Ben Franklin iXchange Highlights Innovators Past, Present, and Future

By Colin McEvoy on May 23, 2022

Angelo Valetta, President & CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, speaking at the 2022 ixXchange event.

Fostering innovation has always been a crucial element of the work of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP_NEPA). That’s why the theme of the organization’s iXchange event this year was “Innovators: Past, Present, and Future.”

“Innovation is central to our work at Ben Franklin, and more and more we are seeing the importance of innovation to accelerate growth and mitigate the downsides of that growth; to address crises; and to improve the human condition,” said BFTP_NEPA President & CEO Angelo Valetta. “Innovation and technology also create highly paid, family-sustaining jobs.”

Ben Franklin hosted its annual iXchange event virtually on May 18, which included the presentation of the 2022 Ben Franklin Technology Partners innovation award winners, as well as breakout chat rooms with guest innovators for further discussions among the attendees.

Valletta also provided an overview of the organization’s ongoing efforts to support companies to create high-paying jobs, catalyze technology-based economic growth in northeastern Pennsylvania, and advance technologies that improve the human condition.

“As we all know, we’ve had many challenges over the past two years,” Valletta said. “From the outset of the COVID pandemic, dozens of Ben Franklin clients applied technology quickly and effectively to address many issues, from biotechnology companies developing vaccines and tests, to telemedicine providers facilitating remote medicine, to learning platforms allowing instruction at home, and so much more.”

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) was a sponsor of the iXchange.

In 2021, BFTP_NEPA worked with 387 companies, and helped clients create or retain 7,356 jobs in northeastern Pennsylvania, Valletta said. Clients leveraged the organization’s  funding with an additional $1.7 billion in follow-on funding from angel investors, venture capitalists, and other investors.

“These outstanding impacts were achieved in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, and are evidence that investments in innovation are key in both good times and bad,” he said. “The resilience of so many of our clients during and after the pandemic is why they made it through and will go on to great success.”

The full video of the virtual 2022 iXchange event can be watched on YouTube or viewed below:

Chat rooms discussions were hosted by innovators past, present, and future, including Jeff Teschke, Founder & CEO of Forge3, Ltd.; George Boyajian, CEO, and David Schmidt, CFO of Mussel Polymers, Inc.; and Chris Ciesielka, CEO and Tony Powell, CTO of Orbweaver Sourcing, LLC.

Two Lehigh Valley companies were among the recipients of BFTP_NEPA’s innovation award this year, with U.S. Specialty Formulations (USSF) of Bethlehem winning the R. Chadwick Paul, Jr. Incubator Graduate Award, and Easton-based Tower Products, Inc. receiving the Innovative Application of Technology Award.

USSF manufactures sterile injectable pharmaceuticals used by healthcare providers. Working with fellow Ben Franklin client Vaxform, LLC, is developing an oral COVID-19 vaccine that will allow greater worldwide vaccine access and possibly protect patients better than injections.

“Ben Franklin has helped us fulfill our mission in revolutionizing the pharmaceutical industry, and also provided us the latitude to pivot our platform into the new oral COVID vaccine that we’ve developed in conjunction with Vaxform,” said Kyle Flanigan, USSF co-founder and CEO.

Tower Products is a recognized industry leader in supplying printers with pressroom chemistry aimed at increasing worker safety, improving the printing process, and being environmentally compliant. The company strongly demonstrates a “break-the-mold” approach to integrating new or existing technology into its business.

“As a manufacturer, we are obsessed with innovation, and in this case we really did break the mold in implementing our new ERP system,” said Rick Principato, CEO of Tower Products. “What we have been able to accomplish since the implementation has been nothing short of amazing.”

Other innovation award winners included MXTR Automation (Entrepreneurial Achievement Award), American Paper Bag (Product Innovation Award), United Gilsonite Laboratories (Manufacturing Achievement Award), and Adhezion Biomedical, LLC (Frederick J. Beste III Partnership Award).

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