One of the ways to be smarter, he said, is to use the cluster approach. The northeast Ohio cluster created through NorTech is called FlexMatters, a term coined by Dr. West in 2006. The cluster includes partnerships throughout the value chain among universities, community colleges, small businesses, large businesses, potential end users, economic development organizations, and others. FlexMatters focuses specifically on five areas: technology innovation, capital attraction, supply chain building and networking, talent development, and market development. “Collaborating around all those areas,” he said, “is what it will take for us to compete on the world stage.”

Dr. Clayton characterized the mix of panel members as “a core subset of the FlexMatters cluster,” including representatives of two universities and two manufacturing companies. “This is an example of real-world industry-university collaboration,” he said. “I’m not talking about just a collaboration that comes together when it’s time to go after a grant. This is a collaboration of organizations that have been working together for years on projects from basic research through technology development all the way to commercialization. This kind of core can drive the prosperity of entire regions.”


John West
Kent State University

Dr. West began by summarizing several themes already addressed in the symposium, notably the extent of regional collaboration and the effectiveness of the cluster in building on innovation. He said that the region is presently the leader in flexible electronics—“we’re simply the best in polymers and liquid crystals.”17 Logically, he continued, northeast Ohio should be “leading this new economic engine for the future.” The first companies in the world to do roll-to-roll manufacturing of liquid crystal displays are in northeast Ohio, he said and “LCDs are everywhere. It is the display of choice. I invite you to count the number of LCDs you use in your personal life.”

The downside, he continued, is that “none of those LCDs are made in northeast OH; none are made in the U.S. The next generation is going to be flexible displays, and flexible electronics. We have to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We have the leadership now, and we should claim it, hold it, and have the vision for the future.”


17He also cited Ken Werner, editor of Information Display, who wrote: “The only world-class center—in my opinion, at least—is Kent State University’s Liquid Crystal Institute.”

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