The state of Ohio’s Third Frontier program is a $2.1 billion economic development initiative that supports existing industries. The program helps those firms transform themselves by enabling them to develop new, globally competitive products and processes. Third Frontier also aims to encourage new-business formation and attract new companies in emerging industry sectors. The program provides funding to Ohio technology-based companies, universities, nonprofit research institutions, and other organizations.

Cleveland-based consulting firm NineSigma is completing the second year of the Open Innovation Incentive grant program with the Ohio Third Frontier, to help mid-market companies leverage open innovation resources. Mid-market firms have annual sales ranging between $10 million and $1 billion. Under its grant agreement, NineSigma engages middle-market firms across Ohio and incentivizes them to take on innovation challenges. Through Third Frontier, the state agrees to subsidize half the cost of an estimated $25,000 engagement.

NineSigma is using open innovation (OI) techniques to connect companies with the global innovation community. Open innovation encourages businesses and other organizations to use external ideas as well as internal ideas for new product and process development. The 31 companies working with NineSigma through Ohio Third Frontier expect to increase sales by $330 million and to add 180 new jobs in three to five years, according to NineSigma. Go here for a detailed description of OI.

Government Product News checked in with NineSigma’s Nick Kacsandi to get his views on Ohio Third Frontier and OI. Kacsandi is an open innovation program manager at NineSigma, where he manages the operations of client programs, RFPs and the competitive landscape.

GPN: Is innovation taking place in products that the public sector buys and uses?

Nick Kacsandi: When you are looking at that range of products, we are finding a lot of favorable circumstances. The focus is mainly around things that would be on the investment or the purchasing end from government. Some areas of potential include initiatives to drive better processes, to drive new equipment development, or to improve materials. There are all kinds of opportunities out there to improve the efficiency, the effectiveness or the affordability of the given technology.

GPN: What does NineSigma offer in its Open Innovation Incentive grant program with the Ohio Third Frontier?

NK: What NineSigma brings to the table is the ability to de-couple the technology from the application and reach out to those areas and adjacencies where a business might find a technology solution that it hadn’t thought of before. Specifically with Third Frontier, we are seeing great results in bringing Open Innovation concepts to organizations that traditionally couldn’t afford them in the past.

What the state has done is really give us the opportunity to subsidize those OI efforts and give mid-market businesses a stake in the game.

GPN: Can Open Innovation and the Third Frontier program help stimulate economic development?

NK: Absolutely, That is the program’s primary initiative. It is really what the Open Innovation Incentive program was set out to address. We started working under this contract at the beginning of 2013. Since then we’ve engaged 31 firms in a large number of projects.

The other goal that was driven by the state was to increase jobs in Ohio. The focus has been on driving growth, potential and opportunities in the state. Regarding economic development, that’s really what the program looks to address. The appetite for these projects and the appetite to branch out and bring these things into the state of Ohio have been reflected in the performance of the Ohio Third Frontier program.

GPN: Thank you, Nick Kacsandi, for your views.

This video outlines how Open Innovation can enhance both career and employability. It also shows how to develop a relevant OI network.


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