Ms. Bagley joined NorTech in July 2009 after managing various technology investment programs for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. “We are institutionalizing some of those methodologies that were used in Pennsylvania and applying them in Ohio,” she said.
When developing regional clusters, it is important that different partners have a common strategy, Ms. Bagley said. Developing roadmaps for selected sectors is one way to achieve that common strategy. NorTech’s strategy is to “engage the full community in the roadmap process,” she explained. In order to identify promising clusters, NorTech first assesses Northeast Ohio’s assets and competitive strengths in the global market. It also identifies the strategic steps needed to build a cluster, and who is responsible for achieving the action items. “Sometimes it is NorTech’s responsibility, but other times it will be the responsibility of industry, universities, or other economic development organizations,” she said. Above all, she said, “there must be a clear vision and somebody to ‘quarterback’ or lead that regional vision.”
Government engagement is also critical to NorTech’s cluster building efforts. Ohio has been investing in clusters for the past seven years in areas like advanced energy, bioscience, and electronics. Now, the region must become more competitive by attracting federal funding to accelerate growth of innovation and technology, Ms. Bagley said. NorTech hired a consulting firm to do “deep dive” assessment of federal funding opportunities for advanced energy, innovation and entrepreneurship, business incubators, and regional manufacturers in transition. Ms. Bagley described these areas as “critically important” issues in the Great Lakes region. From the assessment, NorTech has developed a coordinated regional federal funding strategy and action plan among partner organizations in Northeast Ohio to be more proactive in attracting federal funding to the region.
Currently, NorTech is focused on two industries in Northeast Ohio—advanced energy and flexible electronics.
For the advanced energy industry, NorTech is developing road maps in four sectors: energy storage, smart grid, transportation electrification, and biomass/waste-to-energy. This is perhaps the biggest effort in the NorTech Energy Enterprise advanced energy initiative, Ms. Bagley said. NorTech’s role is to act as a “center of gravity” in Northeast Ohio, defining the vision and regional strategy, hosting educational events, convening cluster organizations, tracking performance, and connecting companies with funding opportunities. NorTech also manages several advanced energy projects. They include attracting resources and talent, recruiting collaborators, producing market research, and grant writing. Such tasks “involve multiple collaborators and could not get done without somebody facilitating them,” she said.
One project is an advanced energy incubator in Warren, Ohio, “an auto-distressed area where the local economy lost tons of jobs,” she said. “They really need something to help transform that economy.” With the help of Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), the state raised capital to launch an advanced energy