Building Regional Innovation Clusters to Drive Economic Growth

You’ve likely heard the term “clusters” thrown around but may wonder what exactly a cluster is and why it is important. According to the Brookings Institution, clusters are “geographic concentrations of interconnected businesses, suppliers, service providers and associated institutions in a particular sector.” Clusters are fueled by the resource and knowledge-sharing that often comes from being in such close proximity to other like-businesses and research institutions. Silicon Valley is perhaps one of the best examples of a vibrant cluster that is recognized throughout the world.

Over the last several years, Northeast Ohio has begun forming its own “Innovation Clusters,” which leverage our region’s unique assets and strengths. The region’s Innovation Clusters are focused on three areas: Additive Manufacturing, Smart Devices & Systems and Energy Storage. Northeast Ohio’s Clusters are designed to help drive enhanced growth through the creation of high-value commercialization platforms and world-class supply chains. Led by Team NEO, in partnership with several local organizations, Northeast Ohio’s Innovation Clusters are intended to further diversify and strengthen the region’s economy over time.

Northeast Ohio’s Innovation Clusters at Work

Based on the region’s unique assets and attributes, Northeast Ohio has begun building three distinct Clusters, which are outlined below.

Additive Manufacturing:

In 2016, Team NEO, the Youngstown Business Incubator, America Makes and MAGNET conducted a study to identify additive manufacturing (AM) opportunities in Northeast Ohio. The study highlighted the numerous opportunities in AM, which spurred the creation of the NEO Additive Manufacturing Cluster. The ultimate goal of the AM Cluster is to build from the technology advancements generated by America Makes to provide a clear vision for integrating the AM supply chain in Northeast Ohio. A key benefit to Cluster membership is gaining connections to a highly-specialized supply chain of companies and institutions with advanced capabilities and resources related to AM.

To learn more about the NEO AM Cluster and the benefits of becoming a member, please visit: www.neohioamcluster.org/.

Smart Devices & Systems:

Formerly known as FlexMatters, the Smart Devices & Systems Cluster spans the complete value chain, including universities, material suppliers, component manufacturers, circuit designers, circuit builders and OEMs.  In recent years, the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable electronics have emerged as significant opportunities for growth across the region and as a result, the Cluster’s mission has expanded to include systems as well as flexible electronics. The Cluster includes more than 60 organizations and meets on a quarterly basis.

To learn more about the Smart Devices & Systems Cluster and to get involved, please contact Tim Fahey (tfahey@teamneo.org).

Energy Storage:

Founded in 2009, Northeast Ohio’s advanced energy cluster was formed to support the more than 500 companies and organizations actively engaged in advanced energy research, development and commercialization. The effort now focuses on energy storage, the sector that represents the largest addressable market for Northeast Ohio. A primary objective of the Energy Storage Cluster is to develop a vibrant energy storage business environment in the region through networking, recognition, sharing and sector advocacy. Core stakeholders in the Energy Storage Cluster include Case Western Reserve University, FirstEnergy and NASA Glenn Research Center.

The Cluster’s next meeting will take place on October 10. For additional information about the event and to register, please visit: www.clevelandplus.com/teamneo/energy-storage-10-10-17/.

To learn more about the Energy Storage Cluster, please contact Bill Hagstrand (bhagstrand@teamneo.org).