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Pittsburgh Company to Open New Lab in State College, Partner with Penn State

by on August 20, 2017 5:00 AM

A Pittsburgh-based company will open a new facility for laboratory services in a new building at Innovation Park and partner with Penn State on research and development.

RJ Lee Group, an industrial forensics analytical laboratory, signed a memorandum of understanding for long-term collaboration with the university and announced on Friday a lease for space at 310 Innovation Boulevard, which is currently under construction.

The company does materials testing and one of its customers will be Morgan Advanced Materials, which also will occupy the building with a Carbon Science Center of Excellence (COE). The building developed as a result of a partnership between the U.K.-based company and Penn State through the Invent Penn State initiative, the university's program to spur economic development, job creation and student career success.

The building is expected to be completed in November, with both RJ Lee Group and Morgan opening in December.

Richard Lee, founder and president of RJ Lee Group, said the company was drawn to expand to Centre County because of the university's talent and resources and Invent Penn State.

"The university has tremendous resources and their primary mission is education, research, technology development," Lee said on Friday. "You need to couple that closely with the industries they might serve and might use their technology and develop vehicles to transport that technology from the laboratory out through an incubation period and into commercial. We’re the testing and we’re the incubator people in that environment."

The company has more than 1,600 clients worldwide and expects that that work will bring new research opportunities to the university while they also collaborate on Penn State-developed commercializing intellectual property.

Lee said the company expects to have 10 to 15 scientists and technicians at the Innovation Park building in the first year and could expand to up to 40 employees over five years. The company plans to provide services to customers while also working with Penn State's Materials Research Institute on advanced research projects.

Neil Sharkey, Penn State vice president for research, said the university is working to develop more partnerships that bring together companies like RJ Lee and Morgan and Penn State.

"Penn State is ranked 1 or 2 every year in material sciences. We are the best in the United States in this domain as a research university," Sharkey said. "We have just awesome facilities all around campus, so that’s very attractive to an RJ Lee or Morgan Scientific. This instrumentation, and the skill sets of the students and faculty to drive them and interface with the private sectors, it’s a match made in heaven. It will advance their agenda as well as really help us to grow the economy in Pennsylvania."

Sharkey added that students will have opportunities to intern with and learn from RJ Lee, and as the company grows, career opportunities will as well.

"New products and ideas and processes we can help develop in concert with Lee will actually lead to new jobs and we’re training the kind of students that will be taking those jobs," Sharkey said.

The Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County (CBICC) works with the university to support Invent Penn State and bring companies to the area. President and CEO Vern Squier said RJ Lee Group's location at Innovation Park will bring economic impact to the region, in the short-term and into the future.

"Working with RJ Lee Group on matters related to engagement with the local community has been a distinct component of this recruitment project, as the company sees its investment extending beyond the lease agreement and initial jobs that will be created.” Squier said.

Squier said CBICC is helping RJ Lee Group develop mutually beneficial relationships with other businesses in the area.

RJ Lee Group will occupy 2,700 square feet of the new 27,500 square foot building. Morgan's Center of Excellence will take up 10,800 square feet. 

Sharkey said the university has some plans for the rest of the building but is actively seeking tenants that can collaborate with the university and other businesses.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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