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Case Western Reserve unveils new innovation center

Case Western Reserve’s major space for makers is now a reality.
In October, officials, donors and students gathered on the southwest corner of campus to dedicate the Richey Mixon Building, a former storage space since transformed into a place for brainstorming, prototyping, business planning and more: the university’s think[box] innovation center.
A full 50,000 square feet when complete, think[box]—open to students, faculty, staff and all community members—began nearly three years ago as a pilot effort in a space less than one-tenth as large. Yet during that time the space drew more than 100,000 visits and launched 20 startups—which in turn have attracted $2.5 million in funding.
And, as part of the unveiling ceremonies this month, the space also got a new name: Sears think[box].

Or, more formally: the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box] at the Richey Mixon Building.

As part of events involved in the university’s Innovation Summit, Oct. 26-28, President Barbara R. Snyder announced that the couple’s giving to think[box] now totals $10 million; in recognition of their generosity, she added, the innovation center had been named in their honor.

With the newest commitment, Larry, a 1969 alumnus of the engineering school, and Sally, a 1972 graduate of what was then the Flora Stone Mather College for Women (as well as a 1974 graduate of the School of Library Science) have become the largest individual donors to the Case School of Engineering in its history.

“Their visionary leadership [and] their longstanding engagement is truly extraordinary,” President Snyder said. “They have made such a difference.”
The university celebrated the opening of the first phase of construction on the new innovation center, which includes three floors, each dedicated to a specific stage of the innovation process:

  • Floor 2, the Wyant Collaboration Floor, supported by James Wyant (CIT ’65), which includes open areas and meeting spaces for interaction.
  • Floor 3, the Prentke Romich Floor, focused on prototyping, supported by Barry Romich (CIT ’67).
  • Floor 4, The Lubrizol Foundation and Kent H. Smith & Kelvin Smith Fabrication Floor, which features a machine shop and project space.

Scheduled to open next fall are floor 5—focused on project building—and floor 6—the Cloud L. Cray Jr. and Sally Hunter Cray Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, including The Burton D. Morgan Suite for Entrepreneurship and the Mandato Family Innovator Office. Following at a later date will be floor 1—the Nottingham Spirk Floor, focused on community programming and collaboration—and floor 7, with business incubator resources.