Third Frontier funds foster high-tech innovation in Northeast Ohio

The Ohio Third Frontier (OTF) program, which is recognized internationally, is playing a major part in positioning Ohio as one of the top locations for technology-based companies.

This $2.1 billion initiative supports Ohio’s existing companies that are transforming themselves with new, globally competitive products. It also has been successful in fostering the formation of new technology companies and helping to attract new companies in emerging industry sectors. OTF does this by providing funding to technology-based companies, universities, nonprofit research institutions and other organizations to create new technology-based products, companies, industries and jobs.

Funding recipients

The latest annual report by the Ohio Development Services Agency provides an analysis of active OTF grant projects and dollars ($504 million) that have been funded in the calendar years 2009-2013. Northeast Ohio has received $288 million (over 50 percent) of the grant funding. The majority of these dollars have funded research in medical technology ($163 million), software applications for business and health care ($27 million), and advanced materials ($19 million).

The majority of grant funds have been made to companies and research institutions in the Greater Cleveland area, although the number of grants in the Akron/Canton area has been growing steadily.

Research and development

OTF made a grant award in October 2014 of $5 million to the University of Akron to fund a number of high-tech projects. These funds were provided by OTF’s Innovation Platform Program, which aims at pairing research centers with Ohio companies that need its services. These funds will help develop various advanced materials for medical purposes. The university will be working with PolyOne Corp., Lubrizol Corp., SNS Nano Fiber Technology, Viscus Biologics and the Austen BioInnovation Institute. In addition, $1.7 million will be used to develop smart sensor systems for mitigating electrical grid outages and an HVAC sensor system to regulate airflow and improve system efficiency.

In Stark County, $8 million has been awarded by OTF to Stark State College and LG Corp. Fuel Cell Systems to support LG’s work in commercializing a 1 megawatt solid oxide fuel cell.

OTF also funded $2.1 million from its R&D Center Attraction Program to construct a new 18,000-square-foot, $14 million Technology and Test Center for the Timken Co.

In June 2014, OTF awarded $1 million in pre-seed funds to help create the Impact Angel Fund to serve Stark and several nearby counties. These funds will match an additional $1 million raised by private investors in the area.

The large amount of OTF awards provides positive affirmation about the efforts of business and community leaders to help build a more vibrant economy in the region — one focused on helping companies transform themselves to produce new, globally competitive products as we embrace the future and eagerly move into the new economy.