There is little doubt that research universities are instrumental to the economic growth of their regions.
The key, however, is harnessing new discoveries and new knowledge and bringing them out of the laboratories and into the marketplace. That is the role of Kent State's Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development (OTTED). It patents inventions that come from the university's wide-ranging research efforts and licenses them to companies that want to develop the new technology and create a marketable product. This research has produced significant results that have helped Kent State flourish when it comes to university-centered business technology development. Three of the successes are detailed below.
Kent Displays Inc. (KDI)
The company is a world leader in research, development and manufacture of Reflex ™ No Power liquid crystal displays for unique applications such as electronic skins, writing tablets, smartcards and eReaders. In 2008, KDI installed a custom-designed, multimillion dollar, roll-to-roll manufacturing line for flexible LCDs, the first of its kind in the U.S. In 2009, KDI received a $4.9 million award from the Ohio Third Frontier’s Commission’s Research Commercialization Program for electronic skins.
Early in 2010, KDI will launch a hot new consumer electronics product, the Boogie Board ™ LCD Writing Tablet. CEO Dr. Albert Green says this ecologically friendly, paperless product will first appear for sale on Amazon.com. KDI is a fast-growing firm with 60-75 science, technology, administrative and manufacturing employees, many of whom are Kent State graduates. More new hires are currently on the drawing board as the production of the new products gains momentum. Kent Displays’ products have already garnered significant industry recognition including the 2009 FLEXI award for most innovative display product (Boogie Board tablet) and the 2009 Printed Electronics award for flexible manufacturing. Reflex electronic skins have also been selected as a finalist for the 2010 NorTech Innovation Award for Advanced Materials.
Founded in 1997 by former faculty members of Kent State’s LCI, the company designs and manufactures high-tech military and consumer products. AlphaMicron was the first in the world to market a flexible liquid crystal device. Its technologies are being applied to products that include ski goggles, motorcycle visors, auto-dimming mirrors, flight deck goggles, adaptive windows, shutters and luxury eyewear. The firm’s switchable lenses, which are incorporated in UVex Ski Goggles, won the Popular Science “Best of What’s New” award in 2004.
AlphaMicron landed the single largest award from the Third Frontier program in 2008 for $5 million for research related to its commercial windows project. The firm is the lead enterprise in the Kent State Centennial Research Park. AlphaMicron CEO Dr. Bahman Taheri says the research park was the perfect place to take his company to the next level and to help the region strengthen existing and emerging technology ventures. With 40 employees on board, this growing company is a major employer of Kent State graduates.
Crystal Diagnostics LTD
Formerly known as Pathogen Systems Inc., the company was founded in 2006 as a licensee of fundamental liquid crystal biosensor technologies developed jointly by a research partnership between Kent State University and the Northeastern Ohio Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM).
The technologies enable a rapid, sensitive biodetector to be developed for a broad array of applications, including environmental, defense and medical markets. The company has research operations at NEOUCOM and in 2010 will be the newest resident in Kent State’s Centennial Research Park. CEO Robert Bunting says that support from the research partnership, along with Third Frontier funding, is instrumental in helping the company move part of it business and manufacturing functions from Colorado to Kent. Crystal Diagnostics was a 2009 winner of a NorTech Innovation Award for their Rapid Pathogen Detection System.