Warren center hosts gathering of high-tech firms


By ED RUNYAN

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

For about a year, CEOs and managers of high-tech, hard-science companies such as BuTech Bliss of Salem and Quality Switch of Newton Falls have met every couple of months at the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center to hear a speaker and interact with other like-minded people.

The topic Friday was “Ingenuity on the Open Market,” a presentation by Kevin Andrews of NineSigma, a company based in Cleveland that helps companies innovate through collaboration.

NineSigma, which was founded in 2000, uses the Internet to help businesspeople look “beyond our four walls” to find solutions to problems and develop products, Andrews said.

Among the ways NineSigma does this is by giving businesses a place where they can make their needs known to the world, and others with experience in solving such problems can make a pitch for solving it.

NineSigma has contests such as one it conducted for GE that involved 3-D printing of metallic material. That one received 1,400 unique visitors and produced 10 finalists that each received $50,000 and three finalists from six countries that received an additional $50,000.

Presumably, GE chose at least one of those to collaborate with GE on the project, Andrews said.

There is a cost to be a client but no cost to be a solution provider. “The cost is your time to produce proposals,” Andrews said.

Mike Hripko of the Youngstown State University Office of Research said Friday’s gathering, a group called the Valley Alliance for Science and Technology, provides its participants with an opportunity to discuss ideas raised by the speaker and ideas that come from fellow problem-solvers.

“Here we engaged five, six, seven companies,” he said of the meeting of about 15 people in the TBEIC meeting room on West Market Street downtown.

“It’s another service our incubator can provide us with,” he said.

David Nestic, TBEIC chief executive for regional operations, said the incubator now has six startup companies working in the energy, advanced materials and advanced electronics areas. People think of wind turbines when they hear energy innovation, but “it’s a huge industry,” Nestic said.

The center is working toward the development of a technology lab to give companies access to equipment to conduct testing, such as developing fuel cells used in automobiles or homes. Funding is expected to be coming for that, Nestic said.

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