From left are Akron Polymer Systems co-founder Dr. Stephen Cheng, dean of the UA College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering; UA President Dr. Luis Proenza; Ohio Governor Ted Strickland; APS President and CEO Dr. Frank Harris; Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic; and UARF President Dr. George Newkome, UA vice president for research and dean of the graduate school.
Akron Polymer Systems’ (APS) decision to establish its headquarters in downtown Akron at the appeal of Mayor Donald Plusquellic was quite clear, according to its president and CEO Dr. Frank Harris. A distinguished professor emeritus of polymer science at UA, Harris said APS, developer of an optical film broadly used on liquid crystal displays, needed to look no further than its backyard for a permanent home.
Harris said the polymer researcher talent pool at nearby UA, the company’s sound and successful history of Third Frontier funding and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland’s support of alternative energy and the subsequent applications for polymers in solar and fuel cells prompted the company to decline an offer to move south.
Instead, APS, co-founded by Harris and Dr. Stephen Cheng, dean of the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, opted to remain local, fuel the area’s economy and support its “brain gain.” Of the company’s 13 employees, 12 hold doctorate degrees.
“I was able to select the best of the best, having worked with so many post docs,” said Harris, noting that 11 of the company’s employees earned their Ph.D.s from UA’s College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering. “If there is a problem in polymer science and we can’t solve it, no one can.”
Established in 2002 with support from the University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF), APS is moving from its Omnova Akron Technical Center location on Gilchrist Road to a +15,000-square-foot facility at 62 N. Summit St. The facility was introduced at a Nov. 20 groundbreaking where Strickland, UA President Luis Proenza, Plusquellic and UARF President Dr. George Newkome served as guest speakers. The $3 million downtown headquarters, which includes an existing 6,020-square-foot building and a future 10,000-square-foot expansion, will accommodate 10,000 square feet of laboratory and office space and a 5,000-square-foot production area. Here, APS will continue to advance and produce the technology that spurred the company’s success: a thin polymer film developed by Harris and Cheng and applied to liquid crystal displays to improve image clarity from peripheral views. Innovations such as this and their licensing enable universities to play a critical role in economic development, Proenza noted.
“Universities truly are magical places due to the talent of their faculty and staff to generate new ideas, which become the wherewithal for us to enjoy a greater standard of living, to advance our common well-being and to create vitality for our economy,” Proenza said.
Newkome, who also serves as vice president for research and dean of the graduate school, added that APS might not exist without the university and UARF, which has facilitated university spinoffs of more 30 companies in the past eight years.
“The Akron region’s rich history of innovation is rooted in a skilled and educated work force,” Strickland added. “As [this] announcement of APS demonstrates, Akron’s higher education has remained in the forefront every step of the way.”
Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or email@example.com.