Joe Jacomet grew up in the Piqua-Troy area of west-central Ohio and attended Miami East, a small high school. “It was a rural area,” he explained, “but we had a great teacher, Mr. Tom Bryant, who taught all of the advanced science courses.” At the time, going to college was not the norm for many young people in that area and Joe’s plans “…were simply to graduate and find a job, probably at Hobart Manufacturing.” However, Mr. Bryant had other plans and suggested to Joe that he go to college because, amongst other things, “I was doing well in science and math.” Fortunately, Miami (Ohio) University had an applied science Paper Technology program focused on chemistry and chemical engineering that suited Jacomet, who went there on a four-year scholarship to begin his higher education. “The focus on paper really opened the door to a lot of related technologies but particularly polymers in the form of adhesives and coatings.”
Between his junior and senior years, Jacomet had an internship at Battelle in Columbus. “I really enjoyed the R&D environment and the challenge and opportunities for innovation.” After graduation, they offered Jacomet a job in the Polymer Science and Technology Department, and he accepted. Jacomet signed on to Battelle, starting as a lab chemist working on diverse technical projects for major industrial companies and the government. “Also, while at Battelle, I went to The Ohio State University and got an MBA, and then joined the Techno-Economic group. We did market research, technology forecasting, technology assessment, market strategy development, and other studies to help companies become more profitable,” said Jacomet.
“One company came to Battelle with a mature product that was rapidly becoming obsolete. We did a business analysis and made recommendations they produce a product oriented toward the rapidly growing composites market. It worked and they are still in business.” At that point, 10 years into his 35-year tenure at Battelle, the Polymer Science and Technology Department invited him back, and Jacomet took over the leadership of the polymer processing group. “I led major programs, including multi-client projects to investigate thermoplastics composites for stamping applications.” Other innovative projects conducted out of his group were in areas such as in-mold plating of plastics and development of novel EMI shielding compositions.
Jacomet’s biggest challenge came when he took over as VP of the Advanced Materials Applications Product Line. An early retirement package had just decimated a huge number of senior managers and polymer scientists, and the challenge of our inexperienced management team was to rebuild the group. “Eventually, we grew the Product Line to over 100 staff members at all academic levels that became recognized as one of Battelle’s leading innovative groups,” he said. “About 15 years ago, we started working with the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) in the area of new industrial uses for soybeans. That work led to R&D 100 awards, one almost every year, for a decade,” said Jacomet. “The OSC work resulted in bio-based products inclusion as a major feature of our strategic plan, and we helped form the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center
(OBIC) working with OSC and OSU.”
In 2006, Jacomet retired from Battelle. “I had been playing racquetball with Wayne Earley on Saturday mornings, for years, and upon retirement, he invited me to come to work “a few hours a week at PolymerOhio,” said Jacomet. Earley, President and CEO of PolymerOhio, had served with Jacomet as members of the Ohio Polymer Strategy Council.
Not long after that, PolymerOhio won a company attraction grant from the Ohio Department of Development
, and Earley asked Jacomet to play a major role in that program. “A few hours a week quickly became almost a full-time job, but it also gave me a wonderful opportunity to play a role in strategy, especially for bio-based products, which really interests me, and working with the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC)” said Jacomet.
“Bio-based products are clearly going to be very important to the polymer industry,” he continued. “We saw a glimmer of exactly how important they might be when the price-per-barrel of oil spiked a couple of years ago.” “Bio-based products, including feedstocks, will grow to increasingly complement petroleum-based ” He said, “I don’t think the bio-based polymer industry is going to develop substitute materials, but rather their future might be in finding ways to gain higher performance materials through new chemistries that are possible through a wide range of sustainable materials, such as soy, corn, cellulosics, and others.”
Jacomet believes there is a real need to expand the supply chain in Ohio to build companies that don’t exist here and now, such as bioconversion of waste materials into precursors for higher-performance polymer materials. Such companies are just beginning to appear within the industry. “Traditionally, the supply chain begins with petrochemicals, but new companies focusing on fermentation, separations, and physical modification of renewable materials are exploring placement of operations in Ohio that will create a new bioeconomy expanding job opportunities in the State,” said Jacomet.
“What really has been exciting for me in coming to PolymerOhio has been the exposure to a market niche of companies I really hadn’t known well before,” he said. “Within Ohio, we have many smaller companies doing some very great technical work. They are leading development of new technology, getting involved with the Ohio Third Frontier
funding from the Ohio Department of Development, and just innovating all over the map.”
Lately, Jacomet has also been working with international companies, such as the efforts of a northeast Ohio group, the Cleveland Hungarian Development Panel, that has made visits to Hungary, and is seeking to bring Hungarian business people and scientists to Ohio to see what is available here, and establish partnerships that span the two nations. Now, a French organization has expressed an interest in a similar kind of relationship. Said Jacomet, “At PolymerOhio, I get to be involved in all of this, helping work with the State of Ohio to help grow business. It’s very satisfying.”
PolymerOhio, Inc. is a polymer industry-specific Ohio Edison Technology Center, which is funded by the Ohio Department of Development. PolymerOhio focuses on enhancing the global competitiveness of the polymer industry, including companies from the plastics, rubber, bioproducts, and advanced materials segments. For more information see, www.polymerohio.org
The Ohio BioProduct Innovation Center is a Wright Center funded by the Ohio Department of Development. OBIC focuses on enhancing Ohio’s leadership position in bioproduct commercialization. A novel market pull model integrates academia in support of comprehensive supply chain collaborations across agriculture, specialty chemical and polymer industry sectors. For more information see, www.bioproducts.osu.edu.
The Ohio Third Frontier was initiated in February 2002. This project is the state's largest-ever commitment to expanding Ohio's high-tech research capabilities and promoting innovation and company formation that will create high-paying jobs for generations to come. The 10-year, $1.6 billion initiative is designed to: build world-class research capacity; support early stage capital formation and the development of new products; and finance advanced manufacturing technologies to help existing industries become more productive. Through the Ohio Third Frontier Project, additional Federal and private sector support can boost the total investment to more than $6 billion.