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UC spirit of enterprise business competition readies winner for international stage

For nearly a decade, a quiet but dynamic partnership between the University of Cincinnati and Cincom software has grown in prominence, through a business plan competition that prepares the winner for the international stage.

The annual UC Center for Entrepreneurship Spirit of Enterprise Graduate Business Plan Competition kicks off Feb. 23, and is an intense 36-hour contest where graduate students from across the country and Canada have their business plans poked, prodded – and for the best – rewarded.

The top plan wins the $10,000 Cincom Spirit of Champion Award, and earns an automatic bid to the international 2012 Venture Labs Investment Competition, formerly the Moot Corp competition at The University of Texas at Austin.

This year teams from 16 universities will compete at the UC event, which will be held at Cincom Systems Cincinnati headquarters. In addition to UC students, teams from Brigham Young, Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon universities will compete as well, says Cincom Finance Director Dan Vogel.

Vogel, who has served as a competition judge in the past, says the contest is open to any type of business idea. Entries have been varied, from medical devices and software to a new liqueur. In recent years, more of the entries have focused on biotechnology and research-based medical devices.

“We get some partnering of MBA students and the medical research department testing out ideas to see if they are commercially viable,” Vogel says.

The plans represent a shift in Ohio’s economy, one that relied on traditional manufacturing jobs to one that increasingly is turning to innovation, technology and research in job creation.

“In the Midwest in particular we are evolving from an economy based on manufacturing to one that is more services and researched based, and when you look at the number of top research schools in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, a lot of time and money is being devoted to research,” he says. “The universities are fostering that environment and we are trying to jump on board.”

In addition to the Grand Prize, the competition awards $3,000 the first runner up, $2,000 to the second runner up (sponsored by Queen City Angels First Fund) and a $1,000 to the third runner up.  

The team with the top plan will move on to the Venture Labs Investment Competition in May where they will pitch to potential investors from across the globe and compete for a a prize package worth $135,000. The students will compete against 40 teams from more than 12 countries including Thailand, Norway and Brazil.


Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Dan Vogel

UC students create trash compactor for environmental competition

As part of a global environmental concern about trash, a University of Cincinnati team proposed the “Renew Trash Compactor,” a new product and service that reduces trash, increases recycling, improves sanitation and generates income for the Padli Gujar village in India.
 
Mark Schutte, Carmen Ostermann, Morgen Schroeder and Autumn Utley, all University of Cincinnati students, headed to Minnesota to present their compactor in the next round of the Acara Challenge.
 
The competition is organized by the Acara Institute and administered by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, with the mission to mold students into a new generation of leaders by providing them with insight into global issues and how to influence change.
 
The environmental challenge given to students came through “Take The Challenge for Sustainable Design and Development,” a multidisciplinary course offered as part of the University Honors Program at UC. The course is taught by Rajan Kamath, associate professor of management, and Ratee Apana, associate professor-educator of management/international business.
 
“The course encourages students to think boldly and break with convention and rules,” Apana says.
 
First-round winners from all competing universities are fine-tuning business plans in the second-round of the competition, where four winning teams will be awarded a $5,000 scholarship and the opportunity to attend the University of Minnesota Acara Summer Institute in Bangalore, India.
 
The UC team, one of six in the country from colleges such as Duke University, Cornell University, Arizona State University, is paired with industry mentors to create business plans for their ideas.
 
“The compactor was designed to be simple and affordable,” Utley says.“The waste collection service, which accompanies the compactor, will generate 29 well-paying jobs for the community and additional household income.”
 
If the team makes it to the summer institute in India, members will meet with top entrepreneurs and capitalists to further develop their idea and help secure funding.


Source: Ratee Apana, Autumn Utley
Writer: Evan Wallis

Accptd sets out to change the game in digital video college applications


Lorain Innovation Fund continues to fill niche in northeast Ohio

ABS Materials, StreamLink Software, and Thermedx may appear to have little in common. One is an advanced materials company. Another provides software to nonprofits. And the other is a biomedical firm.

Yet all three share one trait: They received early stage funds from the Lorain County Community College Innovation Fund.

Founded by the Lorain County Community College (LCCC) Foundation in 2007, the fund today serves a 21-county area in northeast Ohio and has provided $4.3 million to 60 companies in high-tech growth industries.

The fund is supported by the Ohio Third Frontier and partners that include Cleveland State University, the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE), JumpStart, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM), Stark State College, The University of Akron, The University of Akron Research Foundation, Youngstown State University and the Youngstown Business Incubator.

Tracy Green, director of the LCCC Foundation, which administers the fund, says since 2007, companies assisted by the fund have attracted more than $41 million in follow-on investments and sales and helped to create 100 new jobs.

"The Innovation Fund really serves as the front door of funding for entrepreneurs," Green says. "We see a lot that are just surfacing out of the lab or out of an 'Ah-ha' type of idea. We're the first stop after credit cards, family, friends and second mortgages."

The Innovation Fund makes two types of awards: up to $25,000 to help validate a startup's technology; and up to $100,000 to validate a new company's business model.

One of the hallmarks of the fund is a requirement that recipients help educate a college student about entrepreneurship and running a business.

"Every award we make to a company, they have to agree to provide an educational opportunity or internship to a student," Green says. "So that student is able to walk shoulder to shoulder with an entrepreneur so they understand what it means and what it takes to be involved in a startup."

The Innovation Fund's successful model was recognized in February when the college and its foundation were named as one of 10 community colleges to be part of the American Association of Community College's Virtual Incubator Network. Lorain's role is to help replicate the Innovation Fund among community colleges nationwide as part of President Obama's Startup America Initiative.

Source: Tracy Green, Lorain County Community College Foundation
Writer: Gene Monteith

University Clean Energy Alliance brings together academia, business for advanced energy growth

The University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio was founded five years ago by Ohio's 15 research universities. The goal: to advance the cause of clean energy in Ohio in a collaborative way.

Since then, the Toledo-based organization has worked with a wide array of academic, government and business entities to further business-university partnerships in advanced energy and to encourage dialog on energy issues facing the state.

"The whole idea behind the alliance was to facilitate collaboration among the universities in their efforts to do research," says Jane Harf the UCEA's director. "And it's not the ivory tower research -- it's development and deployment. We really want to see these technologies make it to the marketplace -- commercialization and technology transfer."

While the organization started with the 15 research institutions, it has expanded its membership over the years to several community colleges and organizations like the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio. Institutions such as the NASA Glenn Research Center and EWI (formerly the Edison Welding Institute) -- are also members.

Harf says that as part of its work, UCEA has engaged in a number of projects related to clean energy advancement, including a study on business and university collaborations, focus groups with businesses to assess the challenges and opportunities for clean energy and programs supporting the state's nine university-based Advanced Energy Centers of Excellence.

On April 26 and 27, the organization will hold it's fifth annual conference in Columbus, where it will showcase the work being done at those centers and work being done by students -- and at which it will offer breakout sessions on  a variety of topics including energy projects under way in Ohio, intellectual property issues surrounding university-business partnerships, policy issues around advanced and alternative energy and the opportunities and challenges of doing business in Ohio.

Also at the conference, the UCEA will roll out a new database that Harf says will provide advanced energy companies and others with current information about individual researchers and the work they do, programs of study available to those who are seeking degrees in alternative energy and on facilities and equipment available to businesses to further their technology development.

To register, go here

Source: Jane Harf, UCEA
Writer: Gene Monteith

NE Ohio universities conspire to improve "green" grades

When it comes to sustainability, we are all lifelong students. Cleveland's higher education institutions are not excluded from this learning process. In fact, area colleges and universities spent a year reflecting upon on-campus sustainability initiatives and ways to improve current practices.

The Collegiate Sustainable Practices Consortium (CSPC) brought together six local colleges and universities to talk about best practices regarding energy, water, food, building and other areas of sustainability. Led by David Kruger, director of Baldwin-Wallace's Institute for Sustainable Business Practice (ISBP), the group included B-W, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, John Carroll and Oberlin.

Kruger noted in a summary of the consortium that "with its highly industrialized, manufacturing base, [our region] carries a long legacy of sustainability-related challenges: slowly declining employment in several economic sectors; a large environmental and carbon footprint from our manufacturing base; continued population decline in our urban core and in our region at large; and an aging infrastructure."

A recently released report shows what some local higher learning institutions have implemented regarding sustainability:

Baldwin Wallace's Ernthausen Residence Hall became the first residence hall in Ohio to have a geothermal heating and cooling system. . B-W has gone so far in its green initiatives to remove light bulbs from vending machine to conserve energy.

Cleveland State University has been investing in efficient lighting, solar power, mechanical upgrades and recycling programs. The school has been promoting student involvement in its sustainability efforts.

Cuyahoga Community College has six commissioned projects aiming aim for LEED Silver Certification. Tri-C has also developed its own customized green building standards for new construction and renovation projects.


Sources: B-W, CSU, Tri-C, Institute for Sustainable Business Practice
Writer: Diane DiPiero

This story originally appeared in Fresh Water Cleveland.

Virginia Marti College of Art & Design embraces social media education

The enterprising use of social media by two of its students helped serve as a catalyst for Cleveland's Virginia Marti College of Art & Design to become a major player in the social media education scene in Northeast Ohio.

Valerie Mayen attended fashion design classes at the College in 2008. She subsequently created a line of clothing and accessories that she named Yellowcake and began promoting her work on the Internet and with social media. The buzz helped bring her to the attention of the producers of Lifetime TV's "Project Runway," and she was a contestant on the eighth season of the hit show in 2010.

Mike Kubinski received a graphic design degree from VMCAD in 2007. He also started his business -- C.L.E. Clothing Company, promoting positive messages about Cleveland -- online, and used social media to build it.

Both Mayen and Kubinski won Arts Entrepreneur and Innovation Awards from the Council of Smaller Enterprises in 2010.

In October, Michael DeAloia, Cleveland's unofficial "Tech Czar" and one of the founders of the city's Social Media Lab (SML), contacted Geof Pelaia, VMCAD's director of marketing. DeAloia was looking for a new home for the Lab, which had originally been hosted at Cuyahoga Community College.

"Michael wanted to collaborate with us to develop educational social media programming," recalls Pelaia. Aware of the positive results that two of VMCAD's students had achieved through social media, Pelaia felt that partnering with the Lab would be a good fit for the College.

VMCAD began offering weekday evening classes and Saturday seminars as part of its continuing education curriculum. They're taught by DeAloia and an array of social media and marketing professionals in the region.

"We adjust course content to respond to emerging trends, so we're staying on the cutting edge of social media," Pelaia explains. "We're accommodating our students, working professionals and budding entrepreneurs by equipping them with social media knowledge. We feel that the social media education we're doing is actually economic development."

Source: Geof Pelaia, Virginia Marti College of Art & Design and Valerie Mayen, Yellowcake
Writer: Lynne Meyer


Lorain County Community College on a roll

Lorain County Community College is on a roll.

Earlier this month, the Elyria institution was picked as one of 10 community colleges to participate in a national business incubation model. And this week, the White House endorsed Innovation Fund America, which LCCC will develop as part of its involvement in the incubation initiative.

The virtual incubator, a pilot funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, was announced as part of President Obama's Startup America Partnership. Startup America is designed to increase the success of entrepreneurs through collaborative initiatives among businesses, institutions of higher learning, private foundations and others.

According to an LCCC news release, the virtual incubator initiative "will be implemented in collaboration with the American Association of Community Colleges and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship. Eventually it will include other partnerships through a national network of small business incubation centers, like the Great lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE) on the LCCC campus."

GLIDE is a business incubation organization serving a 21-county area of northeast Ohio.

According to the news release, "the virtual incubator network will work to increase the capacity of community colleges to service their startup business community." They will do that by studying and implementing best practice and will "demonstrate ways for established business leaders and emerging small business entrepreneurs to work together to help grow local businesses."

On Tuesday, the White House gave its thumbs up to the launch of Innovation Fund America, which LCCC says is modeled after its own innovation fund. The national innovation fund will be part of the incubator pilot and will help high-tech entrepreneurs across the country access "funding and talent when they need it most," LCCC says.

The Lorain County Community College Innovation Fund is supported by both private and public sources, including the Ohio Third Frontier.

Attempts to reach LCCC officials for additional information were unsuccessful.

Source: Lorain County Community College

Master agreement gives P&G, universities, common starting point for research

It just got easier for Ohio colleges to collaborate with Procter & Gamble on research projects, thanks to a groundbreaking master agreement between P&G and Ohio's 14 state universities.

The agreement, announced April 22, is expected to lead to more P&G-university partnerships and increased commercialization of new technologies. But it also is seen as a template for agreements between the Ohio university system and other research-driven entities, says Noah Sudow, associate director economic advancement for the Ohio Board of Regents.

"I think our biggest next step is going to create that model that we can market to all business and say 'hey, we'll sign this with you right now,' Sudow says. "The goal is . . . to show how we can utilize the power of the university system to work with businesses."

The agreement, which governs treatment of intellectual property, licensing rights and when researchers can publish their findings, is the first of its kind in Ohio and may be the first in the nation, parties to the agreement say.

The five-year pact eliminates the need to negotiate agreements one-on-one with each university, drastically reducing the time needed up front, "where you could spend months negotiating (the rules) for what turned out to be two to three weeks of work," says P&G's Nick Nikolaides, university liaison for P&G global business development. "Getting rid of that up-front part and putting the focus on the project work really ought to catalyze more strategic collaborations in the long term."

The master agreement is patterned after a 2005 agreement with the University of Cincinnati.  Nikolaides says P&G invested nearly $20 million in university research projects across all business lines between 2006 and 2009, and the agreement should lead to additional investments with an increasing number of universities.

Sources: P&G: Nick Nikolaides, Chris Thoen (director, global open innovation) Rich Eggers (associate director global business development) and Mary Ralles (external relations manager, global business development); Board of Regents: Noah Sudow
 
Writer: Gene Monteith


Hocking Energy Institute growing new breed of technology specialists

Jerrold L. Hutton became dean of the Hocking College Energy Institute in 2003 "with a briefcase and three students."

Today, the Institute has a brand-new green building, 131 students and hopes to add two new associate degrees next fall.

The new building in Logan was deliberately built next to the Logan-Hocking Industrial Park Hutton says. The facility, which opened last September, serves as a hands-on learning lab for students studying in energy programs such as alternative energy, fuel cells, and vehicular hybrids

The Institute currently offers two associate degrees: one in applied science and advanced energy and fuel cells; the other in vehicular hybrids and electrics and fuel cells.

"Starting this fall, if everything goes well with the (Board of) Regents . . .we will start two new agriculture-focused programs which will be under our advanced energy but it will be a major in regenerative design for sustainable development with a specialization in energy production -- and the other major will be a specialization in bioproduct production."

The $3.4-million building on 15 acres allows students to work hand-in-hand with nearby companies within the industrial park, Hutton says. In December, the Institute was awarded $498,000 as part of a $1.49-million Ohio Third Frontier grant for a collaborative project with Lewis Center-based fuel cell manufacturer NexTech Materials.

The Institute has plans to install a tape casting line in a building leased within the industrial park for production of anodes, cathodes and electrolyte for solid oxide fuel cells, Hutton says.

Meanwhile, the Institute building -- powered by geothermal, photovoltaics and wind -- is awaiting word on a LEED Platinum designation for its green building design -- an honor that would make it the first Ohio college or university building to win such a designation, Hutton says.

Source: Jerrold L. Hutton, Ph.D., Hocking College
Writer: Gene Monteith


HIVE is alive at Miami University

Most wide-eyed college freshmen, venturing from dorm to classroom to lab to library, think their campus whatever its location is a huge, immersive environment.

But at Miami University in Oxford, the Huge Immersive Virtual Environment is, truly, boundless.

The HIVE is a facility where high-tech hardware and software enable researchers to work in a simulated space ("virtual environment"). The computer science and psychology departments collaborate on it.

The National Science Foundation recently gave HIVE's creators, David Waller, associate professor of psychology, and Eric Bachmann, associate professor of computer science and software engineering, $312,672 to upgrade the facility to support multiple users.

For the computer science side, the upgraded HIVE will let researchers develop, evaluate and compare 3D user interfaces, develop algorithms for collision detection and multi-user redirected walking, explore the use of inertial sensors for position tracking in portable virtual environments; and develop tools for collaborative computing environments.

For the behavioral research side, HIVE will help researchers improve understanding of how humans learn and remember large spaces and of the social dynamics of users who cohabit a computer simulation.

Why is a virtual environment better than the real one for such work? Well, as Waller, Bachmann and colleague Andrew C. Beall of the University of California write in a technical paper about HIVE, virtual environments "are not bound by the constraints of the real world, such as three-dimensionality, Euclidean geometry, and adherence to the law of gravity."

Besides the NSF and the university, previous support has come from the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program at the Army Research Office.

Sources: Miami University, National Science Foundation
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs


StudentZen keeps at-risk collegians on track for graduation

A Dayton software company is taking a new tack on an age-old problem for colleges: how to keep students on track for graduation.
StudentZen, a web-based business founded less than a year ago by partners Marcus Milligan and Afshin Ghafouri, allows college counselors track their school's academically at-risk students and help them stay on course to get their degree.

"It's both a safety net and a compass for when you first get on campus," explains Milligan, president of StudentZen. Not only does it track students' progress in the classroom, but also help college counselors keep an eye on off-campus distractions, he adds. "(Students) don't have to be alone in trying to figure out how to overcome these issues."

The company's program, RetentionZen, features a suite of tools including a case management system, an early alert system that lets college instructors provide input, and counseling journals and goals programs that keep track of the student's progress. In all, it cuts down on a deluge of paperwork while allowing counselors more time to spend in one-on-one with students seeking help.

The program was developed six years ago at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, where it proved an early success in increasing the school's student retention and graduation rate, while raising student GPAs.

Early this year, Milligan, a former Sinclair staffer, and Ghafouri, an IT entrepreneur, persuaded the school to let them take the program into the commercial ring with funding help from the Ohio Third Frontier Entrepreneurial Signature Program through the Dayton Development Coalition.

Since February, the company has signed up nine community college systems, including the Lone Star and Austin Community college systems in Texas, the 10th- and 15th-largest systems in the country. Closer to home, another customer is North Central State College in Mansfield, which reports that the tool has driven annual student contacts from 300-500 in the past to more than 15,000 this year.

Sources: Marcus Milligan, StudentZen, and Beverly Walker, North Central State College
Writer: Dave Malaska

Cincinnati State takes aim at green jobs revolution

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College is helping workers in Southwest Ohio ready for the coming green work revolution, with its emerging  Center for Innovative Technologies.

Students and funders are taking notice. The college's enrollment jumped 23.5 percent over 2008, to an all time high of 10,056. And in September, Cincinnati state won a $10,000 Excellence in Green Building Curriculum Incentive Grant from the U.S. Green Building Council for its certificate program in sustainable design and construction. It was the country's only community college that received that grant.

The Center for Innovative Technologies is the only one of its kind in Greater Cincinnati, offering more than 35 degrees, programs and certificates designed to develop the next generation of highly skilled workers.

"With a shift in the market, we're training people to get living-wage jobs, whether that's installing solar cells, sustainable construction, or design," says Ralph Wells, the college's certificate chair for sustainable design and construction. "We also look at what skills the business community says it's looking for."

The center was launched to train, or retrain, workers as technology drives a transformation in construction, medical, engineering, communications, aviation and other areas. In addition, the college offers a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency major in Electro- Mechanical Engineering Technology.

Several areas in particular stick out with Cincinnati State's programs. There's the college's Workforce Development Center , which offers training for those seeking certification to install solar photovoltaic systems. There's also the college's co-op program that allows students to get paid work experience and a chance for employment after graduation with companies like Duke Energy, Procter & Gamble, Melink Corp. and Mazal Corp.

Source: Ralph Wells, Cincinnati State
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

New UT campus to accelerate advanced and alternative energy, jobs

The University of Toledo is already well known for its role in incubating young alternative energy companies, like solar products manufacturer Xunlight. Now it has a campus devoted purely to the development and commercialization of advanced and alternative energy technologies.

Last week, UT signed the first two leases for its new Scott Park Campus of Energy and Innovation, dedicated in September as the university's newest technology accelerator, says Chuck Lehnert, vice president of facilities and construction. The university calls the 177-acre campus the first in the country committed solely to advancing renewable, alternative and sustainable energies.

"Our university's mission is to improve the human condition," Lehnert says. UT's pioneer work in new energy options has made "renewable and sustainable energy part of our DNA. Scott Park demonstrates our commitment."

The campus will serve as an alternative energy laboratory for teaching, research and demonstration and an accelerator for new ideas coming to the marketplace. The hope is that resulting new companies will locate within the UT technology corridor and spur economic growth in northwest Ohio, Lehnert says.

While the Scott Park Campus hopes to make an economic impact on northwest Ohio, it hopes to make no impact on the environment. A 10-kilowatt solar array and a 100-foot wind turbine have already been installed at Scott Park. And there are plans for a larger, 1.12 megawatt solar array to be installed on eight acres near the UT soccer field. The goal: a neutral carbon footprint.

Source: Chuck Lehnert, University of Toledo
Writer: Gene Monteith


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