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Ohio State, Honda partnership marks two decades of success

University and manufacturer highlight connections of research and scholarship

Leaders from The Ohio State University, Honda and state and local government are celebrating a historic milestone between the university and one of world’s most respected manufacturers.

A formal agreement cementing the Honda - Ohio State partnership was approved 20 years ago this week. The agreement was an evolution of both organizations’ involvement in the Transportation Research Center, Inc., (TRC) in East Liberty.

To celebrate the anniversary, Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson joined leaders from Honda, the College of Engineering, TRC and One Columbus to discuss the benefits the agreement has had on the university, the company and region. A new report released this week helped quantify the impact of the relationship.

“A partnership is only great when everyone benefits, and everyone has benefited from this partnership,” said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted as he opened the discussion. “I want to congratulate Ohio State and Honda for the great partnership. You’ve shown how it can be done.”

Johnson said the agreement between Ohio State and Honda continues to benefit both organizations in several critical ways. She said collaboration in research, philanthropy and talent development are some of the many reasons for the continued success of the partnership.

“I’m excited about what the next 20 years is going to look like,” she said.

Over the life of the partnership, Honda has provided more than $28 million in research funding to Ohio State, some of which has helped to establish the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence, the Simulation and Modeling Center and the Driving Simulator Lab. Honda has also funded 235 research projects at the university over the last five fiscal years.

College of Engineering Dean David Williams said Honda is an integral partner in research, education and outreach. He said the company continues to invest in faculty and students to help advance the field of engineering. Honda also funds six endowed chairs, which help to recruit top talent to the university.

“The Honda - Ohio State partnership supports the teaching of engineering as well as the research of our faculty,” he said.

Both Johnson and Rick Schostek, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., said one of the cornerstones of the relationship is the professional development opportunities for students and faculty at Ohio State and Honda associates.

Nearly 600 Honda associates were able to take advantage of professional development activities at Ohio State in the last year, including a graduate certificate in business leadership program, personalized for Honda through the Fisher College of Business. Honda hires between 50 and 60 Ohio State students each year for internships and full time positions, and also provides experiential learning for undergraduates through a capstone program. Last year alone, 168 engineering and business students participated in projects sponsored by the company.

“These interns and capstone students are really great for us,” Schostek said. “They give us energy and we give them experience.”

Johnson said students get to help Honda solve real-world engineering problems. She said she learned about a project where students were able to help improve the maintenance cycle of robots on the Honda production line.

“I was surprised Honda would take a solution from the students and implement it on the production line. That’s unique,” she said.

Honda has donated more than $68 million to Ohio State throughout the relationship, funding faculty, students and programs, including the Honda Scholars program, which provides scholarship money for up to 120 undergraduates annually.

As the field of automotive research evolves and expands in the years ahead, those opportunities will continue to grow. Brett Roubinek, TRC’s president and CEO, said the center continues to be a living lab, and as the university expands its focus on smart mobility, students, faculty and staff will benefit.

Deb Scherer, managing director of One Columbus, the economic development organization for the Columbus region, said the partnership is critical to keeping top talent in the community. She said that because the automotive industry is consistently driving a technological revolution, the connections between Honda, Ohio State and TRC are helping the region as a whole.

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