If the only thing that comes to mind when you think of Pittsburgh is the Steelers, the Pirates, Primanti Brothers., and its unmistakable bridges, you may want to broaden your horizons all the way to the final frontier.
That’s because the Steel City is on the leading edge of the new space race, including the lunar lander developed by Astrobotic. And, as our new content partners at Technical.ly reported last year, Pennsylvania’s second-largest city has long played a role in the nation’s efforts to boldly go where no one has gone before.
On Thursday, during a stop at the Keystone Space Conference in the city, state Community & Economic Development Secretary Rick Siger announced the state’s newest steps on that journey.
That includes a $200,000 award, through the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority to the Keystone Space Collaborative, a nonprofit group that supports the space sector in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
That money, in turn, will be used to support a region-wide pilot program known as the Keystone Space Innovation Challenge, the administration said in a statement.
“The Shapiro administration is thrilled to support Pennsylvania’s growing space industry,” Siger said in a statement. “The Commonwealth’s diverse space ecosystem is rooted in a legacy of innovation and is supported by a highly educated workforce and world-class research institutions. We look forward to building on Pennsylvania’s success, and ensuring our companies continue to lead the way in this dynamic sector.”
The Keystone Space Innovation Challenge is a new program designed by the Keystone Space Collaborative in partnership with Innovation Works, itself a partner of the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, the administration said.
“Winners of the challenge will receive funding to support the mission lifecycle (design, development, testing, launch and in-space operations, and return/post-mission reporting) of suborbital and Low Earth Orbit microgravity experiments,” according to the administration.
On Thursday, Siger also announced that his agency had approved an expansion of the Greater Oakland Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) to include the “growing space industry in the city’s North Side,” the agency said in its statement.
The expansion will allow eligible, early stage technology companies to receive up to $100,000 in tax credits. The companies can either sell the credits — which provides startups with badly needed cash — or use them against their state tax liability, officials said.
The new boundaries of the expanded taxing zone will include an area surrounding the Carnegie Science Center, the administration said.
“Expanding the Greater Oakland Keystone Innovation Zone gives the Commonwealth a great opportunity to incentivize and nurture the outstanding work being done at our academic institutions in the space industry,” Siger said. “A growing ecosystem of startup firms will also help strengthen our manufacturing sector, attract new businesses, and spur further innovation.”
Audrey Russo, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, which manages the taxing zone, said the expansion will create “a powerful magnet to attract entrepreneurs and start-ups that can leverage that technology and research to build viable companies, that in turn, will help change the world.”