Cincinnati Bell and UC Create a Win-Win Partnership

The University of Cincinnati has a new front door to the region’s business community, and Cincinnati Bell is making a grand entrance. University President Neville Pinto and Cincinnati Bell CEO Leigh Fox recently signed a 10-year partnership agreement that includes a corporate innovation center within UC’s new 1819 Innovation Hub, and a direct link between UC students and Cincinnati Bell’s technical talent.

The partnership is among the first wins for the university’s new Office of Innovation and UC’s “Next Lives Here” strategic direction.

Fox also sees it as a big win: “This partnership will help Cincinnati Bell build, test, and deliver products to the market more quickly, give students access to Cincinnati Bell’s technical talent, and bring additional value to their university education,” he said.

The relationship between academic research institutions and private industry has evolved significantly over time and is even more critical today with the rapid pace of change and the challenges with funding research in today’s economic climate. Universities bring valuable resources to the table: talent, research, and access to physical assets such as specialized equipment and technology.

At the same time, large corporations bring real-world problems that need innovative solutions and an opportunity for students and faculty to take a multi-disciplinary approach to solving them. This, in turn, creates a better-prepared pool of talent and source of employment for industry.

Cincinnati Bell’s corporate innovation center within the 1819 Innovation Hub will allow Cincinnati Bell employees to collaborate with UC students and faculty, resulting in innovative applications and products that leverage Cincinnati Bell’s deep fiber network and expertise in the region.

With more than $800 million invested in its local fiber network — which delivers high-speed internet service to consumers and businesses across the region — Cincinnati Bell is increasing its focus on developing new products to help customers maximize their connections.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Cincinnati Bell to engage with the University of Cincinnati, which is doing cutting-edge research and producing a pipeline of students who are developing in-demand engineering, marketing, and design skills,” added Fox.

It’s exactly the kind of momentum the university envisions in its Next Lives Here strategic direction, recognizing a need to reimagine the university’s approach to industry relations. Rather than the standard “we produce graduates, you hire them” approach, UC’s innovation agenda will help the university both address the talent shortage and become more responsive to companies’ needs.

“The speed at which people’s ideas are translated into products and processes that are useful to society is more and more accelerated,” Pinto said. “Industry is trying to adapt to the new pace of change and universities have the ability to help. We need to partner around this common interest.”

As the new “front door” to UC’s innovation enterprise, the Office of Innovation, led by Chief Innovation Officer David J. Adams, offers a one-stop shop for industry to access the university’s extensive resources, including faculty expertise. The 1819 Innovation Hub serves as a physical manifestation of its collaborative approach to real-world, multi-disciplinary problem-solving.

The 1819 Innovation Hub is a $38-million-dollar renovation of the former Sears Roebuck & Co. Department Store on Reading Road in Avondale. The art-deco structure, originally built in 1929, is less than a mile from the main campus. The renovation of the 133,000-square-foot, four-story building will be complete in summer 2018, ready for students returning in the fall. Cincinnati Bell will take occupancy in April.

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