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Northeastern opens Rogers Corporation Innovation Center

March 26, 2014

When George J. Kostas, E’43, first began con­ver­sa­tions with North­eastern Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun six years ago about estab­lishing a state-​​of-​​the-​​art secu­rity research facility, he had a unique vision. The facility—which ulti­mately opened in 2011 as the George J. Kostas Research Insti­tute for Home­land Secu­rity—would go beyond advancing sci­ence and research in one of the nation’s most pressing fields. It would also enable unlikely industry-​​academic partnerships.

“Today, your vision is becoming a reality,” Aoun said on Tuesday morning at a ribbon-​​cutting cer­e­mony cel­e­brating the opening of the Rogers Cor­po­ra­tion Inno­va­tion Center at the 70,000 square foot Kostas Research Insti­tute in Burlington, Mass. The goal of the unique part­ner­ship—announced in June 2013—is to advance basic research and develop com­mer­cially viable break­through inno­va­tions in advanced mate­rials to address global chal­lenges for clean energy, Internet con­nec­tivity, safety, and security.

“Inno­va­tion and cre­ativity are the basis for the future of this country,” Kostas said. “You have estab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion of being great inno­va­tors.” The dis­tinc­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion, he said, will improve secu­rity for the nation.

The 4,000-square-foot Rogers Cor­po­ra­tion Inno­va­tion Center was built out over the last year. It is housed within a 9,000-square-foot space at the Kostas Research Insti­tute that includes lab­o­ra­to­ries, con­fer­ence rooms, and office space designed to facil­i­tate com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion between the on-​​site Rogers staff mem­bers and the North­eastern fac­ulty and stu­dents working along­side them. It includes space for North­eastern pro­fessor Vin­cent Harris’ spinout company.

With sup­port from Kostas’ endow­ment, the partnership—which is expected to be the first of many at the institute—will also enable expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties through stu­dent research co-​​ops, spon­sored research and devel­op­ment pro­grams, and other industry-​​classroom interactions.

Since its incep­tion more than 180 years ago as a paper com­pany, Rogers Cor­po­ra­tion has had to evolve to accom­mo­date the shifting needs of the Amer­ican people. Today, the com­pany is a global tech­nology leader in advanced mate­rials and com­po­nents for con­sumer and power elec­tronics, trans­porta­tion, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, and defense systems.

The opening cel­e­bra­tion of the Rogers Cor­po­ra­tion Inno­va­tion Center drew a crowd of North­eastern fac­ulty, stu­dents, and staff as well as industry part­ners. Photo by Brooks Canaday.


Rogers CEO Bruce Hoechner noted that per­haps the biggest evolution—and revolution—facing society today is tech­nology. In an effort to match the pace of tech­no­log­ical change, the com­pany sought an aca­d­emic partner to help it inno­vate more rapidly. Hoechner said Rogers was drawn to North­eastern because of its com­mit­ment to use-​​inspired research that addresses global challenges—particularly in health, secu­rity, and sustainability.

“We felt very much at home here,” Hoechner said. “We knew that we could find an aca­d­emic orga­ni­za­tion here that was not only focused on devel­oping new and great tech­nology but also tech­nology that has great appli­ca­tion for the world.”

Aoun, for his part, noted that uni­ver­si­ties have tra­di­tion­ally shied away from industry part­ner­ships. As a result, “they have restricted their impact on society,” he said. “This is why I’m very excited about this partnership—yes it’s unique, but it’s going to bring us together along dif­ferent dimensions.”

First, Aoun said, the dis­cov­eries and tech­nolo­gies devel­oped in uni­ver­si­ties only have impact when they meet the con­sumer. Second, lifting finan­cial burden off of researchers enables a reverse inno­va­tion that allows prod­ucts to enter the market more rapidly.

“We have to have a mindset that will bring together tech­nology, con­sumers, cost, and—more importantly—the safety of the nation,” he said.