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Hamilton companies, Miami University to launch partnership for solving problems

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October 13, 2021

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Miami University and several highly technical Hamilton companies will have 10,000 square feet of space at Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill’s convention hall area to seek solutions for issues the businesses face.

The facility, to be called the Ideation Green Lab, will harness the mind power of Miami University faculty, students and alumni, as well as Cincinnati-based Centrifuse, to help some of Hamilton’s most innovative companies.

Miami’s “entrepreneurial program is rated No. 7 in the country,” Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said in an interview after his State of the City speech last week. Also working with the program will be Cincinnati-based organization Centrifuse, whose stated mission is to make Greater Cincinnati “the #1 tech startup hub in the Midwest.

One participant will be Hamilton-based iMFLUX Inc., which Smith said several years ago adopted the goal of reducing plastics in packaging for Procter & Gamble by 90 percent in a decade.

Another will be thyssenkrupp Bilstein, which makes highly adjustable shock absorbers for Tesla, BMW and Mercedes Benz. Yet another will be Saica, a Spain-based manufacturer of recycled cardboard boxes, building its first North American facility, costing more than $70 million, in Hamilton’s Enterprise Park industrial park.

Across the street from Saica is another participant, 80 Acres Farms, which grows crops entirely indoors, all year round, across the street from the Saica facility.

“The collaborators, if they have a problem, they can bring it to the ideation center, give it to the students, give it to the Centrifuse mentors, and they will come up with possible solutions to the problems.”

The center will be located at the southern tip of the former Champion Paper’s “Mill 2,” the building located between B Street and the Great Miami River.

Randi Thomas, Miami’s vice president of ASPIRE (Advancing Strategies, Partnerships, Institutional Relations and Economy), who works at all the university’s campuses, said city government also will add its expertise.

“From our perspective, we want to provide high-quality, tangible, real-world, experiential learning opportunities for our students, where they can learn and grow, and at the same time, contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Hamilton, Oxford, Southwest Ohio,” Thomas said.

Another approach the center will take is to approach companies and organizations such as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that own patents “that are just sitting there because they weren’t successful,” Thomas said. “So we say, ‘Why don’t you loan us he patent?’ And we may look at it, we may put it with another patent, we’ll take it through commercialization and then once it reaches a dollar amount that’s profitable for you, you come back in and buy us out, and take it back.”

The organization will focus on industry sectors that REDI Cincinnati focuses aims to grow as the region’s main economic-development agency.

Pete Blackshaw, CEO of Cintrifuse, said the goal is to have from successful companies such as rapidly growing 80 Acres Farms who are “experienced founders, who have done it before, who do it again.”

Blackshaw called the ideation lab “a hugely promising idea because the best ideas on green are coming from youth, and I believe this could be a national model.”

“Miami has a fantastic track record in green (technologies), have for many, many years,” Blackshaw said. Also, Centrifuse has made one of its top priorities the improvement of sustainability, he said.

Among local board members of Centrifuse are Smith; 80 Acres founder and CEO Mike Zelkind; and Miami President Greg Crawford.

Miami also is creating an incubator program for startup businesses in Oxford, Thomas said. That and the Ideation Green Lab will complement each other, he said.

“Last year alone, students started 35 companies on their own,” at Miami, Thomas said.

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