Ohio Venture - OVA Review Newsletter
News from the Ohio Venture Association meeting on February 6, 2015


Ohio Third Frontier Program

Emily Turner
Venture Ohio

Ohio's Third Frontier program has been a rousing success; a $2-billion pump primer that has helped spark the state's economy since its inception in 2002. And while Ohio voters extended the program past its original ten-year horizon in 2010, the president of Venture Ohio said no one should assume that will happen again.

"We're uncertain what happens next...we can only assume that Third Frontier will be going away in two years," Emily Turner told OVA members at the February luncheon.

The program has changed its focus a little over the years, she noted. The original areas of investment concentration—advanced materials, software applications, fuel cells, sensing and automation, medical technology and photovoltaics—remain, but more recently shale has been added.

Perhaps more importantly, the state has pared down Third Frontier programs from over a dozen to just three or four. And it has made the six Entrepreneurial Signature Programs (Jumpstart is the ESP for Northeast Ohio) the main entry point for all Third Frontier programs.

With only about $300 million of Third Frontier funding remaining, the board met recently to talk about key priorities. "Their first focus is to close the funding gap. How can we get Third Frontier and Jobs Ohio to work better together and help close the funding gap for companies as they emerge out of their early stage and start up stage," she said. "That's their prime objective, to close that gap."

Turner said Third Frontier board members also decided to focus their attention on two areas where they've had the most success—IT and healthcare. "They've been measuring all along, but now they're really doubling down and seeing where they've had the most success, and they're concentrating in those areas—biotech and IT, which will be their sweet spot."

Since the program can no longer directly fund colleges and universities, except for relatively small $50,000 commercialization validation grants, it is trying to spur collaborations and mentoring between large corporations, younger companies and colleges and universities.

Finally, she explained, Third Frontier is looking at the future, even if that future won't include a Third Frontier program in Ohio. "They're looking at the sustainability of the Third Frontier as it comes to an end. How can they measure the long-term success of the project?"

She sounded hopeful about how the JobsOhio program might help fill some of the gap: "It's flush with money. They have hundreds of millions of dollars," she said. While much of that is earmarked for traditional economic development programs, like helping attract companies bringing jobs into the state and helping Ohio companies buy big equipment, "they are aware of the challenges for early-stage companies, and would like to do something to support those entities."

More information:

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Upcoming Meeting Dates:

  • March 6, 2015
    Venture Summit IX

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