December 05, 2014, BY Matt Hughes

BizPitch is getting a lot bigger.

A $500,000 Discovered in PA – Developed in PA (D2PA) grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development will expand the 2015 iteration of Bucknell University's annual Business Pitch Competition into a multi-school event with a larger pool of funds available to winning pitches.

Awarded to the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, the D2PA grant will support Inc. U, an 18-month collaboration between Bucknell, Pitt-Johnstown and Penn State University to develop new courses in entrepreneurship and provide outreach and support for young entrepreneurs.

Pennsylvania is a leader in innovation because we are helping to provide our young entrepreneurs with the tools they need to launch and grow their companies," Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said in announcing the grant. "Our student entrepreneurs are our future and we are proud to support the collaboration of Inc. U."

"Support from our D2PA grant will help us to create new student-focused competitions and networking opportunities that link to curricular elements and facilitate a fully immersive experience in entrepreneurship," said Keith Buffinton, dean of the College of Engineering. "The students we are educating today will become part of the long list of Bucknellians who have founded new ventures (such as LendingTree, Home Depot, Kiva, StellaService and Masik Collegiate Fragrances) and thus have a significant impact on the creation of new jobs and new companies." | Read more about entrepreneurship at Bucknell.

The Inc. U project will expand Bucknell's annual BizPitch competition — held in conjunction with Global Entrepreneurs Week since 2012 — into a multi-university contest, and will significantly up the stakes for student startups. While previous pitch contests offered set prizes of $500–$1,500 for the top three finishers (doubled this year to $1,000–$3,000 with support from Bucknell President John Bravman), the 2015 contest will be a Shark Tank-style program where students will request funding from a larger prize pool — and justify why their business should be awarded those funds.

"Additionally, the award will provide enhanced support for these student startups as they prepare for the competition and after the event," said Steven Stumbris, director of the Bucknell Small Business Development Center (SBDC). "It is in this critical period that students will derive great benefit from membership in Bucknell's Entrepreneurs Incubator in downtown Lewisburg, where they will interact with startups from the community."

The grant will also support development of entrepreneur showcases and best practice summits at the partner schools. These events, coordinated by SBDC and Bucknell's Ecosystem of Entrepreneurship Steering Committee, will highlight local startups and provide networking opportunities to enhance the innovation ecosystem of the surrounding region.

These events will add to a long list of efforts to spur the entrepreneurial mindset in students and make Bucknell a regional and national center of innovation, which includes the Arts Entrepreneurship minor, the Entrepreneurship & Innovation affinity house, IDEAS (Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship, Applications, and Systems) courses and KEEN (Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network) design challenges.

"This award recognizes how Bucknell's unique character — where undergraduate engineering and management programs collaborate in a liberal arts setting to create thought-leaders and doers — makes it a perfect setting for young entrepreneurs," Stumbris said. "It is at these well-travelled intersections that this grant will help us to further develop support for entrepreneurs."