Research Communications

Innovation Center receives state award for excellence in economic development 

ATHENS, Ohio (Oct. 31, 2011) – Ohio University’s Innovation Center was recognized by the Ohio Economic Development Association (OEDA)Thursday for excellence in creating innovative business growth programs.

The Innovation Center was one of eight individuals or organizations across Ohio that received first-place awards for achievements in economic and workforce development. The center, Ohio University’s small high-tech and biotechnology business incubator, won in the category of “Excellence in Economic Development Innovation” for rural areas. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) won the companion award for metropolitan areas.

The Innovation Center staff receives the OEDA award Thursday. From left to right: Steve Schoeny with SZD Whiteboard/Ice Miller; Joseph Shields, interim vice president for research and creative activity/dean of the Graduate College; Bethany George, Innovation Center executive-in-residence; Jennifer Simon, director of the Innovation Center; Jamie Beier-Grant, 2011 OEDA president; and Katie Pinkerton and Bernadette Fechko, Innovation Center interns.

“It’s a real honor to receive this award because it’s one of the state’s highest honors for economic development,” said Jennifer Simon, director of the Innovation Center. “We were selected from a competitive field of very creative and innovative organizations.”

The state of Ohio has focused on cultivating entrepreneurship to boost economic growth. The Innovation Center, which nurtures regional entrepreneurs and companies as well as startups based on university faculty research, is a prime success story, Simon said. Graduates of the Ohio University program include Athens biotech firm Diagnostic Hybrids (now a Quidel Company subsidiary). Current Innovation Center clients such as Third Sun Solar have gained national attention for strong and rapid growth in the marketplace.

Simon credits Ohio University’s entrepreneurial ecosystem for the Innovation Center’s success. The incubator works closely with TechGROWTH Ohio, the state Third Frontier-funded program administered by the university to provide business assistance and funding to startups in southeastern Ohio. It partners with the Technology Transfer Office and Edison Biotechnology Institute to identify and launch companies based on faculty research, and also works with the Center for Entrepreneurship to help cultivate the next generation of business professionals.

Two Ohio University undergraduate student interns, Katie Pinkerton and Bernadette Fechko, were instrumental in developing the Innovation Center’s proposal to the OEDA’s 2011 Annual Excellence Awards competition. They also implemented many of the efforts that led to the center’s success, Simon said.

The OEDA supports efforts by state, regional and local governments and other organizations to strengthen the economic climate in Ohio, foster employment growth and expand economic opportunities for Ohio’s citizens. It announced the award recipients during its 2011 Annual Summit, held last week in Columbus.

Contact: Jennifer Simon, (740) 593-1818,; Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166,