The Blast Furnace is the University of Pittsburgh student idea accelerator that provides student entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills they need to commercialize their ideas. The program gives students of all levels across the University access to a deep mentor network, co-working space, and a hands-on, experiential curriculum.

Upon completion, students are ready to launch their business, raise funding, or apply to accelerators such as AlphaLab, AlphaLab Gear, Ascender (formerly Thrill Mill) and IdeaFoundry. The Blast Furnace was created by the University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute for Pitt students at all levels who have a desire to be entrepreneurial, create new products, services or businesses and receive hands-on learning on how to accomplish these dreams.

Program Structure

  • Nine (9) week commitment with two sessions per week:
    • Five weeks of Lean LaunchPad workshops
    • Seven evening socials with presentations and Q&A with successful entrepreneurs
  • Access to a deep bench of experienced mentors
  • The last session of each cohort is Demo Day, where the student teams pitch their idea to a panel of VIP’s from Pittsburgh’s local startup scene and take their best shot at winning the coveted Blast Furnace Cup.



Applications to the Blast Furnace are currently closed. Students with an idea for a new product or service, or who are interested in entrepreneurship education opportunities can contact one of the Innovation Institute’s Entrepreneurs in Residence for Student Programs to set up an appointment.

Students are also encouraged to attend the next Innovation Igniter on Feb. 18, 2018. In this two-hour workshop you will be introduced to the Business Model Canvas, which helps you discover the value your innovation may offer customers, who your customers are and where you might find them.




What Participants Are Saying

In the News:

Those Blasted Kids, PittMed, Wilkinson, Rachel & Boerner, Heather, Illustrations by Frank Harris, Winter 2017

Hooked on Aquaponics, University of Pittsburgh Environmental Engineering Student Club Wins $35,000 and a Ford Connect Transit Van to build their vision of a 21st Century Food System, Pitt SSOE Communications, December 2017

Blast Furnace Alum leading University of Alabama at Birmingham accelerator, Pittsburgh Business Times, August 2017

Mowing Down Obstacles, Innovation Institute Blog, September 2017

Pregnancy-focused startup wins $2,500 at Blast Furnace Demo Day, Pittsburgh Post Gazette,  June 2017

Online Service Aiming to Match Moms-to-Be With Doulas Wins Student Pitch Competition, Pitt News, July 2017

Getting Oxygen To Babies In Developing Countries Is Difficult. A Bicycle Could Soon Change That  90.5 WESA, July 2017

Aeronics and uTranslated among nation’s top student startups, Pittsburgh Business Times, April 2017

Pitt Student Startup to Present at Congress, The Pitt News, August 2016