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YSI wins Third Frontier grant

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YSI Incorporated, in collaboration with Riehl Engineering and the University of Cincinnati, was recently announced as one of only six recipients statewide of a 2010 Ohio Third Frontier grant. The YSI grant of $1.1 million is the largest grant of the six awarded, out of a total of $4.9 million for the program.

The purpose of the Third Frontier grant program is to “build world-class research programs, nurture early-stage companies and foster technology development that makes existing industries more productive,” according to the Third Frontier Web site.

While it’s too soon to forecast the effects of the grant, YSI leaders hope it leads to an expansion of jobs within a year or two, according to YSI CEO Rick Omlor in an interview Monday.

“This is pretty exciting,” Omlor said. “If it all comes together the way we’ve planned, it will be significant for the company.”

With about 160 employees, YSI is currently the largest employer in Yellow Springs. The company develops and manufactures tools to measure water quality in the natural resources market.

The Third Frontier grant was awarded for a project that has already been in the works for about a year and involves eight or nine employees from YSI, Riehl and UC, according to Omlor. The project is the production of an advanced sensor for the monitoring of nitrate levels in environmental waters. Nitrate is considered a major pollutant associated with pesticide use and wastewater.

According to Omlor, the new sensor is significant because it will be “small and fast-acting,” as compared to the current sensor, which is about the size of a large trash can and difficult to use. Natural resource managers have an interest in regulating nitrate because it’s a nutrient that causes overgrowth of algae and other water plants, and a subsequent demise of fish life, Omlor said.

According to Edward King, YSI’s chief technology officer, the Third Frontier grant evaluation process was rigorous.

“A panel of experts, including a Ph.D. electrochemist, challenged us to defend our project on several fronts,” King wrote in a YSI press release. “Primary factors evaluated by the Third Frontier panel were technical risk, commercial risk, and mission impact.”

In the YSI press release, Omlor stated that, “This triad of YSI, Riehl Engineering and UC is a perfect synergy. Together, we hope to benefit from Third Frontier funding and work together to provide more jobs, sales, income and tax revenue to give back to Ohio.”


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