Innovation Center Helps Tech Entrepreneurs’ Ideas Become Reality

The Innovation Center has been helping entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses since 1983 by providing services, resources, and flexible facilities that put them on the path to success.

Located in nearby Athens, Ohio, the IC features high-speed Internet, shared office equipment, leasable office space, conference rooms, and the Biotechnology Research & Development Facility, also known as the Wet Lab. IC clients generally are technology-based and focus on sustainable energy, life sciences, transportation technology, and information technology.

“Community-based businesses as well as Ohio University-based businesses can use our services,” says Jennifer Simon, director of the IC.

The center not only offers clients networking luncheons and monthly seminars on topics as varied as intellectual property protection and marketing,  it also offers business coaching and financing.

Innovation Center Startup Founders (from top to bottom) - Daniel Allwine of Austral Engineering, Dr. Sang-Soo Kim of EZ Asphalt Technology, Mark Schweizer of Sunpower, Michelle Greenfield of Third Sun, and David Bayless of Environenergy

“Business coaching is an important part of of the center’s services to clients,” Simon says, adding that the IC works in conjunction with TechGrowth Ohio to provide it.

Coaching specifically helps companies imagine the commercial opportunity, define commercial potential, facilitate market entry, and assist their growth and sustainability, she says.

The IC connects clients with several financing avenues depending on the stage of the company’s development. Funding sources include pre-seed funds from TechGrowth Ohio, the Ohio Angel Investor Network, traditional banks, the Ohio University Foundation, and The Technology Gap Fund developed by OU.

Currently, the IC has 16 member companies, meaning they reside at the center and receive full services. In March 2009, when Simon began her tenure as director, there were just three member companies.

“The recession actually provided an incentive for a number of people to start their own companies,” she says. “Entrepreneurs looking for jobs started saying, ‘Hey, I’ll just create one.’ Also, a number of partners, including TechGrowth Ohio, have increased services, providing a seamless network of resources. We’ve created, and are now part of, a nurturing environment for startups.”

The IC also is home to two anchor tenants that do not receive business assistance services: the Athens County Economic Development Council and Diagnostic Hybrids Inc.

Simon considers the latter one of the IC’s most inspiring success stories.

“Diagnotic Hybrids, founded in 1983, graduated from the IC in 2008,” she says. “DHI is responsible for developing swine-flu tests as well as diagnostic kits for respiratory illnesses and sexually transmitted infections. DHI was purchased by Quidel Corp. for $130 million. They currently employ over 200 people in Athens, Ohio.”

Going forward Simon wants to continue to improve how the IC meets the needs of its clients.

“As an entrepreneurial sparkplug, we connect resources with companies,” she says. “We expect to work with private and public developers to establish additional graduation space and continue to expand our Biotechnology Research & Development Facility.”

To learn more about the Innovation Center, visit