New partnership with Penn State New Kensington in future-readiness effort to transform the region

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation has signed a collaborative agreement to join the Penn State New Kensington-led NextovationTM initiative to lend assistance and expertise for the effort, which expects to break ground on a state-of-the-art digital innovation lab in fall 2020. The lab, scheduled to open in 2021 in the city of New Kensington, is a collaborative partnership between the campus and the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which awarded the project $5.5 million earlier this year. The University will also match $1 million of the gift through a program that offers matching funds for specific initiatives focused on economic development throughout Pennsylvania.

Dr. Robert A. Meeder, CEO & President of Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation and Energy Innovation Center, LP states: “The many related challenges we have all faced in 2020 alone reinforce the critical need to learn to become adept in adapting. There could not be a more important time to launch Nextovation. PGC is proud to be helping Penn State generate predictive tools that help persons and organizations thrive in the midst of the increasing velocity of change.”

The lab will serve a variety of stakeholders such as regional manufacturers and industry, K-12 school districts, college students, entrepreneurs, makers and workers in need of retraining or new job skills, therefore preparing the area and its current and future workforce for success in the digital age. The goal of the regional lab is to serve as the epicenter for training and access to modern software tools by integrating digital data into new product development, manufacturing, operations and overall business management in a variety of fields.

“We are looking forward to a fruitful partnership with Pittsburgh Gateways,” said Kevin Snider, chancellor at Penn State New Kensington. “Their expertise and work with communities and innovation will be an asset to our unique lab project, and I am energized by the many possibilities this collaboration will provide.”

It is expected that the lab will consist of demonstration and collaboration space, including work cells available for demonstrating or incubating products from local partners and innovators, in addition to space for fixed assets such as hardware and software stations, virtual and augmented reality spaces, an Industry 4.0 factory simulator and a maker space production area.

Pittsburgh Gateways’ involvement, which also includes its Energy Innovation Center, LP (EIC) in Pittsburgh, incorporates the following facilitated objectives:

  1. The employment of the lab’s inaugural director, Sherri McCleary, who will serve as its full-time leader to coordinate programming, outreach and funding opportunities, as well as build its strength and reputation regionally and nationally.
  2. Assist the director and staff to achieve the following goals:
    • Build a nationally recognized lab focused on meeting the future-ready preparedness of the small manufacturing and tool and die industries.
    • Develop partnerships with relevant organizations and potential sponsors to increase memberships and acquire new technologies.
    • Under the direction of Snider and project partners, manage the lab operations and lead employees within a confined budget for greater sustainability.
    • Develop nationally recognized, industry-relevant future-ready training and awareness programs for lab members and other targeted populations including industry, K-16 education and community members. This goal includes creating compelling content and an execution plan to deliver technology-based skillsets for all stakeholder groups.
    • Develop and lead a highly qualified team of contracted and shared resources in a collaborative, energized and focused environment to assist in preparing and strengthening regional business and industry organizations for the digital age.
    • Engage and build collaborative projects and programs with Penn State New Kensington and University faculty and students, as well as its research institutes, and other educational institutions to aid in preparing Rust Belt areas for future success. This would also include guiding research projects and internship opportunities at the lab.

“As we prepare for the lab’s groundbreaking, we are fortunate for partners like Pittsburgh Gateways so that we can continue to build upon our strong, collaborative foundation and plan to create a true regional asset and model for other communities,” said McCleary.

In addition to providing the aforementioned assistance, Pittsburgh Gateways is also proud to announce that Nextovation’s lab will become one of the five founding members of the EIC Innovation Hall. Penn State was the first institution to develop a presence at the EIC in 2015, and the new addition will add another dimension to the University’s affiliation at the site.

Under Snider’s leadership, the NextovationTM initiative and lab follows the Westmoreland County-based campus’ other successful programs and collaboratives over the past 10 years including its Invent Penn State innovation hub, The Corner, that anchors one end of New Kensington’s Corridor of Innovation, a five-block stretch of Fifth Ave. where robust revitalization has occurred in recent years and will also be home to the future digital lab. In addition, the campus also leads ABC CREATE, a consortium of 14 K-12 school districts in the region in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab to establish a robust network of educators prepared to teach the next generation of students through innovative STEAM education.

For more information, contact:

Liz Harper, Pittsburgh Gateways
412-651-2778 or 

Corinne Coulson, Penn State New Kensington
724-334-6164 or

About Pittsburgh Gateways
Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation’s mission is to provide strategic planning, development and direct management assistance for communities, community-based economic development organizations, research & academic institutions and private entities seeking the acceleration of technology-based businesses. Incorporated into this mission is our goal to combat community deterioration in the City of Pittsburgh and other economically distressed areas of Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. For more information, visit

About NextovationTM
Nextovation™ is an inclusive and collaborative initiative focused on real change and regional revitalization in the new digital economy, referred to as the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0). Spearheaded by Penn State New Kensington, it aims to create sustainable economic opportunities for individuals and businesses in New Kensington and surrounding communities. Using entrepreneurship, innovation, cutting edge technologies and skill sets, this cross-sector partnership engages K-16 education, business and industry, government entities, investors and community members to transform a Rust Belt area into a vital and competitive community in the digital age. Learn more at

About Penn State New Kensington
Penn State New Kensington is one of twenty-four campuses that comprise The Pennsylvania State University. Located just seventeen miles from the city of Pittsburgh, the campus is nestled on 72 wooded acres of Upper Burrell, Pennsylvania and is easily accessible from almost anywhere in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Indiana and Westmoreland Counties. Penn State New Kensington offers 10 baccalaureate and five associate degrees, as well as the first two years of almost all of Penn State’s 275+ majors through the University’s 2+2 plan. The campus continues to fulfill the University’s land grant mission through its ongoing efforts in the city of New Kensington to drive economic development, revitalization and to prepare the Rust Belt region for the next industrial revolution. For more information about Penn State New Kensington, please visit

About A Greater Penn State
This partnership will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit