incubator, called the TechBelt Energy Innovation Center. Community partners are helping to develop the business plan and required technologies. “It is a community process being led by NorTech,” Ms. Bagley said. “Once it is developed and launched, our role will be complete, and the community will manage and facilitate the incubator.”
Northeast Ohio has over 400 companies in the advanced-energy industry, she noted, and there are 10 energy sectors in which the region believes it has strengths. A lot of the companies are able to utilize the region’s supply chain and manufacturing capacity. One of her jobs in Pennsylvania, Ms. Bagley noted, was to manage the manufacturing strategy for the state. “So I understand the importance of connecting innovation to manufacturing and how those two areas work together.”
NorTech is developing its database to create stronger metrics to measure cluster performance. Ms. Bagley said that the goal is to show how many companies were introduced to potential customers, how many deals were negotiated, and how many jobs were created as a result of NorTech’s work. “If you can start to put connections like that together with clusters, you can show how this very difficult-to-measure activity results in real impact,” she said.
NorTech also is focused on developing an emerging flexible electronics cluster in Northeast Ohio. The term refers to electronic devices such as displays, solar cells, batteries, and sensors that bend and fold. The initiative is called FlexMattersSM. Ms. Bagley noted that Northeast Ohio has a unique capability in liquid crystal displays and electronics that can be printed on flexible polymers. The University of Akron has expertise in polymers, and Kent State University has the Liquid Crystal Institute, which developed the first LCD wristwatch in the 1970s.
NorTech’s FlexMatters program will soon complete a roadmap for Northeast Ohio’s flexible electronics industry. The roadmap will access the global markets and applications for flexible electronics combined with Northeast Ohio’s industry strengths. “This will help us establish a vision for what the region can achieve in this industry,” said Ms. Bagley. She continued, “The roadmap will provide specific action items for building the cluster, which include continuing to grow our industry and research capacity, as well as retaining the manufacturing processes that make sense for Northeast Ohio.”
In the past, Ms. Bagley noted, Kent State University produced the first liquid crystal technology breakthroughs, but the resulting manufacturing activity migrated elsewhere in the world. “The region cannot make that same mistake again” she noted. “Our goal is to keep the manufacturing of flexible electronics devices in Northeast Ohio to create jobs and economic impact for our region.”