Collaboration is key in Northeast Ohio’s advanced energy industry Featured

11:32am EDT August 2, 2011
Collaboration is key in Northeast Ohio’s advanced energy industry

Advanced energy has gained considerable traction in Northeast Ohio, across the country and around the world as a transformational economic development opportunity. NorTech, a regional, nonprofit, technology-based economic development organization, has been working with public and private sector partners in Northeast Ohio for the past two years to accelerate growth in the advanced energy industry.

According to a recent study published by the Brookings Institution, the size of Ohio’s clean economy ranks sixth among the 50 states. The report also highlights that 26 percent of clean economy jobs in the U.S. are in the manufacturing sector. While this recent news bodes well for our state, how can we continue to leverage Northeast Ohio’s current assets — especially in manufacturing — to develop a thriving advanced energy industry cluster that generates economic opportunity in our region?

The opportunity

In order to build a cluster, you must first know who is on your team and what their strengths are, assess your competition, understand the market, and then devise a game plan to win. Essentially, this is the process NorTech embarked on nine months ago by creating a series of road maps with more than 30 representatives from the region’s advanced energy companies and research organizations. The advanced energy road map process has concluded that there is $30 billion in market opportunities within Northeast Ohio’s energy storage, smart grid and biomass/waste-to-energy sectors alone, which could add approximately 5,000 jobs in our region over the next seven years.

These road maps are based on building upon the core strengths we have today. However, we anticipate that additional opportunities will emerge from this strong base. New companies, collaborations and partnerships will develop from our core strengths, which will generate new ideas, new technologies and new products. In turn, this will attract more funding, companies, resources and opportunities to Northeast Ohio.

Making connections

So how do we continue to spur regional development to grow the advanced energy industry? By building relationships among industry, academia and manufacturing supply chain companies to create new commercial opportunities. This is the focus of the upcoming Advanced Energy B2B Conference & Expo on Sept. 14-15 at the John S. Knight Center in Akron, Ohio. Co-produced by NorTech and the Summit County Mayors Association, the event will bring together leaders in the advanced energy industry to develop new business prospects, learn about the region’s strengths in advanced energy and explore commercial opportunities. The event will connect existing manufacturers who are interested in advanced energy and want to understand how their business can become part of the supply chain. National and international collaborators who are interested in doing business with companies in Northeast Ohio will also be attending the conference. Throughout the event there will be a unique opportunity to arrange business-to-business (B2B) meetings with conference attendees in order to build upon common synergies that could lead to future collaborative partnerships. In total, the Advanced Energy B2B Conference &Expo is expected to attract more than 300 attendees and 70 exhibitors.

The conference program will include a slate of regional, national and international advanced energy experts and thought leaders with sessions featuring NorTech’s advanced energy road maps and regional industry collaborations. The conference program is designed to explore the most promising sectors in Northeast Ohio’s advanced energy portfolio including: energy storage, smart grid, biomass/waste-to-energy, fuel cells, off-shore wind, nuclear, solar photovoltaic and transportation electrification. These sectors will be discussed within the global perspective of how the conversion to advanced energy solutions is impacting regional economies around the globe. Stephen Crolius, senior director of the Clinton Climate Initiative, will deliver the keynote address and discuss his observations on how clean and renewable energy technologies are impacting regional economies in many of the largest cities around the world.

Power of collaboration

The advanced energy road map process has reinforced the value of collaboration and the exciting opportunities that can be achieved when industry and academia work together. While collaboration is not a new concept, the purpose of the Advanced Energy B2B Conference & Expo is to take collaboration to the next level and stimulate commercial opportunities in Northeast Ohio’s advanced energy industry. We believe the outcome of these efforts will be new ideas, new technologies and new products, which will accelerate the revitalization of Northeast Ohio’s existing industrial base and create new jobs. On behalf of NorTech and the Summit County Mayors Association, I invite you to join us at the Advanced Energy B2B Conference & Expo on Sept. 14-15 as we explore new opportunities to accelerate growth in Northeast Ohio’s advanced energy industry.

Dave Karpinski is vice president of NorTech and director of NorTech Energy Enterprise. Reach NorTech at (216) 363-6883 or www.nortech.org.