Liquid Crystal Institute receives grant for technological development research within Ohio

Meghan Caprez

Kent State University was awarded a $3 million grant to aid in the development and research facilitated by the Liquid Crystal Institute.

The award, provided by the Ohio Third Frontier Commission, was part of the $21 million Open Innovation Incentive and the Ohio Third Frontier Innovation Platform Program. The Ohio Third Frontier Commission is part of the Ohio Department of Development that focuses on technology-based development within the state.

“It’s a growing field, and that’s why the state of Ohio decided to give us the grant,” said Hiroshi Yokoyama, director of the Liquid Crystal Institute. “It means a lot to LCI because more and more people are involved in flexible devices nowadays, so this is going to be a big push.”

The grant will allow both plant employees and Kent State graduate students to continue to develop practical uses for liquid crystals to create flexible modern technology, Yokoyama said. The technology has already been used in televisions, but the Liquid Crystal Institute is looking to expand its use in niche fields outside entertainment.

The institute will collaborate with several companies on projects with the money the grant provided. Three of the four companies—Kent Displays Inc., AlphaMicron and Crystal Diagnostics—are spill-off companies of the Liquid Crystal Institute.

The fourth is a spin-off company from the University of Akron called Akron Polymer Systems Inc. The company is no stranger to working with the Liquid Crystal Institute, since they’ve been collaborating with each other since 2007 or 2008, Matt Graham, vice president of business development at Akron Polymer Systems, said.

“They are old friends of LCI,” Yokoyama said of the groups the Liquid Crystal Institute would be working with.

Though the money will be directed several ways throughout the project, Yokoyama said the grant will be used to complete a single technological goal by each faction working together.

“It’s a fixed-goal project,” Yokoyama said. “Students were involved in certain parts of the whole project. The money will not be split into fragments. It must be an integrated effort where everybody is supported with the money.”

Yokoyama said he hopes the grant money will allow the development of liquid crystal technology to expand in the Kent community, enabling the institute and other spill-off companies to hire more employees.

“The objective of this whole system is to create jobs to help our local economy,” Yokoyama said. “Our effort is going to produce more and more high-tech jobs in Kent and in the local area. We are seriously hoping a successful project will generate new jobs.”

Graham said he was confident the project will be successful in not only developing new technologies but also in developing the liquid crystal community in Northeast Ohio.

“The Liquid Crystal Institute has really done an excellent job in developing the cluster of companies that have come out of LCI,” Graham said. “There’s a range of different technologies all based on liquid crystals. [The grant] is very useful in terms of economic and corporate development because it helps funds these collaborations that really tie the liquid crystal cluster together. The state of Ohio really saw the value in that, and they continue to support the development of that cluster.”

Contact Meghan Caprez at [email protected].