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Portman Visit Highlights Northeast Ohio's Liquid Crystal Assets

Senator Rob Portman to Attend Liquid Crystal Technology Roundtable at AlphaMicron in Kent  

CLEVELAND, Jan. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Recognizing Northeast Ohio as a global leader in the flexible electronics industry, U.S. Senator Rob Portman will attend a liquid crystal technology roundtable with NorTech staff and others at AlphaMicron in Kent, and tour the company's facilities during a visit to the region on Friday, Jan. 11.  

Portman (R-Ohio) will have a discussion on Northeast Ohio's role in the development of cutting-edge liquid crystal technologies with representatives from regional companies in the field, as well as officials from the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Kent State University, NorTech and the City of Kent.

The Senator is scheduled to be at AlphaMicron at 1950 State Route 59 in Kent from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Both the roundtable and tour are open to the media.

The other companies joining the roundtable discussion are Akron Polymer Systems, Crystal Diagnostics, Hana and Kent Displays.

Portman's visit highlights the region's liquid crystal assets and its historical leadership in the flexible electronics industry. The flexible electronics science and manufacturing process produces ultra-thin electronic components and devices printed on materials that flex, bend, fold or stretch. It is used in products such as LCD display screens, which can be written on with either a stylus or finger.

A regional innovation cluster has emerged around the flexible electronics industry in Northeast Ohio. To recognize that cluster and accelerate its growth, NorTech launched its FlexMatters® initiative in 2010.

"The modern liquid crystal displays you see today had their beginnings right here in Ohio," says NorTech Vice President Byron Clayton, who heads the flexible electronics industry cluster. "We have a legacy."

That legacy emerged from the world-renowned work of the Liquid Crystal Institute (LCI) at Kent State University and the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at the University of Akron. From 1991 to 2002, the National Science Foundation funded the Center for Advanced Liquid Crystalline Optical Materials (ALCOM), a collaboration between the LCI, the University of Akron and Case Western Reserve University. ALCOM attracted more than $55 million in funding and created the technology and intellectual property used to spin off flexible electronics companies and attract existing companies to the field. Since 2002, the Ohio Third Frontier Program has invested more than $60 million in Northeast Ohio's flexible electronics cluster.

The FlexMatters cluster has over 50 members and is developing innovative technologies in multiple applications in five key markets: aerospace and defense, consumables, commercial and consumer electronics, and bioflex. It consists of businesses, suppliers, service providers and institutions focused on advanced manufacturing of flexible electronic devices and materials.

The cluster's potential to attract capital and create jobs in Northeast Ohio has been recognized by the Small Business Administration (SBA), which invested $1.2 million in 2010 and 2011 – $600,000 each year – to support entrepreneurial involvement in the cluster. Northeast Ohio also is one of only seven regions across the country that received a $385,000 Regional Innovation Cluster Contract from SBA last October.

One of the companies the FlexMatters® cluster has helped is Kent, Ohio-based startup AlphaMicron, which created a flexible film that when put on a visor can instantly change from light to dark with the press of a button. The technology is used in eyewear for the U.S. military and visors for motorcyclists.

In addition to visiting AlphaMicron during his trip to Northeast Ohio, Sen. Portman will also tour Dearing Compressor & Pump Co. in Youngstown and Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown. 

"Northeast Ohio is at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, from the manufacturers at Dearing Compressor & Pump Co. whose compressors have enhanced natural gas exploration, to the scientists at AlphaMicron who revolutionized eyewear to protect our Armed Services in combat, to the educators at NEOMED who have ensured that Ohio's medical professionals are well-equipped to treat the local community," Portman said. "As these technologies continue to progress and develop, they will solidify Ohio's position at the center of technological advancement while creating more opportunities for Ohio's workforce and making America a leader in innovation."

NorTech is a technology-based economic development organization that is working towards the revitalization of Northeast Ohio by accelerating the growth of regional innovation clusters in targeted emerging industries. Serving 21 counties in Northeast Ohio, NorTech works as an intermediary to connect small, large and mid-size companies and universities for business, funding and research opportunities that result in job creation and capital attraction. NorTech is currently focused on three industries: advanced energy, flexible electronics and water technologies. Visit us at www.nortech.org.

For more information, contact Christian Taske, director of communications, at 216.640.8824 or [email protected].


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