In its first year of operation, the Lorain County Community College Foundation Innovation Fund has provided more than $1 million in support to 16 emerging technology companies.
“The Innovation Fund is part of a regional grow-our-own strategy to support entrepreneurship in high-tech, high growth industries,” said Dr. Roy Church, president of Lorain County Community College. “This region was built on the innovation and passion of entrepreneurs. The Innovation Fund helps to rekindle that spirit and grow new industries and jobs that represent the future economic strengths of Northeast Ohio.”
The fund awards grants of $25,000 to $100,000 for research, product testing, marketing and other approved activities to early-stage technology-based companies within a 21-county region in Northeast Ohio. An inventive component of the Fund is its requirement that recipients provide an educational internship opportunity for a student. This educational requirement led to a unique Internal Revenue Service private letter ruling making contributions to the fund tax deductible, the only one of its kind in the nation.
Some of the emerging companies that have received awards are: • Absorbent Materials Co., developing a novel type of expandable glass polymer that is functionally superior to other types of materials used to absorb organic contaminants from water and air. • Akron MedVision, developing glucose sensing contact lens coatings. • Body Phyx International, creating a physical therapy device that allows for greater levels of access to spinal therapy. • Endotronix, developing implantable wireless blood pressure sensors. Endotronix previously received a level ‘A’ award for prototyping and testing and is at the stage to move the technology forward. • Zolio, developing an online technology-based resume platform for the 18 to 30-year-old market. • Rhinosystems, developing a personal nasal hygiene device.
The Innovation Fund also recently expanded its partnership network through a formalized collaboration with the University of Akron and the University of Akron Research Foundation as an outgrowth of the Innovation Alliance established in 2006 between Lorain County Community College and the University of Akron. “We are thrilled to have the University of Akron Research Foundation joining the Innovation Fund. They bring a unique set of expertise, talents and resources that add great value for the fund and recipients,” said Church.
University of Akron President Luis Proenza, who also serves as chairman of Board of the research foundation, stated, "The Innovation Alliance between Lorain County Community College and The University of Akron is a shining example of the value that comes through cooperation, as we seek to create an effective regional innovation ecosystem."
The partnership engages the University of Akron Research Foundation team of Gordon Schorr, Barry Rosenbaum and John Myers in the due diligence process as well as leverages the resources and expertise of the university and its research foundation to provide enhanced management services to recipients.
“In addition to our success in bringing emerging companies to the attention of investors and service providers, we’ve been looking to contribute to a fund that gives money directly to companies,” Schorr said. “The Innovation Fund model has been extraordinarily successful and we hope to build on that success by bringing our networks into contact with these companies.”
Companies funded by the Innovation Fund will also be considered as presenters at the ARCHAngels quarterly meetings of more than 300 investors, entrepreneurs and service providers. These meetings have resulted in $32 million in follow-on funding for the 41 companies that have presented.
The partnership has already received recognition by the Ohio Department of Development’s Third Frontier Program. In July, the Ohio Department of Development announced another round of Third Frontier funding for the Innovation Fund. In partnership with the University of Akron Research Foundation, the Innovation Fund received $500,000 through the Third Frontier Pre-Seed/Success Fund Initiative.
For more information, call the LCCC Foundation at (440) 366-4039.