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Innovation Center announces expanded programming and entrepreneurial services, staff changes

October 5, 2016

Clockwise from top left, Jennifer Simon, Stacy Strauss, Nathaniel Berger and Ariana Ulloa-Olavarrieta. Photo credit: Ohio University and provided photos.ATHENS, Ohio (Oct. 3, 2016)—The Ohio University Innovation Center, which supports business startups in southeastern Ohio, announces staff and service changes associated with the launch of the Leveraging Innovation Hubs and Gateways Toward Sustainability (LIGHTS) program—an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funded three-year initiative. 

Jennifer Simon, who has served as the Innovation Center director since 2009, has been named the executive director for regional innovation. In this new role, Simon will be responsible for strategic decision making, corporate and community connections, management of the LIGHTS program and oversight of the Innovation Center. This position maintains accountability for a network of faculty, staff, service providers, constituents and executive mentors who will serve to bolster the success of entrepreneurs and startup companies within the 28-county LIGHTS program region of Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to serve a larger region and its growing need to be part of the innovation economy,” Simon said.

The LIGHTS program also is funding two new positions, an executive coach and an engineering and design expert, who will work with Simon and operate from the Innovation Center. In addition, Stacy Strauss, the associate director of the Innovation Center since 2014, has been promoted to director to take over daily operations of the incubator. 

“The opportunity to continue to work with Jennifer Simon to replicate the success of the Innovation Center throughout a greater region is one that I am thrilled to embark upon,” Strauss said. “My greatest priority, however, will be the continued improvement of the services provided to the clients of the Innovation Center. I aim to ensure that the level of the resources, equipment, expertise and space that we provide creates success for entrepreneurs.” 

Strauss will provide a seamless transition at the Innovation Center, Simon said.

“I know that the center will be in great hands with Stacy Strauss as the director,” she said. “Stacy already leads many of our programs and has fantastic relationships with our clients.”

Ariana Ulloa-Olavarrieta has been named executive coach and will provide high-quality management, strategic and technical assistance to client companies, entrepreneurs and faculty within the LIGHTS program region. Ulloa-Olavarrieta will engage with, analyze and diagnose the needs of her clients on an ongoing basis to achieve a deep understanding of each company. Ulloa-Olavarrieta was previously the district director, interim director and the Ohio SBDC Latino Program director at Columbus State Community College, which serves the business community by providing assistance for Franklin County and the eight contiguous counties. She is also an entrepreneur who launched Bébo Naturals, an organic baby food company, in 2010.

“I’m really excited to be joining this amazing team of professionals. Together, we will continue to find innovations within our communities in order to develop new businesses that will ultimately create jobs,” Ulloa-Olavarrieta said.

Nathaniel Berger has been named engineering and design expert and will work to foster and support creative research, interdisciplinary practice and entrepreneurial activity and the evolving needs of artists, craftspeople, entrepreneurs and makers within the tristate region covered by the LIGHTS program. Berger also will coordinate activities and resources to further promote innovative opportunities. Previously, Berger was the operations coordinator of the CREATE_space, an Ohio University resource focusing on creative research, the arts, technology and entrepreneurship. He brings years of experience in product design and additive manufacturing.

“I am very excited to be working with the ARC on the LIGHTS program to apply prototyping, design and manufacturing expertise in order to increase entrepreneurial activities,” Berger said. “I look forward to supporting community members, students and many others to further enable their ideas and actions, help their creations to come to life and create new economic opportunities for the Appalachian region,” he said.

In 2016, the Ohio University Innovation Center was named the Rural Incubator of the Year by The International Business Innovation Association (InBIA).  The center has also been recognized as a Top University Business Incubator in North America by UBI Global, an organization that benchmarks business incubators and accelerators around the world. In 2015, the program was ranked #8 in the North American region and #3 in the United States.  Created in 1983, the Innovation Center was the first university-based business incubator in the state of Ohio.  The current 36,000 square-foot facility includes resources such as office space, labs, conference space and a state-of-the-art 3D printer.

The Innovation Center, part of the Ohio University Research Division, partners with several other campus and community entities including TechGROWTH Ohio, the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Technology Transfer Office.

Original posting can be found at the Office of Research Communications .

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Contacts: Stacy Strauss, (740) 593-9346,  strauss@ohio.edu  ; Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166, gibsona@ohio.edu .

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