Northeast Ohio Public Universities Collaborate on Innovation

Kent State Works Stacked Graphic

Frank discussions about how to equip students for the jobs of today and tomorrow, technology commercialization efforts and some of the “big questions” that face the region’s innovation outlook were the hot topics as Kent State hosted Innovation Day 2023 on Friday, March 24. 

Innovation Day was a collaborative effort of the Northeast Ohio Public University Research Alliance (NEO-PURA), comprised of Kent State University, Cleveland State University, Northeast Ohio Medical University, The University of Akron and Youngstown State University. 

The goal is to “provide a forum to accelerate alignment and collaboration among the institutions and with the regional innovation ecosystem.” 

During the event, several students from the NEO-PURA universities presented their research during a poster session.

Several students presented their research during a poster session at Innovation Day 2023

A Workforce Development panel was moderated by William (Bill) Koehler, chief executive officer of Team NEO. Panelists were Debbie Connelly, senior vice president and chief people officer of Hyland Software; Nikki Russell, head of talent acquisition Americas and Global Functions at The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.; and Maria Spangler, director of community engagement at Sherwin-Williams Co. 

The panel discussed the importance of students taking advantage of internships, engaging in conversations with employees while on those internships and learning proper business etiquette in the workplace. The importance of companies offering students entry-level positions was also mentioned. 

They also discussed how early in one’s career is not the time to work remotely because someone new to the workforce may miss integral opportunities that occur in the elevator, cafeteria or at the coffee machine.  

Connelly urged universities to help students hone their problem-solving skills. Universities need to teach students “how to consider a variety of solutions for problems and force students to be flexible and consider a variety of solutions,” Connelly said. “If one answer isn’t what is needed, they get paralyzed.” 

A Kent State student at the poster session during Innovation Day 2023

Spangler, with Sherwin-Williams, said it is frustrating that some universities only ask for money to fund labs or buildings when spending time with students has a better return on investment. 

“I would rather spend time sending over a team of master chemists for robotics engineers,” she said. It may go against fundraising goals, but it’s certainly a value. We are a talent consumer. A million for a building doesn’t get us students.” 

J.R. Campbell, executive director of Kent State’s Design Innovation Initiative, moderated a panel discussion on global technology trends and the big questions around Northeast Ohio’s innovation outlook. 

The panel was comprised of Renato Camacho, president and chief executive officer of Akron-Canton (CAK) Airport; Michal Soclof, principal and director of tech ventures, Matrix Equities LLC; Teleange Thomas, chief operating and relationship officer, JumpStart Inc.; Anthony Gillespie, Ohio Aerospace Institute; Jing Lyon, entrepreneur programs director, BRITE Energy Innovations; and Scott Fisher, Ph.D., senior director, strategic collaborations, Exact Sciences. 

J.R. Campbell, executive director of Kent State's Design Innovation Initiative, moderated a "Big Questions" panel

The panel represented key strengths of the region and the universities, including healthcare, engineering innovation, advanced materials, and immersive reality tools and technologies. 

“My lens for inviting our guests here is really about each one of them having a connection to the entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem development activities in the region,” Campbell said. 

According to Soclof, of Matrix Equities, which invests in startup ventures, there are angel groups all over Ohio that are looking for innovators and great ideas to develop. The problem lies in connecting the innovators at universities with the funding. “Please come find us,” Soclof said. “We are searching for projects to invest in.” 

Winners of the Poster Session

First Place: Pratyusha Ghanta - Fabrication of Thermoresponsive Hydrogels Loaded with Metallo-Drugs in Targeting Resorptive Disorders, Kent State University 

Second Place: Scott Everett - Design, Development and Validation of an Affordable Infant Radiant Warmer for Low Resource Setting, Northeast Ohio Medical University 

Kyle Duke - Development of Laser-Induced Graphene Electrode and its Biomedical Applications, Youngstown State University 

Trinity Samson - Minimally Invasive Cable Grip System, Northeast Ohio Medical University 

Garrett Hartley - The Development of Stretchable and Flexible Circuits, Kent State University 

POSTED: Monday, March 27, 2023 01:53 PM
Updated: Friday, April 21, 2023 11:38 AM
April McClellan-Copeland