College to Host National Business and Engineering Conference

In 2001, after losing market share for its original product – personal computers – Apple introduced something new: a digital jukebox called iTunes. Advertisements promised “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Apple is now the nation’s largest music retailer. It’s also an archetype for modern corporate entrepreneurship, said Paul Lynch, an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

“If Apple didn’t have big-thinking people who weren’t afraid to try something different, the company likely wouldn’t exist today,” Lynch said. “They basically started a new business from within Apple.”

Lynch, a vice president of the National Organization for Business and Engineering (NOBE), a network of business, management and engineering organizations atStudents work in a business lab at Penn State Behrend. U.S. universities, has adapted the Apple story for the 2017 NOBE national conference, which will be held at Penn State Behrend March 24-26. The theme of the conference, “Corporate Entrepreneurship: Building Businesses from the Inside Out,” will explore the ways established brands pursue opportunities outside of their traditional markets.

“People tend to view entrepreneurship as an individual effort,” Lynch said. “There’s also an element of it at the corporate level, however. To stay relevant, companies need young, new-minded people who think outside the box.”

Students from more than 10 universities, including Drexel, McGill and Penn State’s University Park campus, are expected to attend the conference. They will compete in a case competition, in which they will be challenged to build business plans for an existing company. The 2016 conference challenge was based on Airbnb.

Penn State Behrend is uniquely positioned to support NOBE’s mission, said Matthew Nicol, president of the college’s NOBE chapter. The Jack Burke Research and Economic Development Center was designed to encourage collaborations between students and faculty members in the Black School of Business and the college’s School of Engineering. The Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center, in the college’s Knowledge Park, is the first known example of a U.S. college or university co-locating academia and industry in a shared open-lab environment.

Penn State Behrend offers degree programs in Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering Studies and, at the master’s level, Manufacturing Management – collaborative programs of the Black School of Business and the School of Engineering.

“The ability to work with diverse cross-functional teams is no longer a luxury for companies, but a necessity,” said Nicol, a senior from Titusville. “With our interdisciplinary degree offerings and the opportunities in Knowledge Park, where students can intern, conduct research and work with companies, we’re already cultivating those skills.”

To learn more about the 2017 NOBE conference, or to register, contact Lynch at