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Research, Technology Transfer and Economic Development

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Dr. Lester  A. Lefton (far right) is joined  by Governor Ted Strickland (center) U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (far left), as well as other local politicians and representatives from the Liquid Crystal Institute, along with AlphaMicron CEO Dr. Bahman Taheri (second from left) during the ribbon cutting at the company’s new facility in the Centennial Research Park. AlphaMicron became the first  tenant of the remodeled facility.

Research and Innovation

Innovation is key to economic growth. Research is key to innovation. Kent State University is one of the nation’s top 77 public research universities. It is a regional leader in taking new university discoveries and knowledge out of the laboratories and into the marketplace.

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  • Technology studies by the Milken Institute ranked Kent State fifth in the United States and Canada in the number of start-up companies formed and patents issued per $1 million in research expenditures.
  • Faculty research has resulted in 109 active patents and 24 active licenses, which in the past eight years have generated $3 million in licensing income. 
  • Kent State-related initiatives have produced 16 start-up companies. 
  • The university established the Centennial Research Park, a 41,000-square-foot facility that houses and supports the acceleration of high-tech businesses in the region.

Pioneers in Liquid Crystals

One of the region’s best kept secrets is Kent State’s important role in liquid crystal discovery and the development of the flat panel display industry. In the ’60s, Kent State researchers pioneered the modern era in liquid crystal research and laid the foundation for what has become a global industry. The university’s Glenn H. Brown Liquid Crystal Institute (LCI) is the world’s most comprehensive research, technology transfer and education program of its kind. 

In the ’70s Kent State LCI researchers invented twisted nematic liquid crystals, which formed the basis for the entire flat panel display. A decade later, Kent State researchers began combining liquid crystals and polymers to develop polymer dispersed liquid crystals. This research led to commercialization by a number of LCI-related start-up firms in Northeast Ohio.

Further, the Kent State approach has led to the establishment of the FLEXMatters Initiative, a collaboration with Kent State, NorTech, the Fund for Our Economic Future, Team NEO, the University of Akron and others, to build a new industrial cluster in Ohio. 

Today, it is estimated that more than 1,000 jobs related to liquid crystal/display exist in Ohio. LCI research interests are now exploring new frontiers in biologically relevant liquid crystals. A recent $15 million award by the state of Ohio’s Third Frontier Project is funding a public-private initiative of universities and enterprises titled Research Cluster on Surfaces in Advanced Materials.


To read about our startup company success stories, click here.