Ben Franklin News

Ben Franklin to Invest $875,000 In Regional Economic Development

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s (BFTP/NEP) Board of Directors approved the investment of $875,000 in support of regional economic development. The investments are with seven early-stage technology companies.

BFTP/NEP’s goal is to help lead northeastern Pennsylvania to a better economic future by building partnerships that develop and apply technology for competitive advantage. To achieve this goal, Ben Franklin staff concentrate their efforts on three key areas:

  1. developing early-stage technology-oriented companies,
  2. helping established manufacturers creatively apply new technology and business practices to achieve industry leadership, and
  3. promoting an innovative community-wide infrastructure that fosters a favorable business environment for high-growth companies.

Since beginning operation, BFTP/NEP has helped to create 14,301 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers and to retain 21,236 existing jobs, to start 408 new companies, and to develop 948 new products and processes. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania is headquartered on the campus of Lehigh University and operates Ben Franklin TechVentures, an award-winning business incubator/post-incubator facility, in Bethlehem, and the Bloomsburg Regional Technology Center in Bloomsburg. The Pennsylvania Ben Franklin Technology Partners network has returned $3.50 to the state treasury for every $1.00 invested in the program. 

Ben Franklin will make four investments from its operating funds:

BioSample Solutions LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, Northampton County
Ben Franklin Investment: $70,000
Complete development and begin commercialization of the BioCookie™, a proprietary new sample preparation technique for application in DNA and RNA extraction technology. BioSample manufactures DNA and RNA extraction kits for laboratory tests on blood and saliva. These tests will allow for the development of increasingly sophisticated drugs and more personalized medicine regimes. Sample preparation will be greatly simplified and accomplished at twice the speed.

Pivitec, LLC, Coplay, Lehigh County
Ben Franklin Investment: $70,000
Complete design of four hardware products and one software control application for this developer of audio streaming and distribution products. Pivitec uses mobile devices and personal computers as interactive controllers for its network devices. The company’s first products combine several new technologies that address problems in professional audio productions in live performance venues like Broadway theatre and contemporary houses of worship, and in studio recording. Products in development target audio networking and control solutions for commercial applications in facilities like boardrooms, airports, meeting rooms, and in classrooms.

PROVA Systems, LLC, Carbondale, Lackawanna County
Ben Franklin Investment: $35,000
PROVA manufactures a wireless diagnostic device for use in passenger cars and light duty trucks. This device allows proactive, real-time field management of vehicles using data derived from its usage patterns and collected from its on-board computers. The devices provide a unified set of data points for analysis from any vehicle, allowing for an efficiency comparison among a company’s entire fleet. This project will help PROVA develop a business plan, file patent applications, upgrade marketing materials, develop key contracts with potential resellers and licensors, and complete a redesign of a product module to reduce manufacturing costs.

RantNetwork, Inc., Bloomsburg, Columbia County
Ben Franklin Investment: $50,000
Expand the marketing and development initiatives of RantNetwork’s “Communilator” application for language translation in mobile phones. Communilator™ is the first mobile phone language translation application capable of reading and translating foreign text, such as books, posters, and menus, real-time in more than 50 languages and 3,000 language pairs, captured with the host’s mobile phone camera. The application also provides voice translation from text keyed in from the host’s mobile phone in more than 20 foreign languages. It can send and receive SMS and e-mail translations and post translations to Twitter and Facebook. Communilator is targeted to individuals involved with international business, travel, and global social networking, and for the legal, medical, and academic professions. It can provide a key component of second-language support programs, such as ESL. RantNetwork is developing Voice-to-Text, Voice-to-Voice, and “Live Connection,™” that will provide instant access to live translators real-time. RantNetwork recently signed an exclusive contract with Etihad Etisalat for the distribution of its Arabic version of the Communilator in Saudi Arabia through the mobile phone operator, Mobily.

Ben Franklin will also invest in companies through its grant from the Alternative Energy Development Program (AEDP). Pennsylvania’s AEDP was created in July 2008 to incent collaboration to save energy costs, reduce dependence on foreign fuels, expand clean energy production, and create energy-related jobs in the state. Under the AEDP, BFTP/NEP receives funding to invest in the development and growth of energy-related companies in its 21-county area.

Northeastern Pennsylvania is rich in natural resources, including anthracite coal reserves, anthracite culm banks, and the vast Marcellus shale natural gas reserves. There is a diversity of industrial activity related to energy throughout northeastern Pennsylvania, including several Ben Franklin clients in sectors such as advanced energy storage, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and alternative/clean fuels.

Ben Franklin will make three investments from its AEDP allocation:

Electrikus Incorporated, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, Northampton County
Ben Franklin Investment: $150,000
Produce an initial batch of up to 100 refrigerator power backup units and begin market penetration efforts. Electrikus has patented its ElectroFlo technology, a technologically innovative and energy-smart battery backup system for use with lighting and critical home appliances. Electrikus’ initial product, the Illumaguard, provides up to 10 hours of back-up for residential lighting in the event of a power outage. The product is inconspicuous and intelligent in the way it discharges and recharges, and allows a household lamp to light automatically at the onset of a power outage.

Hydro Recovery LP, Blossburg, Tioga County
Ben Franklin Investment: $250,000
Establish a manufacturing plant in Tioga County, a central location in the Marcellus Shale drilling region, to treat water used in the exploration for natural gas, and convert the water into reusable products to be used in the stimulation of natural gas recovery. The treatment process utilizes “frac” water. Frac water accumulates total dissolved solids during natural gas exploration that cannot be released untreated. Hydro Recovery’s process converts the used frac water to a Hydraulic Stimulation Fluid (HSF™), which can subsequently be reused to extract more natural gas. This process will eliminate the need to transport wastewater over long distances. Further, by recycling frac water into a reusable product, it will reduce the environmental impact of gas extraction by saving millions of gallons of freshwater each year.  Hydro Recovery recycles 100% of waters used in the treatment process; thereby eliminating discharge of treated water into Pennsylvania waterways.

ZeroTruck Corporation, Allentown, Lehigh County
Ben Franklin Investment: $250,000
Complete development of a proprietary continuous variable transmission for medium-duty all-electric trucks. ZeroTruck’s next-generation electric drive integration system will be installed in new truck chassis to convert gasoline and diesel trucks to zero-emission plug-in electric vehicles. With surging fuel costs, expanding environmental protection regulation, and public demand for environmentally friendly transportation, the electric vehicle market continues to grow. ZeroTruck plans to establish its production facility in the Lehigh Valley.