technology or idea. An industry-specific mentor will work with customers to “de-risk” both the business and technology components of their start-up enterprise.
Mentors and Advisors
In addition to the planned incubation and acceleration programs, the PA FDC will serve as mentor and advisor to connect entrepreneurs to numerous economic development programs and services throughout the Greater Philadelphia Region. A number of these programs are located on Drexel’s campus and in Schuylkill Yards. The PA FDC Resources and Referral network will help start-ups identify a provider and the program and services they offer based on specific needs. The PA FDC Resources and Referral Network includes the following providers: Ben Franklin Technology Partners; DVIRC; the consortium of economic development and business assistance organizations throughout Pennsylvania; the Commonwealth, Dept. of Community and Economic Development; Drexel and the Science Center; CEO Council for Growth of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and private sector partners across the healthcare supply chain; PHL Next Stage; DreamIT; and SBA funded to Wharton School, Penn, and Temple University.
In 1919, Drexel University introduced its experiential learning program through cooperative education to support its core mission (formulated at the university’s founding in 1891) of providing practical education that prepares students for careers in new industries, making no restrictions on religion, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Today, Drexel embraces experiential learning through Design, Technology and Entrepreneurship, which mirrors AFFOA’s goal of creating and educating manufacturers of functional fabrics. Significant growth in the functional fabrics industrial sector is challenged by the absence of the highly skilled workforce needed to produce these advanced materials and devices of the future. This problem is part of the broader national challenge to preserve on-shore manufacturing of high-value products that are initially developed and prototyped in the U.S. Lacking a properly trained workforce, companies will invariably consider moving their manufacturing facilities out of the U.S.
We must develop a comprehensive strategy to reverse this trend, with a robust education and workforce development (EWD) plan that aims to train a substantial number and wide variety of domestic functional fabrics workers, such as technicians, machine programmers, engineers, designers, and material scientists. The PA FDC proposes to implement a wide spectrum of transdisciplinary EWD activities to accommodate workers at all career stages. This is under development. Stay tuned for more details.