Ohio’s Polymer Industry Cluster to Receive $51 Million Federal Investment

The Polymer Industry Cluster, a collaboration based in Akron, Ohio, involving private and public partners, is set to receive a significant boost with a $51 million federal investment. This funding comes as part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Tech Hubs Phase 2 awards. The investment aims to enhance innovation and investment opportunities in the region’s legacy materials industry, focusing on plastics and rubber.

Strategic Advantage and Economic Growth

The Greater Akron Chamber, which oversees the Polymer Industry Cluster, announced that the federal funds would be matched with approximately $7 million from partner investments. This brings the total investment to over $58 million. The chamber emphasizes that the funds will be used to establish a “hub of innovation, growth, and investment” in sustainable polymers. This initiative is expected to create a strategic advantage for the U.S. in the sustainable polymers sector, fostering job creation, regional growth, and further investment.

Key Technology Projects

The investment will fund seven technology innovation, workforce, and cluster coordination projects. Key technology projects include:

  • Commercializing the recycling of end-of-life tires.
  • Developing sustainable polymer composites via liquid phase mixing.
  • Manufacturing sustainable biobased butadiene for green synthetic rubber.
  • Advancing the formulation of carbon nanotube-based polymer composites.
  • Developing safer antidegradants for tires and plastics.

Industry Collaboration

Leadership for these projects will come from a diverse group of industry leaders and partners, including Full Circle Technologies, The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., BioVerde, Huntsman International, Flexsys, Bridgestone, Continental, Parker Hannifin, Synthomer, and Promerus.

Workforce Development Initiatives

The funding will also support numerous workforce development initiatives in collaboration with educational institutions such as The University of Akron, Kent State University, Case Western Reserve University, Stark State College, and Central State University. These initiatives aim to expand the region’s sustainability talent pipeline and facilitate job placement across all skill levels.

Environmental and Economic Impact

According to the Greater Akron Chamber, the technological advancements supported by this investment are expected to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions and create environmentally sustainable solutions. The funding is projected to attract new businesses, talent, and investment capital, resulting in the creation or retention of over 4,000 jobs, more than $1 billion in potential private investment in expanded production capacity, and $5 billion in total economic impact for Northeast Ohio.

Tech Hubs Program Background

The Tech Hubs Program was established under the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which authorized $10 billion over five years for the Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs program. The fiscal year 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act provided the EDA with $500 million to launch the program, aimed at investing in U.S. regions focused on key technology areas outlined in the statute.

The federal investment in Ohio’s Polymer Industry Cluster marks a significant milestone for the region’s sustainable polymer initiatives. With a robust collaboration between industry leaders and educational institutions, this funding promises to drive technological innovation, workforce development, and substantial economic growth in Northeast Ohio.

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