People often forget that the vast landscape west of New York used to be the manufacturing heart of the United States. Times are changing and customers are consistently demanding more technically sophisticated products. So in order for corporations to compete they need to specialize. The downside is; as you are focusing on your niche market, how do you make sure that you remain aware in the battlefield that has become globalization?
The Techbelt gives a clear answer. In Ohio and Pennsylvania they have bundled together their expertise and market the region as a region where state-of-the-art technical research and innovation takes place. What is unique is that it encompasses 2 states, multiple counties and over 8 universities that can feed off each other, rather than compete against each other. This is one of the resemblances this region shows with the Dutch Brainport region.
The Techbelt approach has already shown a number of results as it got awarded the National Research center for Equipment Manufacturing and the region was mentioned twice in the state of the Union speech of President Obama (hyperlink). These are early signs of results and bring a lot of attention and energy to the region.
My trip started out in Cleveland, already in the elevator John of Lightning America, my host, William Cann of the Regional Chamber in Youngstown/Warren, and myself started discussing how the energy grid could become DC rather than AC as it is makes more sense. Discussion continued at Akron University where they have a microgrid in place to simulate load behavior of the grid, including a 60kw DC fastcharger for EVs. Apart from the battery research done at Akron and Youngstown/Warren, they are also starting a tech incubator that is helping 40 companies in the energy field. My final lag of the trip was in Pittsburgh, were the DC story continued both from a medium and low voltage perspective.
So what have I learned; there is a lot of cleantech in the Techbelt, a number of companies are growing and have potential to work with Dutch partners. It is an excellent place to get more buck for your research and manufacturing dollar, and it host a wild array of very pleasant people that are dedicated to the region.
It was a wonderfull trip, thanks go out to the regional chambers in Cleveland, Akron and Pittbburg, and an extra thank you to Eric Planey, William Cann and Sarah Boyarko, for making this a very effective and fun trip.
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