Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Collaborative approach results in successes for driving Northeast Ohio’s knowledge-based economy

Oct. 20, 2011, 9:07 a.m., Posted by Juan J. Martinez

Dr. Frank Douglas, President and CEO of the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron

Juan Martinez, Vice President/CFO at Knight Foundation:

A little over three years ago, Akron leaders visited Knight Foundation, proposing a new, collaborative approach to jumpstart Northeast Ohio’s knowledge-based economy.

We helped bring a cross-section of the community’s leadership together for strategic planning. From there emerged the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron, a collaboration of five major clinical and academic institutions focused on making the region a leader in the use of polymer technology for patient-centered health care solutions.

Today, the institute is a great example of community leaders creating and implementing a shared vision.

The past couple of weeks have been momentous for the institute.  Michael Milken requested copies of the institute’s white paper on Value-Driven Engineering for U.S. Global Competitiveness after participants at the Milken Institute Global Conference found the white paper relevant for promoting innovation. The paper is geared at providing researchers, medical device manufacturers and federal legislators with a pathway for industry action and public policy steps necessary to advance America's capabilities in the face of rising competition from global forces.

The Kauffman Foundation has also demonstrated its belief in the Value-Driven Engineering approach by offering to sponsor a national conference to be held in Akron in April, 2012 and to co-sponsor a congressional briefing on this topic. The briefing, co-hosted by representatives Anna Eschoo (D-CA), Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Betty Sutton (D-OH), is scheduled for Nov. 16, 2011.

Last month, the institute also announced that it, along with its partners, received a $500,000 Federal Community Transformation Grant to plan the Accountable Care Community, a collective effort to create a healthier Akron and lessen the burden of disease in the region. This is particularly important because the institute will now be eligible to apply for several million dollars to implement the project and benefit Summit County.

The institute also concluded a successful set of discussions with the Food and Drug Administration to establish a partnership with the Center for Devices and Radiological Health. The partnership will support the center’s mission to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medical devices and eliminating unnecessary human exposure to man-made radiation from medical, occupational and consumer products. The institute will also receive Research Collaborative Agreements from the Food and Drug Administration in four separate areas.

In the two years since it began operations, the institute’s collaborative strategy has created a national record and reputation that are unprecedented for an organization of this size. The record includes creating:

  • An innovative ecosystem using approaches such as research and development grants and bioinnovation design courses;
  • Open source industry collaborations such as the Akron Functional Materials Center;
  • Ideas that leverage the institute’s strengths to produce credible national leadership;
  • Confidence in elected officials that the above elements will result in creation of companies and jobs.              

Knight Foundation strongly believes that this record of successes is just the beginning. The future looks bright as the institute moves into its new facilities, which includes a state of the art simulation center, wet lab and business incubator in Akron’s BioMedical Corridor in 2012.