Research Communications

State awards $500,000 to Innovation Center, Edison Biotech Institute to boost economic growth 


ATHENS, Ohio (Aug. 25, 2011)—The state’s Edison Technology Incubator Program has awarded $500,000 to Ohio University’s Innovation Center and Edison Biotechnology Institute for projects that will stimulate economic development in southeastern Ohio.

The new funding—a 20 percent increase from last year’s budget— is a vote of confidence for the two programs, which will use the funding to enhance their support to biotechnology and high-technology start-up firms in the region, said Jennifer Simon, director of the Innovation Center, the university’s small business incubator.

“The state of Ohio has recognized that we have the capabilities to be on par with incubators in urban areas such as Cleveland and Columbus,” Simon said.
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Jennifer Simon.

In the last few years, the Edison Biotechnology Institute and the Innovation Center have worked collaboratively to create a pipeline of entrepreneur services, including business plan development, coaching, creation of strategies to access or leverage funding, as well as access to equipment and facilities. These programs serve faculty inventors at the university and regional entrepreneurs.

The Edison Biotechnology Institute will use a portion of the new funds to enhance its business consulting services, including for clients of the Innovation Center.

“Through our assistance, our clients have been able to get $8 million in additional funding from new grants, investments, foundation awards and increases in sales,” said David Wight, director of the Edison Biotechnology Institute.
 David_Wight_web
David Wight.

In addition, three companies have either received or are under consideration for a total of $1.2 million in equity investment, he said. Success stories include Promiliad, a drug discovery company, and Sanuthera, a company developing a single medical device for hearing loss and tinnitus. Both are Ohio University faculty start-ups.

The university programs are working to match new medical device companies such as Sanuthera with regional manufacturers, Wight noted. 

“In addition to the jobs in the bioscience companies, this could provide manufacturing jobs in the region,” he said.

The state money also will support a laboratory director and equipment for the new Biotechnology Research and Development Facility, which the Innovation Center opened this year to provide more resources to early-stage biotechnology companies at the university and throughout the region. The Edison Biotechnology Institute is assisting with locating clients for this and other wet laboratory spaces within the incubator.

In addition, the Innovation Center plans to use the new funding to support student start-ups emerging from Ohio University’s GRID Lab, which provides opportunities to develop technical and creative skills through the use of interactive digital game technology, Simon said.

The goal of the various initiatives is to create new bioscience and high-technology jobs in the region. A recent study found that the average annual salary of Innovation Center clients is $53,000, which is significantly higher than the regional median household income of $30,000.

“We’re trying to retain these companies in the community so they can, in turn, employ accountants, administrative assistants, manufacturing workers and other non-technology professionals who can contribute to the companies’ successes,” Simon said.

Both university programs work in partnership with the Athens County Economic Development Council to market services to entrepreneurs and to provide assistance to expanding companies.

Contact: Director of Research Communications Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166, gibsona@ohio.edu.