The Ohio Department of Higher Education has created a new tool to better connect industry leaders with Ohio’s academic minds and resources.

The new Ohio Innovation Exchange is meant to be a "one-stop shop" for businesses curious about resources, research, equipment, and expertise that might be available to them in Ohio at the state’s academic institutions.

The online portal, which cost nearly $1.5 million to create, puts information from Ohio State University, Ohio University and other Ohio colleges into a single searchable database. Businesses can find experts, potential collaborators and industry liaisons, and explore an institution’s research publications, patents and equipment.

The idea for the exchange came after a 2013 report that looked at ways to enhance Ohio's entrepreneurial and innovation environment.

"Industry was having a difficult time in trying to get connected to our faculty university experts in terms of collaborating with them to promote innovating ideas and just collaborating in general, said Charles See, vice chancellor for external relations and education technology at the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Some universities in Ohio already have ongoing efforts of their own to engage with various industries, such as business incubators or technology commercialization offices, a growing trend within higher education as federal funding for such work remains stagnant, said Jeff Agnoli, who oversees education, funding, and research development at Ohio State’s Office of Research.

"The reality is that the federal fund for research and development has either been flat or stayed the same; there really hasn’t been an increase," he said. "For universities that want to keep driving innovation … they’re continuing to expand their industry contracts."

The Ohio Innovation Exchange is meant to supplement universities’ own efforts as well as give industry personnel a bigger-picture look at resources available statewide, See said.

"This also represents a triangulation of an ecosystem in which we have industry, academia, and we have the role of government," said Tim Cain, an associate professor and scientist at the Ohio University Office of Research who helped the state Higher Education department develop the exchange. "Everybody has skin in the game."

Ideally, business looking to launch, expand or relocate could use the Ohio Innovation Exchange to understand what resources they could draw upon in Ohio, Cain said.

"People find information on the web every day. Higher ed still remains not as transparent," Cain said. "It’s hard for outsiders to sort of navigate the complexities of our organization and ultimately find the resources they’re looking for."

"It isn’t just another phone book to find people, it’s really an interactive kind of tool to really answer some complex questions," Agnoli said.

In addition to Ohio State and Ohio universities, the exchange also currently includes information from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, the University of Akron and the University of Cincinnati.

The hope is to expand the exchange in the future to include additional colleges throughout Ohio, as well as add components to help make the tool more "bidirectional," Cain said, so that academic institutions can use it to gain insight into what businesses are doing and how they could help.

"We really do think that our faculty are an asset to the state and to industry," See said. "We think this could be a way to kind of highlight the real expertise and the cutting edge intellectual capital that we have here in the state."