Recognizing this regional innovation cluster and accelerate its growth, NorTech launched its FlexMatters initiative in 2010. FlexMatters focuses on low cost, scalable manufacturing of flexible electronics such as electronic writing tablets, switchable eyewear, printed batteries, and medical implants.
The FlexMatters cluster consists of an expanding core group of universities, material suppliers, manufacturers, service providers, and end-users. It has more than 50 members and is developing innovative technologies in key markets such as medical, consumables, commercial, consumer electronics, bioflex, and aerospace and defense.
The cluster emerged from the breakthrough work of the Liquid Crystal Institute (LCI) at Kent State University and the globally recognized advances in polymer science at the University of Akron and Case Western Reserve University. When liquid crystals met polymers, flexible electronics were born.
Valtronic is an inaugural member of FlexMatters. Valtronic USA's Head of Technology, Don Styblo, sits on its Advisory Board. Valtronic has participated in various FlexMatters events including "Prototyping and Pilot Manufacturing for Flexible Electronics" and the "Flexible Electronics Roundtable," as well as provided our expertise on packaging flexible electronic circuits.
The FlexMatters vision is to become the global epicenter of innovation and manufacturing of layered structures on polymer substrates for flexible electronics applications. Specifically, the world will look to Northeast Ohio for high-quality, low-cost and scalable manufacturing solutions for flexible electronics which include innovative materials, devices and systems. Most importantly, Northeast Ohio will emerge as a leading producer of flexible electronics products sold globally.
The cluster's potential to attract capital and create jobs in Northeast Ohio has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which invested $1.2 million in 2010 and 2011 – $600,000 each year – to support entrepreneurial involvement in the cluster. It also is one of only seven regions across the country that received a $385,000 Regional Innovation Cluster Contract from SBA last October.
The ultimate goal is for FlexMatters to add 1,500 jobs, $75 million in payroll, and $100 million in capital to the Northeast Ohio economy within seven years.