Barry Rosenbaum ChE’63

Dr. Barry Rosenbaum has been a Sr. Fellow of the University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) for the past 18 years following retirement, focused on helping faculty and students commercialize their University Research. Born and raised in the Bronx, he is a Graduate of the Cooper Union class of 1963 in chemical engineering and received a PhD from Northwestern University in 1967. He has been blessed with his wife of 56 years, Kathleen, four very successful sons and 11 wonderful grandchildren spread across the US.

Barry worked for Exxon Chemical, Advanced Elastomer Systems, and OMNOVA Solution for 40 years in the Polymers Industry with Sr management positions in research / development, manufacturing and business leadership including assignments in France and Belgium. During that time, he led commercialization of a portfolio of EPDM elastomers, Bromobutyl elastomers, PolyFox Fluoropolymers, and Santoprene Thermoplastic Vulcanizates. Barry was VP Technology for Advanced Elastomer Systems (AES), a Joint Venture between Exxon Chemical and Monsanto that grew the Santoprene Business to a leadership position in Thermoplastic Elastomers. In 1993, when Advanced Elastomer Systems consolidated its employees from St Louis and Akron, Barry was instrumental in selecting an old abandoned BF Goodrich tire plant as the new AES home, helping to revitalize downtown Akron.

Barry formally retired in 2005, and immediately began a new career as innovator, entrepreneur, and faculty / student mentor with the University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) focused on helping others be successful. Along with Gordon Schorr, retiree of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Barry helped create a Sr Fellows program at UARF of bro bono industry retirees to support university faculty and students commercialize their research. Through the years that Sr. Fellows program has grown to upwards of 10 industry executive retirees (including Sr Fellows from France and Belgium) giving of their time and experience to drive university research commercialization and industry collaborations.

Over the past 18 years, Barry / Gordon and the UARF Sr. Fellows have created, led, and supported a wide range of programs and specific projects to drive university innovation, entrepreneurship and research commercialization in Northeast Ohio and beyond. Here is a sampling of these accomplishments in approximate chronological order. In every case the strategic mission is TO HELP OTHERS BE SUCCESSFUL and to “have fun” along the way.

  • In 2005, we initiated a model of industry collaboration with a leading coatings, adhesives, and sealants company whereby the UARF Sr Fellows became an extension of that company’s R/D team. Priority technology needs of the company were identified and shared with University of Akron faculty (under confidentiality) leading to several important new technology solutions that were commercialized across a number of the company’s subsidiaries globally. This collaborative program remains in force today with a major project underway for improved infrastructure reliability. Several years ago, this company played a major role in creating a Corrosion Engineering Program at the University of Akron which was the only such program in the world offering a BS degree in Corrosion
  • As we began supporting University start up companies, we quickly realized that these companies needed support to raise funding at the early pre seed and seed stages.
    • In 2005, we formed an ARCHAngel Investment Network that still remains active today. Although we have no investment fund ourselves, we do invite technology based startups to present quarterly to an invitation only audience of investors, companies, community leaders, and students to meet the entrepreneurs and provide a range of support and mentorship. Since inception of ARCHAngels, presenting startups have raised $700M of follow on funding.
    • We joined the Angel Capital Association and the Ohio Angel Network to learn the processes for funding start ups and to syndicate deals for university startups.
    • UARF became a founding member of the GLIDE Innovation Fund to provide the earliest non-dilutive funding for startups in Northeast Ohio
    • The ARCHAngel Investment Network spun off a Student Venture Fund for students at 7 university chapters in NE Ohio who learn about entrepreneurship by making small pre seed investments in startup companies following intense due diligence by the students.
  • In 2010, Barry was contacted by ExxonMobil / SABIC to help lead a project in Saudi Arabia to create a world class Elastomer Technology Training Institute (the HIEI) in Yanbu, with the goal to train workers in the emerging rubber industry (including tire manufacturing) in the Kingdom. The $40M project that was executed by UARF and the University of Akron included designing and procuring the pilot and testing equipment, developing the curriculum for both the students and the Saudi instructors, training about 25 Saudi instructors in elastomer technology and providing a number of elastomer expert expats to support the start up of the Institute. The first class of about 75 Saudi students graduated in 2016
  • In 2012, Barry became an evangelist for the NSF I Corps program for training university faculty and students in a structured customer discovery process to learn if there was a strong market fit for commercializing their NSF funded research. The Steve Blank developed program of interviewing a large number of potential customers and preparing a comprehensive Business Model Canvas has been widely adopted nationally among many university centers.
    • The University of Akron was one of the first 3 Universities to be awarded an NSF I Corps Site along with the University of Illinois and University of California San Diego and a collaboration was formed to share best practices for implementing I Corps Programs that has grown nationally and is still active today
    • The University of Akron I Corps Sites Program has become one of the leading I Corps programs nationally and now trains faculty and students across all Ohio universities and colleges and community entrepreneur led teams in Northern Ohio. Sr. Fellows are closely engaged with teams as mentors. The University of Akron I Corps Program has trained close to 600 teams who conducted more than 10,000 customer interviews since inception and today trains about 100 new teams each year. Through the I Corps program, UARF is a member of the Jump Start Entrepreneurial Network serving minority and women entrepreneurs in the community. Since the Covid epidemic, the program is totally online, is absolutely free, and is growing nicely.
    • The I Corps program was supported by the State of Ohio Board of Higher Education for a number of years as I Corps@Ohio to be available to all Universities and Colleges in Ohio. That program extension included participation of the medical schools in Ohio in a targeted program for commercializing medical technology.
    • In 2012, Barry also mentored an I Corps team from the University of Akron that upon graduation formed a startup company, Akron Ascent Innovation ( AAI ) to commercialize electrospun nanofiber adhesives. After 9 years of commercial development, with Barry as CEO, AAI had a successful exit to a major tape company. So, Barry experienced directly the challenges of leading a startup. He has been a genuine entrepreneur.
  • Barry had met the entrepreneur, philanthropist, outstanding business leader Desh Deshpande at an Angel Capital Association meeting and asked Desh for help in establishing a Proof of Concept Center at the University of Akron, similar to the POC Center Desh created at MIT. Desh immediately sent the Deshpande Foundation Director Raj Melville to Akron and with Raj’s help the Proof of Concept Center was created. Faculty with experience and passion for innovation and entrepreneurship were hired, curriculum developed in the Colleges of Engineering, Law and Business and funding made available to support faculty research projects with high potential for commercialization.
    • The relationship with the Deshpande Foundation and Desh and Raj, grew as Barry became a member of the leadership team to form the Deshpande Symposium for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Higher Education which just celebrated its 10th year anniversary. The Symposium has grown to include roughly 150 university and college attendees and is recognized as a leading forum for Innovation and Entrepreneurship among the academic community.
    • In 2019, Barry was awarded University Innovator of the Year recognition by the Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education. An exceptional honor from the academic community for an industry chemical engineer.
  • Along the way, we even received permission from the University of Akron to form a beer company, RooBrew ( Zippy the kangaroo is our school’s mascot and Gordon is an amateur brewer ) and the beer was sold at our football stadium. Made for nice Christmas presents within the university, but the business model was flawed and RooBrew only lasted a few years
  • Even at 81 years old, Barry is still working with faculty, students and entrepreneurs to help them commercialize their research and their ideas to advance innovation in NE Ohio. Here are a few of the projects we are working on now
    • Novel low cost wet wipes used by first responders to detect opioids
    • New synthetic biocompatible polymer for heart valve replacements that last longer than tissue valves
    • Strategies for electric vehicle charging station implementation
    • Improved reliability of the electrical grid through predictive maintenance sensors and advanced data analysis algorithms + Sustainable polymers and new applications for end of life polymer materials
  • First and foremost, we are focused on helping the higher the higher education community advance innovation and entrepreneurship to create societal benefit and economic impact. We have been referred to as guerrilla entrepreneur, rainmaker, head cheerleader and disruptive innovator in our retirement career to help others become more successful. Engineers should not “fade away” when we have so much potential to still contribute.

Barry Rosenbaum in the 2024 recipient of the Gano Dunn Award