Kent State to receive historic technological innovations fund

Cameron Hoover

The Ohio Third Frontier Commission awarded the partnership of Kent State and Cleveland State University a grant to speed up the commercialization of the universities’ innovations.

The funding program, which is to be called the “TeCK Fund,” will give university researchers access to $800,000 in research funds tailored to aid in bringing the schools’ inventions and ideas to market.

Vice President for Research at Kent State Paul DiCorleto said he hopes the fund can help bring some of the university’s researchers’ hard work to light.

“This new fund will be extremely valuable in moving some of the discoveries and innovations by the faculty at Kent State toward commercialization,” he said.

The partnership between the two institutions is a landmark; it marks the first time the Ohio Third Frontier Commission awarded funds to a joint university proposal.

“We’re each, essentially, one-man shops at our respective tech transfer offices,” said Jack Kraszewski, the director of the Technology Transfer Office at Cleveland State. “So we said, ‘OK, why don’t we submit this proposal together, and we can combine resources to provide the due diligence that will be required when they receive these applications?’”

Along with the more obvious benefit of extra money coming from the TeCK Fund, those involved also see the priceless benefit of collaboration and camaraderie that comes with the partnership between the two schools.

“(This fund) is an opportunity for us to find a complementary university and work together. For example, Cleveland State has an engineering school, which Kent State does not have,” said Stephen Roberts, the director of technology commercialization at Kent State. “On the other hand, we have the Liquid Crystal Institute, and the School of Architecture, and (the) fashion school that Cleveland State doesn’t have, so this could be a great partnership.”

The respect goes both ways between the two parties.

“(Roberts) is an aggressive and dynamic leader of (Kent State’s) Tech Transfer Office,” said Kraszewski. “(There is an) opportunity to engage with and potentially bridge some new collaborations between our faculties going forward.”

According to Kraszewski, the availability of the funding depends on the type of research that is being conducted. There are different levels of research; one is known as basic research, and is a general area of study regarding basic concepts.

The second, known as applied research, occurs when the basic research is seen to have a practical application in the marketplace. The money from the TeCK Fund has more of a place as it pertains to applied research.

“Applied research needs to be validated (that) this actually does work and actually does benefit society somehow,” Kraszewski said. “That’s where this funding comes in. It’s more developmental funding. It’s more validated funding. There’s a gap in funding between that applied research phase and the more serious funding, so we’re trying to bridge that valley.”

The partnership has just been approved, but members of the research staff at Kent State see a bright future ahead for the two universities.

“Right now, we have patents that aren’t producing much income, and we hope that this will allow us to commercialize more technologies successfully,” Roberts said. “I hope this means that we will have more successful spin-outs of university technology.”

“It’s so important (for universities) to partner together, especially because of budgetary restrictions,” DiCorleto said. “The more we can accomplish together in a cost-effective way, the better of we all are. There is strength in collaborating. This is just one step in continuing efforts, not only between Kent State and Cleveland State, but also between Kent State and other Northeast Ohio public universities.”

Cameron Hoover is a general assignment reporter, contact him at [email protected].