Pennovation Works

Pennovation Works

Site and Development Plan

The Pennovation Works (formerly called South Bank) is a University of Pennsylvania real estate asset, located along the Schuylkill River at the intersection of 34th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue. This 23-acre former heavy industrial site offers the opportunity to accommodate a variety of uses that support the research and entrepreneurial mission of both University clients and third party commercial tenants.  Pennovation Works is in a highly visible location that is well connected to the region, Center City, and University City.  It is envisioned to become a keystone in the emerging Lower Schuylkill Innovation District.  Recent investments in open space trails have connected the site to the Schuylkill River with dedicated public access and riverside amenities.

The site, and surroundings, are industrial in character, and contain a range of buildings, from wide-span warehouse facilities to an advanced research laboratory.  The development plan articulates a phased approach, with initial activity focused on constructing light industrial and flex-use buildings.  Landscaping for the entire Pennovation Works site will include stormwater management techniques, increased connections between buildings, and access to the Schuylkill River trails.


Phase I Design and Development

Conceptual Rendering of Pennovation Works, aerial
Conceptual Rendering of Pennovation Works Aerial Site Perspective

This first phase of development at the Pennovation Works is a $37.5 million investment by Penn and includes the Pennovation Center, site landscaping and infrastructure improvements, along with signage and branding. The site planning calls for design of the Pennovation Plaza and surrounding landscape which establishes a connection from the perimeter inward and forms a central active outdoor hub for tenants, as well as an instrumented, outdoor robotics lab. 

The creative design team which has collaborated with Penn on the project includes HWKN, design architect; KSS Architects, architect of record; landscape architects Land Collective; and graphic design consultants Bruce Mau Design.

Completion of the Pennovation Center and the first phase of the Pennovation Works site improvements is anticipated in the summer of 2016 with the Penn Engineering lab opening in spring 2015.

Pennovation Center

The Pennovation Works will be anchored by the Pennovation Center, a business incubator and laboratory that will align and integrate researchers and entrepreneurs for the translation of basic research into products, services, and new business ventures.  The 58,000 sq. ft. facility will house two floors of co-working space designed to support individual entrepreneurs and startups from the University and the private sector seeking affordable and flexible office space. The Center will create and host workshops, programs and professional-development resources for this community. These floors will include wet and dry labs with shared lab-support equipment, meeting rooms and social areas. The third floor will be occupied by the Penn Engineering Field Research Center, integrating computer science and electrical, mechanical and systems engineering.

Pennovation center rendering

Conceptual vision for the Pennovation Center. 

Tenants and Leasing

The Pennovation Works has been attracting tenants to the space since 2010 through the adaptive use of existing buildings and some new construction, including such innovators as:

  • Amriton -- developing low cost, regenerable and reusable water filters for water and pharmaceutical industries, with emphasis on water reuse application.
  • COSY -- focusing on leveraging University research for enabling industry solutions in computer vision, perception, and artificial intelligence.
  • Exyn Technologies -- commercializing micro aerial vehicle research.
  • Penn Design Studio -- Graduate architecture students use this studio space to design and construct through hands-on work, focused on acquiring knowledge through making.
  • PERCH (Penn Engineering Research and Collaboration Hub) -- faculty, staff and students will pursing research on robotics, embedded systems, and the “Internet of Things”.
  • PCI Ventures -- promotes entrepreneurial activities and new company formation around Penn's leading research and innovations;
  • Penn Vet Working Dog Center --  the premier educational and research facility dedicated to harnessing the unique strengths of our canine partners for public safety and human health;
  • Penn Dental Research Greenhouse -- conducting research on plants as shelf-stable incubators for medicine at a cost effective distribution method;
  • Penn School of Arts & Sciences Bio Garden -- researching the impact of insects on plants; 
  • Penn Transit Services -- the fleet management operation of the University, including a new sustainable propane fueling station for the city; a pilot shuttle service is offered to the Penn community;
  • Qualcomm Research Philadelphia -- A division of the Fortune 100 company Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., this growing team of researchers and engineers work on research, development, and commercialization of leading-edge technology for aerial vehicles and robotic systems.
  • Novapeutics -- established through Penn’s UPStart program, developing treatment for diabetes;
  • Netronix -- remote monitoring solutions for a variety of environmental conditions;
  • Edible Philly -- local offices of a national publishing company focused on culinary arts; 
  • The Philadelphia Free Library Operations Center.


Pennovation Works In the News

May 24, 2016
The Pennovation Center Signs Hershey as First Corporate Sponsor of Penn’s New Innovation Hub (Press Release)

May 10, 2016
Say Goodbye to the University City You Know
Flying Kite Media

May 2, 2016
Top 10 U.S. Biopharma Clusters
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

April 11, 2016
Penn Engineering Launches PERCH, a New Research Facility at the Pennovation Center (Press Release)

January 2016
Science Nonfiction: Mapping a New Market for Robotics Technology
Penn Engineering Magazine

December 11, 2015
Look for Corporate Presence on the Pennovation Works Campus
Philadelphia Business Journal

December 11, 2015
Amy Gutmann’s Big Dreams
Philadelphia Business Journal

October 8, 2015
Benjamin's Desk to Operate Pennovation Center
Philadelphia Business Journal

February 26, 2015
Penn Trustees Approve Design for Pennovation Center at Pennovation Works Site
Penn News

January 23, 2015
Transformations: 50 things that will change Philadelphia in 2015
Philadelphia Business Journal

Jan/Feb 2015
Tracing the Digital Revolution at Penn's New Home for Innovation
The Pennsylvania Gazette

November 11, 2014
Penn's South Bank campus gets a new name; Pennovation Center breaks ground
Flying Kite

November 11, 2014
14 development projects that will transform Philadelphia
Flying Kite

November 4, 2014
Celebrating Innovation and Showcasing Penn’s Pennovation Works
Penn Almanac

July 11, 2014
The startup of something big
Philadelphia Business Journal

March 5, 2014
Inside Penn's Vision for South Bank as a Start-Up Incubator, Research Hub
Plan Philly

June 5, 2013
River of Industry
The Architect's Newspaper

January 5, 2013
Over the River: Penn South Bank in Gray's Ferry Will Be A Knowledge Gateway
Penn Gazette

June 18, 2012
University of Pennsylvania Expanding East of the Schuylkill
The Inquirer

September 25, 2010
Penn Purchasing 23 Acres Across Schuylkill
The Inquirer


For more development information on the Pennovation Works and the Pennovation Center, visit: