Research commercialization leader joins College of Agricultural Sciences

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Maria Spencer has joined the Entrepreneurship & Innovation team in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences as the first John and Patty Warehime Entrepreneur in Residence. 

An experienced professional at helping researchers and startups successfully navigate commercialization, Spencer has worked with hundreds of researchers, businesses and entrepreneurs on licensing, business startups, expansion and new product-development initiatives. She holds a doctoral degree in workforce education and development from Penn State. 

“I was very specifically drawn to the College of Agricultural Sciences because of the work being done here,” said Spencer. “There is so much research and discovery that is so timely and fundamentally important to the world we are living in. It will be my privilege to help researchers navigate the path from lab to market so this work can realize its full potential.” 

Spencer previously served as a business consultant at the Penn State Small Business Development Center, as a mentor for the TechCelerator program, and as an instructor for the College of Engineering. She is a former business portfolio strategist for Penn State Academic Outreach and assistant director for the Penn State Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Her role in the newly created and endowed position is to support the college’s researchers and inventors through the technology-commercialization process and to foster productive relationships between the college and industry. Among other tasks, Spencer will assist researchers in developing ideas with commercial potential, completing proof-of-concept testing, and supporting intellectual property protection.

"Maria provides our college with considerable expertise in research commercialization and entrepreneur mentoring as well as small business and economic development,” said Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Her academic qualifications in organizational development and her experience will strengthen our college's research-commercialization efforts, which are part of Invent Penn State. Maria's very approachable style will be appreciated by both faculty and students."

The John and Patty Warehime Entrepreneur in Residence position is the result of a $1 million gift endowment from John and Patty Warehime in late 2017. Their gift was combined with $1 million in matching funds as part of the University’s “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence” campaign. John Warehime is a 1964 graduate of the College of Agricultural Sciences and chairman of Hanover Foods Corp. 

“We are delighted by the college’s choice for the first John and Patty Warehime Entrepreneur in Residence,” said the Warehimes. “Dr. Maria Spencer has extensive experience and is the perfect person to help students and faculty members bring their ideas and products to the marketplace.”

“We are very fortunate to have Dr. Spencer join our E&I team in the College of Agricultural Sciences,” said  C. Daniel Azzara, Alan R. Warehime Professor of Agribusiness and director of entrepreneurship and innovation. “Her experience working with researchers and entrepreneurs as they look to commercialize their solutions to a variety of problems is extremely valuable to our program. As the John and Patty Warehime Entrepreneur in Residence, Dr. Spencer will serve as an ‘innovation coach,’ working to facilitate faculty through the process of commercialization.”

About the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program

Established in 2013, the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program in the College of Agricultural Sciences adds value to new ideas and research discoveries by encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset among students and faculty.

Part of Invent Penn State, a Commonwealth-wide initiative to drive job creation, economic development, and student career success by connecting students and faculty researchers with people who can help bring their products and services to the marketplace, the program sponsors a minor program, a startup business competition for students, and a competitive Research Applications for Innovation (RAIN) grant program. Since 2013, more than $1 million in RAIN grants have been awarded to 16 projects.

The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences represents the foundation of Penn State University and its land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has begun “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a fast-paced campaign focused on three key imperatives: Open Doors, Create Transformative Experiences, and Impact the World. 

Through teaching, research and Extension, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of Agricultural Sciences is able to offer scholarships to one in four students; create life-shaping opportunities; and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit

In her newly created and endowed position, Maria Spencer will support the college’s researchers and inventors through the technology-commercialization process and foster productive relationships between the college and industry. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated August 28, 2018