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Otterbein University and Partners Announce New STEAM Innovation Center

February 20, 2016
Otterbein University

Otterbein University and Partners Announce New STEAM Innovation Center 

Westerville, OH—Otterbein University announced it is partnering with leading organizations from the private and public sectors in central Ohio to create a new science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) Innovation Center. The convergence of educators, business, industry and regional economic planning and development partners all in one location creates a unique resource for students, entrepreneurs and the Westerville community.

According to a feasibility study commissioned from Boyette Strategic Advisors, the project would be one-of-a-kind in the entire country, and follows a series of strategic objectives recently set forth by the Westerville Economic Development Plan. 

The study conservatively estimates the direct impact of the project will result in the creation of 200 jobs in five years totaling $16 million in payroll. The state and local tax impact over five years is projected at $3.6 million. 

“The STEAM Innovation Center is a first-of-its-kind concept that offers the opportunity for dynamic integration of academic curriculum with the business community, while also serving as a catalyst for an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Westerville,” said Otterbein President Kathy Krendl. “This new center positions Otterbein as a leader among universities with strong liberal arts and sciences traditions.”

Otterbein officials and partners announced the new center at an event on Friday, Feb. 19, in the university’s Science Center. Speakers at the event included:

  • Kathy Krendl, Otterbein University president
  • Mark Thresher, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Nationwide and chairman of Otterbein Board of Trustees
  • Bruce Fawcett, executive director of PolymerOhio
  • David Collinsworth, Westerville city manager
  • Gary Maul, director of Otterbein’s systems engineering program
  • Mikayla Knerr, systems engineering major, founder of Otterbein chapter of Society of Women Engineers

Located at 60 Collegeview Road in Westerville, the STEAM Innovation Center will be home to two resident companies and Otterbein academic departments, with lab space available to businesses and the broader community. The center’s first resident companies will be PolymerOhio and Ikove Capital Partners.

“The STEAM Innovation Center will provide an environment of innovation to support both entrepreneurs and existing businesses in central Ohio, as well as being open to innovators in the broader community to explore their ideas,” Krendl said. “We’ll see an increase in development of products and services, internships and jobs.” 

“The mission and scope of the Innovation Center will make it a valuable asset to the central Ohio manufacturing community by catalyzing and supporting the development and introduction of new products and manufacturing processes,” said Bruce Fawcett, executive director of PolymerOhio.

Gary Maul, director of Otterbein’s systems engineering program, said the STEAM Innovation Center is unique in that it is a center not just for ideas, but also for action. “There are a lot of innovation centers where intellectual property is developed. Ideas will be generated here as well, but the purpose of our center is to convert ideas to commercialized products and services.”

“The advanced-technology physical assets of the Center; access to technical and business resources of PolymerOhio and Otterbein; and the ability to build, develop and leverage relationships with other manufacturers and service providers will be a truly unique set of resources for the local manufacturing community. Manufacturers can benefit from these resources through a faster-to-market introduction of new products and services and the development of our future workforce, supporting our growth plans and producing increased revenue and new job creation,” said Fawcett.

Maul said a gap exists between idea generation and product or process realization — a gap that Otterbein’s new center will fill while providing new opportunities for economic development to Westerville.

The objectives of the center are:

  • To create an entrepreneurial ecosystem at Otterbein University and in the City of Westerville
  • To support entrepreneurs and start-up businesses in a collaborative environment
  • To compete for entrepreneurs/innovators in Westerville
  • To create high-value jobs in Westerville
  • To connect education and business/industry in a creative, collaborative environment
  • To provide experiential learning opportunities for Otterbein University students to complete the systems engineering, math and computer science, art and business programs
  • To offer new opportunities for the broader community to engage with Otterbein University
  • To develop collaborations between Otterbein students and students from Columbus State Community College and area school districts

Otterbein’s STEAM Innovation Center will offer space and services to support start-up businesses with potential to become high-growth companies, as well as lab space and services to support research and development and prototyping for small- to medium-sized manufacturers. Additionally, there will be space for community members who are interested in innovation and creation.

The new center will benefit students through its interdisciplinary approach and collaboration opportunities with working professionals on campus.

“Problems do not exist within a single discipline. Having a wide variety of skill sets in one place and being able to get different perspectives from students, faculty and professionals will make our students better problem-solvers,” Maul said. Students will also work alongside resident professionals and complete on-site internships with resident companies.

Additional partners, associates and vendors include: City of Westerville, Columbus State Community College, Ikove, PolymerOhio, Westerville City Schools, Design Central, edgeThingZ, Honda North America, Lake Shore Cryotronics, Mettler Toledo, Nano Tech, Nestle PTC, Rimrock Robotics, Worthington Industries, Xigent, Blair IT, Buckeye Education, Cisco, Dell, Corna Kokosing, Logicalis, Moody Nolan, Radiant.

The renovation of the building began in early January and will be completed in a tiered approach. Businesses will move in next summer and Otterbein’s engineering program will start the 2016 school year in the Center.

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