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FIGURE 7 Liquid crystal displays.
SOURCE: John West, Presentation at the April 25-26, 2011, National Academies Symposium on “Building the Ohio Innovation Economy.”

In reviewing the evolution of LCDs, he showed a slide of an early LCD watch display, which was made by a spin-off company of a researcher from the Liquid Crystal Institute. The researcher patented the technology, formed a startup company, and made the first LCD display in Kent, Ohio, and put it in the first digital wristwatch. That watch, now in the Smithsonian Institution, was “one of the top inventions of the last century in leading our new IT industry,” he said. “But we didn’t keep that lead. The visionaries in the year 1970 were talking about the TV on the wall. They didn’t have a clue about the iPhone.” The way technologies are going to come together and blend, he said, is through collaborations, which will be the mechanism that allows northeast Ohio to stay in control of this industry and build on its natural lead. “We are the MIT; we are the Stanford of this industry.”

Leadership in Flex Electronics Through Collaboration

Dr. West expressed how fortunate he was as a young researcher to be at the Liquid Crystal Institute, “the best place in the world for liquid crystal displays when it was still an industrial curiosity.” It has now become an industrial powerhouse, he said. “If you go anywhere in the world that is making LCDs, they’ll tell you that the Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State is simply the best. We have the best researchers. We know how to translate technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. A number of the companies that are sitting here today used the resources of the Liquid Crystal Institute to get started.” He also emphasized the collaborations with the polymer expertise of the University of Akron and the Center for Layered Polymer Systems (CLPS) at Case Western Reserve. “We have the academic lead, we have the innovation, and we have the



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