Taiwan going through exactly what they’re doing,” he said. “They were gracious enough at ITRI to lead me through their entire process. I had 15 different meetings, and what we’re doing is the right thing. What we don’t have is the money. They are putting $600 million a year into different things, one of which is flexible electronics.”

Dr. Wessner asked Dr Albert Green of Kent Displays how the small firms here could hope to compete with East Asia, given the vigor of government investments. Dr. Green said that his company was in the process of negotiating a joint venture with Taiwan, and that he knew the flexible electronics leaders at ITRI very well. He said he had also negotiated many contracts in this technology with Samsung and LG in South Korea. He said that Taiwan was currently the more formidable competitor, with Korea somewhat “distracted by their own LCD industry.” He said that the innovation culture in northeast Ohio, being “particularly American, does not translate well elsewhere, and they really do look to the U.S., and amazingly, to northeast Ohio, for leadership in these areas. It’s really staggering. So I agree that the challenge for us is to realize it’s not just the innovation part, which we do really well, but to translate that innovation into manufacturing and the expertise that goes out into the marketplace.”

Dr. Taheri added that nobody can truly control the ultimate disposition of industries. “All these companies are evolving,” he said, “and you don’t know. Oakley is now owned by an Italian company, but the notion is that they’re still located here.” The issue, he said, “is not so much whether a foreign firm can come and buy us. If you create certain parts of a firm, then logistically it doesn’t make sense for some of those to move.” He said that AlphaMicron was working with a German-Canadian mirror company which plans to situate its plant near Michigan to save the expense of sending materials to Germany and back to the American market. “Those are market issues,” he said. “Who knows what they will do. The notion is to create opportunities, and then allow the market to decide which way it goes.”

‘A Window of Opportunity is Open, and We Could Seize This Industry’

Dr. West referred to his second slide, which showed the LCD digital wristwatch when it was first made, and pre-LCD televisions. “Think about companies that made TVs at that point. You won’t buy them from those companies today. It is the companies that had the patience and the diligence to see a new technology and to stick with it long enough to walk up the manufacturing curve. When that tipping point came, it was too late. I think we have an opportunity in RTR manufacturing, particularly if we have a few more years, to be quite a way down that innovation curve. We are the first doing the manufacturing. Our companies are learning how to do yields, put the product out into the marketplace at a low cost, manufacturing know-how that will be the basis of this industry. A window of opportunity is open, and we could seize this industry.”

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