Ohio State professors are working with startups to turn creative ideas into job opportunities in the technology sector.
Ohio Third Frontier awards grants to individuals and companies that work to create jobs in new sectors such as technology, according to the state of Ohio’s website. Two OSU professors received $150,000 of the total $2.11 million to work in conjunction with local businesses to make their ideas a reality.
Melissa Bailey, an associate professor at the OSU College of Optometry, received some of the grant money and is working with a company called Sight4All. Together, they are developing an app Bailey created that uses light from a cellphone camera to analyze an eye prescription and eye alignment.
“I think it’ll be used by doctor’s everywhere, especially in third world countries where there just aren’t enough eye doctors,” Bailey said of her invention.
Ohio Third Frontier awarded Sight4All $100,000 to develop the app. The startup is currently working to choose an app developer, Bailey added.
Steve Wallace, the president and CEO of Sight4All and a 1979 graduate of OSU, said the idea of the app appealed to him because he had a detached retina and needed surgery in 1996.
“I felt an obligation for giving back after that,” he said.
The app itself will be free, but users will be charged on a per-use basis, Wallace said.
Another project that received money from the Third Frontier grant is Circular Wire Drive.
Yuan Zheng, an electrical engineering professor at OSU, invented the idea, won $50,000 in grant money from Third Frontier. Using this money, he is working in conjunction with IKOVE Capital Investment, a Columbus-based investment firm that works with startups, to create a prototype, said Drew Lehman, project manager of Circular Wave Drive and a 2013 OSU graduate.
Zheng won $50,000 in grant money from Third Frontier. Using this money, he is working in conjunction with IKOVE Capital Investment to create a prototype, said Drew Lehman, project manager of Circular Wave Drive and a 2013 OSU graduate.
The part Circular Wave Drive is developing is smaller and longer-lasting than most robotic gear reducers. Gear reducers increase the amount of effort it takes the robot to move so the robot’s engine moves slower and the robot is easier to control.
Currently, a robotic motor spins gears inside a robot faster than most engineers want, so a gear reducer slows the speed at which the gears turn, Lehman said. The Circular Wave Drive will make it so engineers won’t have to choose between size, efficacy and lifespan, he added.
The company plans on using existing manufacturing companies and infrastructure to build the gearheads, which could create jobs later on, he added.
“We’re helping with (OSU) inventions becoming businesses centered near the university and showing a return on taxpayer dollars,” said Lehman. “Overall robotics would get cheaper, meaning they would be more prolific.”
Lehman and Wallace both said they thought part of the reason they received grant money was because they plan on creating jobs in Ohio.
“Part of what went into the grant from the state of Ohio was the big picture, or what happens after we execute what we said we would do for the grant,” Lehman said. “That gives us a business that is based in Columbus, Ohio, creating jobs based in technology from the university.”
Correction: March 21, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the program that awards grants as the “Ohio Third Frontier Foundation.” In fact, the program is called Ohio Third Frontier.
An earlier version of this article also misstated Drew Lehman’s first name.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that IKOVE Capital Investment bought Yuan Zheng’s Circular Wave Drive. In fact, the company did not buy the product, but instead has a license agreement with OSU.