School:Lorain County Community College

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Overview – Innovative First Among Equals6

Lorain County Community College (LCCC) is a public, open-access community college located in Lorain County, Ohio. In this way, it is just one of perhaps thousands of community colleges in the United States; in truth, LCCC has differentiated its self from the pack in several innovative ways to become a unique and arguably first among equals community college.

LCCC is the only community college in Ohio that offers a University Partnership. This partnership enables students to earn bachelors’ and masters’ degrees from any of eight Ohio universities without leaving the LCCC campus. LCCC is also the first college in the state of Ohio to build an advanced technologies center for business and industry. Consequently, all LCCC students now have access to the Fab Lab, which is aligned with MIT.

LCCC’s Fab Lab is based on the concepts of Dr Neil Gershenfeld, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Bits and Atoms. A Fab Lab is a collection of commercially available machines that can be used to "make just about anything with features bigger than those of a computer chip." Realistically, it offers the tools needed to "conceptualize, design, develop, fabricate and test” a wide variety of things.

Lorain County Community College President is Dr. Roy A. Church, who is credited with leading the effort to develop a regional University Partnership to improve local access to education by offering more than 40 bachelor and master degree programs from 8 area colleges and universities on LCCC’s campus. This unique initiative eventually led to the formation of the Innovation Alliance between LCCC and the University of Akron.  

LCCC’s innovative entrepreneurship and commercialization initiatives have also been duly recognized. President Obama has visited the school twice, and the college enjoys federal government support for some of its critical programs. Even so, to realize its commitment to the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), LCCC has adopted strategies which include the five buckets in the NACIE-sponsored university commitment letter.

Below is an enumeration of LCCC programs and initiatives which support the five buckets in the NACIE sponsored university commitment letter.

Student Entrepreneurship

As part of the Entrepreneurship Experiential Education Program, businesses that receive Innovation Fund (IF) grants are provided opportunities for students, faculty and staff to experience firsthand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. This educational component is a unique feature of the IF funding process.

LCCC also offers the following academic programs, clubs and resources to better prepare students for an entrepreneurial career:

Educational Opportunities

  • Innovation Fund Education Experience;
  • Associate of Applied Business - Entrepreneurship; and
  • Certificate in Entrepreneurship.


The Students in Free Enterprise Club is open to all students who are interested in exploring careers in the business world. The club’s programs and activities include guest speaker series, seminars, and company tours.

LCCC also provides the following electronic resources to aid student entrepreneurship:

  •—features Information to Help Start, Grow, and Manage A Small Business;
  • Entrepreneur Assist—Free Tools and Services for Your Business;
  •—The Daily Resource for Entrepreneurs; and
  • Fast Company—Where Ideas and People Meet.


In addition to programs and clubs, LCCC has several academic programs to quip students become entrepreneurs or become highly skilled employees at innovative companies. These academic programs include:

  • Alternative Energy Technology—Wind Turbine program in LCCC is the first associate’s degree credit program in wind power in Ohio.
  • Graduates enter the job market as wind turbine technicians trained to construct and repair turbine units
  • A one-year certificate of proficiency program is also available, helping displaced workers get retrained quickly and back into the workforce.


The Materials Joining Institute–Welding Technology program confers an associate’s degree, a one-year technical certificate, or a short-term certificate in welding technology. This training prepares graduates for the welding profession which projects a 250,000 deficit in skilled workers in the coming years (American Welding Society).

Faculty Entrepreneurship

The Innovation Fund of the LCCC Foundation makes grants to technology business "start-ups" who in return provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff to experience firsthand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.

As a direct benefit of this program, LCCC encourages faculty to incorporate entrepreneurism into course curriculums, regardless of its topic or field of study, because the whole notion of entrepreneurism is critical in any work environment today.

Faculty may elect to structure entrepreneurship experiential learning opportunities for students as a practicum or independent study.

  • Faculty should seek to give students projects that deliver a highly-focus work-based learning goals combined with theoretical coursework.

Practicum or independent project may include:

  • Completing a marketing or business plan;
  • Performing research for an entrepreneurial employer; and
  • Developing a survey or performing market research


University Technology Transfer Functions

LCCC does not have a traditional technology transfer office. However, LCCC is a major contributor to coalitions that facilitate technology transfer, and in some cases creation of technological processes, that positively impacts the region’s economy.

In its partnership with NorTech—the Northeast Ohio Technology Coalition—LCCC has taken a leading role in fostering the development of new technology in Northeast Ohio. The coalition focuses on the industries of advanced materials, power, information and communication technology, bioscience and health care, and electronics. NorTech builds on the strengths of the region and propels new technology-based industries into the global economy.

University-Industry Collaboration

Advanced Manufacturing Careers—LCCC is one of four community colleges selected nationally to pilot the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)-endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System.

The NAM-endorsed Skills Certification System focuses on the core, basic skills required for entry-level workers in all sectors of manufacturing, from alternative energy and computers to aerospace and life-saving pharmaceuticals. The skills certifications address personal effectiveness competencies, foundational academic competencies, general workplace skills and manufacturing industry-wide technical skills. Entry-level science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills are included in the system.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a $1.5-million grant to the Manufacturing Institute (MI) to comprehensively plan and implement post-secondary education programs that include the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)-endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System.

Weld-Edthe National Center for Welding Education and Training, headquartered in LCCC, through its Weld-Ed program develops national curriculum and trains welding educators and technicians. From repairing underwater structures to welding in outer space, Weld-Ed trains students for a value-added welding career.

LCCC is a member of the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET), a regional collaboration of manufacturers, educational institutions, economic organizations and chambers of commerce.

  • Partners work together to champion manufacturing technologies by assisting manufacturers with all aspects of the industry.
  • MAGNET also advocates for manufacturers with local and regional regulatory agencies.

Regional and Local Economic Development

The Innovation Alliance between LCCC and the University of Akron accelerates education efficiency, knowledge creation, and economic development across all sectors vital to the success of the Northeast Ohio region.

The Alternative Energy degree is collaborative between LCCC, Stark State Community College, Lakeland Community College, and Cuyahoga Community College that leverages program sharing as a way to save costs and offer diverse educational programs to more students.

The Innovation Fund is a regional fund that supports early stage entrepreneurial endeavors and emerging technology based companies located throughout Northeast Ohio. It is administered through a network of regional and state higher education, government and economic development partners.  The Fund is operated from within the LCCC Foundation and enhanced by the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE). To date more than $3 million has been awarded to 44 companies who have generated over $25 million of additional investment and revenue growth.

On February 22, 2011) the White House endorsed the launch of: Innovation Fund America, modeled after LCCC’s the Innovation Fund.

Deep-Dive Questions

  • Is innovation an integral part of LCCC’s institutional culture?
  • Why is it important? And how does it influence entrepreneurship and tech transfer?
  • How do you envision your program in the future?
  • What is your vision for each of the case study’s bucket, especially regional and local economic impact?
  • How does your institution leverage (or intend to leverage) geographic endowment?
  • Are your innovation, entrepreneurship, and tech transfer programs integrated?
  • Why, or why not?
  • Are there any unique successes (and or challenges) you may wish to highlight?


Lorain County Community College (LCCC) has earned a reputation as an innovation center due to its various programs and national and regional recognitions. The president of the United States has visited the campus and also instituted a national innovation program that draws inspiration from LCCC Innovation Fund. LCCC has also built innovative alliances with other academic institutions, industry, and industry associations.

Alliances with other universities allow students to earn 4-year degrees on LCCC campus. Industry and industry association collaborations has deepened the quality of technical degree and certificate programs offered to LCCC students.

While LCCC is not a signatory to the NACIE commitment letter, it has been no less instructive to learn about the impact of the NACIE commitment letter in framing LCCC’s strategic plans and institutional culture.

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship thanks Lorain County Community College’s innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives, and looks forward to a close and collaborative relationship in building America’s innovation infrastructure.

About LCCC:

Fab Lab:


Student Entrepreneurship:

Wind Turbine:

Faculty Support:

Manufacturing Skills Certification System:

Advanced Manufacturing:

LCCC President:

Innovation Fund America:

Source: "The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University: Higher Education, Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Focus", Department of Commerce, October 2013.

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