Our Programs

Urban Innovation21 Program Overview

Urban Innovation21 believes that an inclusive innovation economy is key to increasing regional competitiveness and sustainability.  Our “Inclusive Innovation” Model is an economic development approach that is working to make sure that all communities are connected to the Pittsburgh Region’s Economic prosperity. Learn More


Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone Program (PCKIZ)

The Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) program started in 2004 to address the lack of entrepreneurial activity and knowledge economy growth around Pennsylvania’s research and development clusters. There are 28 KIZ in the state of PA and the PCKIZ is one of the most successful KIZs. The 28 KIZs located throughout Pennsylvania serve both rural and urban regions and are partnered up with over 91 Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) that range from research universities to local community colleges. The PCKIZ program provides participating companies with access to grants, capital, access to interns and networking opportunities. Since inception, the KIZ program has assisted in the creation of more than 7,500 jobs and leveraged more than $3.5 billion in funding. Learn More.


Community-Based Grant Competition

The region’s economic transformation has not benefitted all communities. Despite our success, poverty exists throughout the region. This contrast can most readily be seen in Pittsburgh’s diverse neighborhoods where high-income communities are directly adjacent to very low-income communities. Our goal is to create a cluster of successful businesses owned by residents of underserved communities that are connected and profiting from our region’s prosperity. Learn More

  • Urban Innovation21 works with hundreds of community-based entrepreneurs each year
  • Through its community-based grant competitions Urban Innovation21 screens and provides approximately 30 of the most promising community-based businesses with wrap around services
  • Successful Entrepreneurs are connected with contracts with small and large anchors.

Inclusive Innovation Equitable Economic Development Programs

Urban Innovation21 is working to connect low to moderate-income communities and its residents to the new economy through equitable development strategies.  The Pittsburgh region’s economic transformation has not benefitted all communities. Despite our success, poverty persists throughout the region. This contrast can be seen throughout the city where high-income communities are directly adjacent to very low-income communities.   Learn More.
The cluster of high growth businesses spurred by Urban Innovation21 through the PCKIZ program has helped to spur a variety of equitable economic development projects that are connecting disconnected communities and the residents that live in those communities to our region’s innovation economy. A few of these economic development projects are the Hill District Grocery Store project, the Energy Innovation Center, StartUptown.  


Urban Innovation21 Inclusive Innovation Internship and Workforce Development Programs

 Since 2008, Urban Innovation21 has administered a variety of internship opportunities for a vast range of college students to intern with innovative economy companies, local manufacturing companies, and various departments within UPMC Health Plan. These opportunities have provided interns with “real life” work experience, expanded their professional networks, increased their employment marketability, and have led to securing full-time employment in our region.  To date Urban Innovation21 has placed 596 interns with paid internship opportunities in high growth opportunities. 60% of the participants are and women and 40% are underrepresented minorities.  Learn More.


Pittsburgh Wealth-Building Initiative (PWBI)

The Pittsburgh Wealth-Building Initiative is the home to several Urban Innovation21 programs that are working to catalyze the creation of entrepreneurship opportunities, employee-owned/community-based businesses.  PWBI programs include Urban Innovation21/ Reed Smith Pro Bono Legal Services Programs, Urban Innovation21 Community Based Business Programs and the Pittsburgh Minority Business Accelerator Initiative.   Learn More.  

  • Urban Innovation21/Reed Smith Pro Bono Legal Services.  Urban Innovation21 has partner with Reed Smith LLP, a global law firm with more than 1,800 lawyers in 26 offices, to provide pro bono legal representation to select community-based businesses since 2013. These businesses sign an attorney/client engagement letter that outlines the scope of legal services that are provided and Reed Smith’s standard engagement limitations that it has with any pro bono client, and Reed Smith endeavors to provide the same level of top quality legal services to the businesses in the program that it provides to the fortune 1000 companies that pay for representation.  Since this program started in 2012 Reed Smith has provided approximately $700,000 in legal services to over thirty businesses.   Learn More.   
  • The Pittsburgh Minority Business Accelerator Initiative will primarily address the need to support and accelerate high-growth enterprises owned by entrepreneurs of underrepresented populations.  The PMBAI will leverage the capabilities and strengths of the region’s sizable and influential institutions to drive their procurement activities to minority-owned businesses. This will ultimately impact the region by strengthening and expanding the minority entrepreneurial community, thus increasing employment and improving the economic conditions in underserved communities.  Learn More.  

Citizen Science Lab

In January 2015, Duquesne University and Urban Innovation21 launched the CSL as a program of Urban Innovation21. CSL is a $1,200,000 state of the art life science laboratory that has the same equipment that many university laboratories have. CSL is the first and only life sciences community lab in Pittsburgh. The CSL is doing so well that the UI21 board of directors decided and approved for UI21 to begin the process to spin UI21 out as its own 501c3. Learn More.


Kiva Pittsburgh

Kiva Pittsburgh is one of the cities highlighted in the Kiva City program. Kiva is an international nonprofit based in San Francisco, CA with a goal to create a world where all people hold the power to create opportunities for themselves and others. Kiva’s innovative crowdfunding platform democratizes small business capital so that entrepreneurs of all backgrounds can access capital to launch or grow a business. Kiva Pittsburgh focuses on helping local Pittsburgh businesses get the financing they need to grow and create jobs. Kiva Pittsburgh is made possible by a unique partnership of community groups, local government, foundations, and Kiva Trustees working together to connect Pittsburgh entrepreneurs to Kiva lenders at home and around the world.