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    Case Western Reserve University to break ground on first phase of 'innovation hub'

    Case Western Reserve University this fall will break ground on the first phase of what it described as a seven-story, 50,000-square-foot “innovation hub” where students and others can create prototypes that could eventually turn into full-fledged products.
     
    The project is a component of the university’s $30 million Thinkbox program, which so far has raised almost $20 million from about 70 donors.
     
    The initial Thinkbox pilot space — a 4,500-square-foot basement space featuring 3D printers, circuit-board routers and laser cutters — opened in 2012. Over the last 18 months, it’s been visited more than 50,000 times and incubated several student-led startups, including companies that market a fuel-cell powered bicycle and reusable rockets.
     
    The White House announced the university’s plans Wednesday, June 18, as part of the Obama administration’s National Day of Making. Case’s effort was among three institutions highlighted by the administration. The others were Carnegie Mellon University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
     
    The new Thinkbox space will add meeting and workspace and manufacturing equipment. The final phase of the project will include the construction of a bridge from the buildings second floor to the university’s Veale Convocation, Recreation and Athletic Center. Construction is expected to take between a year and 16 months.
     
    The project has been supported by a handful of Northeast Ohio business heavyweights. Case Western Reserve alumni Larry and Sally Sears committed $5 million to launch the program. Larry Sears founded Hexagram, a company that develops wireless meter-readers for utility companies. Barry Romich, another alumnus and co-founder of Prentke Romich Co, contributed $2 million. Also, A. Malachi Mixon, who chairs Invacare’s board, and his close friend and colleague, J.B. Richey, donated $5 million.
     
    This spring, the state of Ohio also contributed $1 million toward the project.