creating and nurturing industry “clusters” as a path to economic growth.
The importance of the Cluster
As part of a cluster, companies have ready access to necessary “inputs” such as raw materials and labor. They also have better access to information, technology and support. These factors, combined with proximity-driven collaboration, help to streamline the supply chain and enhance productivity.
According to National Research Council (US) Committee on Comparative National Innovation Policies, “Clusters foster the collaboration needed to develop new ideas and bring them to market.”4 Access to technical resources and enhanced productivity plays a vital role in innovation. With research, suppliers and demanding customers in close proximity, the entire supply chain has a better view of needs and opportunities and can react accordingly.
Because investment risk is mitigated when there is a concentration of customers, suppliers, labor and other resources in one geographic area, new companies tend to gravitate towards the region and new businesses spring out of old as industry players see opportunity in perceived gaps in the value chain. While this increases local competition, it also incents growth. It is important to note that competition and cooperation coexist within a cluster. As stated in the Harvard Business Review’s Clusters and the New Economics of Competition, “Rivals compete intensely to win and retain customers. Without vigorous competition, a cluster will fail. Yet there is also cooperation, much of it vertical, involving companies in related industries and local institutions. Competition can coexist with cooperation because they occur on different dimensions and among different players.”
The Importance of Ohio’s Polymer Cluster
Case Western Reserve University Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering
Kent State Liquid Crystal Institute & Chemical Physics & Interdisciplinary Program
Shawnee State Plastics Engineering Technology
The Ohio State University Center for Advanced Polymer and Composite Engineering
University of Dayton Research Institute
University of Toledo Polymer Institute
University of Akron College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering
How do you benefit from belonging to Ohio’s polymer cluster?
Close proximity strengthens social connections, which help move ideas through the cluster, thus increasing the level of local expertise. Clusters create the perfect environment to learn from and cooperate with other companies in the cluster. The most effective avenue to leverage this powerful network is to engage in local meetings and events, especially those that have a cross section of polymer industry participants—from industry segments of plastics to coating to elastomers – and in scale ranging from Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurs. While national or international events may draw a larger audience, local events cement relationships with more diverse and potentially more valuable collaborators to accelerate your growth.
In today’s knowledge economy, access to ideas and talent provides a significant competitive advantage. For example, the largest university-based polymer research effort is right here in Ohio at the University of Akron. The National Polymer Innovation Center on campus takes new polymers created in labs across campus and studies how to use them in real world manufacturing. In addition, the center gives companies the opportunity to test new product production processes before entering into full-scale production.
Clusters also lead to the development of an infrastructure of professional, legal, financial and other services that serve the industry which allows tasks such as financing, permitting, and environmental compliance to be accomplished more efficiently. As the cluster grows, funding and support become more plentiful and easier to access from private investment firms and the state of Ohio. JobsOhio recognizes petrochemicals and plastics as key growth segments for the state providing resources throughout the economic development infrastructure. Through state technology acceleration grants, PolymerOhio has access to funding that supports innovation and growth in the industry.
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