Innovation Works (IW), a top investor in Pittsburgh’s technology economy, will partner local startups with established manufacturers in the region through a new program called Scalable Innovation.

Sponsored by IW, Scalable Innovation was designed to build a community of manufacturers and young entrepreneurs and encourage them to work together in order to achieve growth.

The program launched yesterday during an event at SMG Global Circuits, a Washington, PA circuit board manufacturer participating in the program. Among those in attendance were state legislators, area business leaders, and representatives from the Pittsburgh startup community, including Mike Formica of the 3D scanning business threeRivers 3D and Avi Geller of Maven Machines, a company that develops wearable smart technology for the transportation industry.

“For entrepreneurs, it helps to know the manufacturing expertise right here in their own backyard,” says IW manufacturing program manager Afshan Khan. “For the manufacturers who are busy with their day-to-day operations, it gives them a window into all the different kinds of technologies and growth opportunities out there that they can participate in.”

Khan believes that the program will provide expertise to the 500 early-stage companies coming through IW and their partners, including the AlphaLab Gear tech accelerator. Startup entrepreneurs can learn valuable skills from manufacturers, including product design and development and prototyping.

Maven Machines CEO and founder Avi Geller (right) at Scalable Innovation launch. Image courtesy of Innovation Works.

Maven Machines CEO and founder Avi Geller (right) at Scalable Innovation launch. Image courtesy of Innovation Works.

The relationship will also help manufacturing, which is a major contributor to the local economy. Currently, Southwestern PA is home to around 3,000 manufacturers, making it the third largest industry and job provider in the region. Despite its influence, however, there are still challenges to overcome.

“The manufacturing sector is very well established,” says Khan. “But much like other parts of the country, it has had a stagnancy for quite some time and has not experienced a lot of growth.”

Scalable Innovation promises to create new revenue opportunities for manufacturers through their relationships with Pittsburgh’s burgeoning tech economy.

Last October, IW tested the program with the Scalable Expo at AlphaLab Gear headquarters, where a handful of tech entrepreneurs met with more than a dozen various manufacturers.

Khan says IW is in the initial planning stages for the AdRich DesignJam, a new Scalable Innovation event that gathers tech and manufacturing experts to collaborate on helping to develop new startup products. They will focus on the new Replete product from AdRich, a company that specializes in creating intelligent packaging for consumer goods such as food and beverages. Among those expected to participate in DesignJam are local distilleries Wigle Whiskey and Boyd & Blair, as well as a select group of product, industrial and user interface designers, manufacturers, inventory managers and bartenders.