Singing a New Song

A rendering of Carmenton from the street level.

JobsOhio’s third innovation district comes to central Ohio

By Terry Troy

It might be named after “Carmen, Ohio,” the oldest school song still used by The Ohio State University, but the new innovation district introduced by the school has academic, civic and business leaders near Columbus signing an entirely new tune.

Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson introduced the school’s new Carmenton Innovation District to the public earlier this fall, the latest of three innovation districts in Ohio, which will offer close proximity to researchers and innovators in Columbus and the entire central Ohio region. Like the innovation districts in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Carmenton will bring together private, public and academia resources together to exchange knowledge, solve problems, develop new technologies and accelerate the delivery of practical solutions to the business world.

“Innovation is the hallmark of who we are at Ohio State. It is our calling card, and our North Star. From academic instruction to research and development, we are making groundbreaking advancements across multiple disciplines,” Johnson said, in making the new district’s public introduction earlier this fall. “To see our innovation district, Carmenton, move from concept to reality is both exciting and fulfilling.”

“We know that for Columbus to succeed, Ohio State needs to succeed. And for Ohio State to succeed, Columbus needs to succeed,” says Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin. “So whether it’s the next generation of cancer researchers or the next generation of STEM teachers, we know that this district is for them. We know that Columbus, Ohio State and this new space is for all of us.”

Carmenton will be a mixed-use development that goes well beyond innovation, business and research to include places to live and recreate. According to JobsOhio, Carmenton and innovation districts in Cleveland and Cincinnati are expected to support an estimated 60,000 new jobs, 47,000 new students with STEM degrees and $9 billion in economic impact over the next 10 years.

“The state of Ohio is at the front end of capturing a generational opportunity that we find ourselves in right now,” says J.P. Nauseef, president and CEO of JobsOhio. “With the leadership at The Ohio State University and Ohio’s bold innovation strategy, we will establish Carmenton as one of America’s new centers of gravity for innovation.”

When fully built out, Carmenton will cover more than 270 acres and will be designed to merge entrepreneurial, corporate, academic and health care communities in collaborative spaces and programs. One of the first spaces to open will be Ohio State’s Interdisciplinary Research Facility, where researchers in life sciences, engineering, agriculture, social determinants of health, artificial intelligence and other disciplines will work under one roof. It’s set to open in summer of 2023.

Slated to open next fall, the Energy Advancement and Innovation Center is a space for Ohio State researchers, students, ENGIE Buckeye Operations members, local entrepreneurs and industry experts to partner on the next generation of renewable energy, artificial intelligence and smart systems.

The third project expected to be completed in 2023 is The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Outpatient Care – West Campus, which will offer comprehensive cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment through survivorship, and expand patients’ access to clinical trials.

“The impact of this mixed-use community, whose members will be working and living together with the collective goal of pushing boundaries in everything from health care to business, will be boundless,” Johnson says. “These three buildings are the first step toward a significant paradigm shift that will transform lives.”

Kristina M. Johnson introduced the school’s new Carmenton Innovation District to the public earlier this fall.

Like the two other innovation districts funded with a total investment of $3 billion from JobsOhio, Carmenton is designed to establish our state as a global leader in health care, life science and technology using key partnerships among private, public and academic sectors.

“Partnerships are very important when accomplishing any economic development initiative,” says Michael Stevens, director of development for the city of Columbus. “Each of the aforementioned sectors have their inherent structural strengths. This partnership model leverages those requisite strengths to assure a successful outcome to the economic development initiative that satisfies all parties involved.”

The city of Columbus will be a public sector partner to development in partnership with Ohio State University, adds Stevens. Initially, the city will fund and construct all of the public sector infrastructure in support of the above ground development planned. 

“Over the long-term, the city will provide financial incentive support that will be leveraged in the recruitment of new businesses and strategic partnerships to the development over time,” Stevens adds. “The city is also supporting the development of affordable housing units that will be built and dispersed throughout the residential portions of the mixed-use development.”

Naturally, the university is all on board with the partnership concept.

“Innovative partnerships are critical to successful economic development efforts as well as the success of Ohio State and Carmenton,” says Chris Booker, associate director of the Office of Marketing and Communications for The Ohio State University. “These sectors’ symbiotic relationship allows each to focus on its sector’s expertise creating a stronger economy overall.” 

Carmenton will provide a mixed-use environment for academia and the private sector to meet “in the middle” and pursue partnerships that will apply academic and applied theories to real-world applications, adds Stevens.

“These processes will improve technologies and lives in a more transformative way,” he says. “Carmenton will enable research advances, technology translation, experiential educational opportunities and new startups by building partnerships, growing talent and creating a live-play-innovate environment.”

On another level, the partnerships will help Ohio State better prepare its students for future careers—some of which might not even exist yet.

“Ohio State is committed to developing our students into resilient problem solvers who are ready for the jobs and challenges in a knowledge economy,” says Booker. “Students will be able to apply their classroom learning in a real-world setting with direct access to researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses.”

Carmenton will have a significant impact on the future marketability and employability of residents of Columbus and the surrounding central Ohio region as well.

“The city hopes that many of its residents will be students and employees in the eventual establishments,” says Stevens. “These companies will provide intern and externship opportunities to many of the university’s students that will hopefully develop into full-time employment.”

What is particularly exciting, notes Stevens, is that the new district fits in with a city program called STEAMM Rising (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics and medicine), which is an initiative to collectively develop STEAMM talent in the city.

“Through STEAMM Rising, Mayor Ginther, The Ohio State University, Columbus City Schools and Columbus State Community College collaborated to help grow the next generation of teachers and students focused on innovation,” he says. “From an economic development perspective, Carmenton will provide a unique environment to attract employers from across the globe that want to locate near and partner with a world-class research institution like Ohio State.”