UA initiatives to spark innovation, entrepreneurship and community involvement


An illustration of the "Akron Model."

The University of Akron is promoting five new initiatives that focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and community involvement as part of the institution’s ongoing community engagement efforts.

These initiatives align well with an April letter to then-U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke from University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, signed by University of Akron President Luis M. Proenza and 150 other university and association leaders, pledging that U.S. land grant universities would remain committed to entrepreneurship and economic development. These new initiatives join several ongoing projects that make up what has come to be called the "Akron Model" for University leadership in regional economic development.

UA's new initiatives

A novel open-innovation agreement with The Timken Company:

UA's latest partnership with Timken, a world leader in innovative friction management and power transmission products, will combine selected technologies, expertise and equipment at a new UA research facility. The Timken Endowed Chair and Director of the Timken Engineered Surfaces Laboratory, working with University Faculty and graduate students, , will be responsible for surface engineering research for an entire company product line. Timken, which has provided about $5 million to support the initiative, expects the partnership to accelerate technology research, development and commercialization. Learn more.

The nation's first comprehensive research/education program in Corrosion Prevention and Reliability Engineering:

Corrosion Engineering at UACorrosion damage to infrastructure, vehicles and machinery is estimated to cost the nation approximately $400 billion each year. Yet industry studies indicate that up to 40 percent of the corrosion-engineering workforce will retire in the next decade. UA has partnered with the Department of Defense and private industry to has established the nation’s first undergraduate corrosion degree program and is creating a research network to battle corrosion. The new National Center for Education and Research on Corrosion and Materials Performance at UA will conduct corrosion-related curriculum development and applied research. It has received more than $20 million in DoD funding, as well as financial support from industry for scholarships, faculty positions and workforce development.

Akron Innovation through Convergence and Entrepreneurship (Akron ICE) Program:

Akron ICE seeks to create spin-out companies, based on Akron’s existing strength in biomedical research, by pairing core teams of engineering and science graduate students with medical residents and fellows to pursue research projects over three- to four-year periods. The teams also are supported by business students, law students specializing in intellectual property and contract law, and mentoring faculty members, physicians, industry executives, entrepreneurs, practicinglawyers and area investors. The program also promises to produce graduates with extensive experience in innovation, entrepreneurship and participation on high-performance teams.

Regional Innovation Institute:

Through the Regional Innovation Institute (RII), UA has initiated an emerging partnership of academic, industrial and community stakeholders to improve the region’s innovation ecosystem. Partners will leverage existing strengths, assets and relationships toward directed outcomes. RII also will coordinate support for regional innovation leadership and efforts, provide innovation services to companies, develop advisory boards and councils, attract external funding to the region, and share knowledge through conferences, publications, online resources andoutreach programs.

The new programs complement the following existing initiatives, several of which are part of the Akron Model:

University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF):

In addition to facilitating economic development by streamlining technology licensing and industry sponsored research, UARF has launched approximately 50 start-up companies since 2001, including Akron Polymer Systems located in Akron which develops coatings for high resolution displays; SNS Nanofibers, a joint venture with a German company located in Akron that commercializes electro-spun nano-fibers developed at UA; and CO2 Capture LLC, which is developing a clean coal fuel cell with funding from the Department of Energy and in partnership with major regional energy companies.

UARF's innovative Senior Fellows program hosts former industry leaders to forge partnerships with industry and the community, leading to a multi-million dollar program to train international polymer scientists and several research and development partnerships with major companies. UARF serves as a model for university technology commercialization services throughout Northeast Ohio and has enabled other state universities and colleges, such as Cleveland State University, Youngstown State University and Lorain County Community College, to further improve their technology transfer programs. In 2010, UARF and ABIA (see below) won the U.S. Department of Commerce’s prestigious i6 National Innovation Challenge, which recognizes innovative, groundbreaking ideas that promote technology commercialization, job creation and economic growth. Visit the foundation's site

Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron (ABIA):

The institute was founded in 2008 as a partnership of UA, Northeast Ohio Medical University and Akron’s major hospitals. It draws upon the University’s existing strengths in advanced materials research, and the clinical expertise of Akron’s health care centers. The institute focuses on research in biomaterials and orthopedics, testing and developing medical devices, establishing a novel model for simulation-based education and training, and improving community health. In addition to winning the i6 Award with UARF, ABIA was named an Ohio Center of Excellence for Biomedicine and Healthcare in 2010.

Akron Regional CHange Angels (ARCHAngels) Network:

ARCHAngels, which brings together promising technology companies and Angel investors, was created through the sponsorship of the University of Akron Research Foundation. The network focuses on companies from Northeast Ohio that leverage the region's strengths in health care, information technologies, polymers and other advanced materials. ARCHAngels has presented 75 emerging companies to investors since it began conducting meetings in 2005, leading to more than $123 million in follow-on funding. Students from UA and three other Northeast Ohio colleges and universities regularly participate in ARCHAngel events.

Industrial/Community Assistantship Program:

To network students to job opportunities in Akron and retain them in the community, UA's Industrial/Community Assistantship Program creates sponsored internships that place and partially fund graduate students at Northeast Ohio businesses. Participating companies propose how a given position will utilize a graduate student's skills and further his or her education, while UA recommends qualified students and provides matching tuition scholarships to participating students.

Akron Innovation Campus (AIC):

Adjacent to UA's main campus and near downtown Akron, AIC connects companies with the University and the business community by linking tenants to the most logical and natural partners for business growth and wealth creation. AIC offers office space and services to companies ranging from idea or concept to start-up to early stage and those ready to move to the next level of growth. AIC tenants have the opportunity to collaborate with UA faculty, network to investors through the ARCHAngels and utilize UARF's intellectual property management and technology transfer capabilities.

Interdisciplinary degree programs:

Over the past decade, UA has created many innovative undergraduate and graduate programs that promote research, entrepreneurship and cross-disciplinary integration. One of the most unique is the Integrated Bioscience Ph.D. program. It combines modern biology, bioengineering, bioinformatics, and biochemistry around a central unifying theme to provide students with broader knowledge and crucial problem-solving skills, as well as encouraging cross-disciplinary faculty collaboration.

UA also offers an MBA in entrepreneurship, which teaches the skills required to start a small business, work for a fast-growth corporation or franchise an existing company. The University also welcomes the participation of business leaders, such as Dr. Frank L. Douglas, president and CEO of ABIA, who joined the deans of UA's business college and law school to develop a three-credit Women's Entrepreneurship Program.

Student Venture Fund at the University of Akron (SVFUA):

In spring 2009 UA began operation of a genuinely student-run venture fund. Cross-disciplinary teams of students vet early stage companies and vote to award funding of up to $25,000. In addition to educating students on the entrepreneurial process, SVFUA seeks to provide funding forlocal entrepreneurs, and create an opportunity for organizations, foundations and individuals to participate in the educational process. Of the 18 students who participated in the SVFUA's inaugural round, two started their own businesses, one sold a company and seven work with emerging and start-up enterprises.

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or