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Procter & Gamble, OSU ally to clean clothes, combat bad breath

Product design, advertising, energy conservation and bad breath. The Cincinnati-based company Procter & Gamble will collaborate with Ohio State and the Ohio Supercomputer Center on projects intended to bridge the gap between industry and academics.

OSU will help Procter & Gamble with modeling and simulation projects as a part of the company’s master alliance agreement with Ohio universities. A master alliance agreement is created when a company has several research projects with one client. The collaboration is the first at OSU.

Procter & Gamble provides grants to pay for all the projects. The amount of the grants will vary.

Sharell Mikesell, associate vice president of OSU’s Industry Liaison Office, said Procter & Gamble has “about 12 different technological platforms that they want help on.” At OSU, two projects are being finalized, while about six are being reviewed that cover people from medical, engineering and chemistry to the Fisher College of Business.

Mikesell said OSU is using its dental school to do a project related to dental health care. He said research is being done with Procter & Gamble to develop a mechanism used to combat bad breath.

Another project is being conducted to study total energy conservation. Mikesell said it deals with cleaning clothes in the washing machine and the future of washing with less water.

“It is studying the mechanism of cleaning under different energy constrains,” he said.

The school of psychology is also collaborating with Procter & Gamble.

“One of the really very interesting ones is really understanding how do we make decisions when we go to the store,” Mikesell said. “Sometimes we make decisions based on numbers or based on colors.”

The study is being done on how people make choices so that Procter & Gamble can market their products with more success.

Although students are not always involved in the projects, there is one project in the School of Design in which students contribute almost exclusively to the project. The project includes both the technology and the design of Procter & Gamble’s products and also deals with the way people make choices based on product design.

“Every project is going to have a different outcome, different milestones and a separate negotiation,” Mikesell said. “This really is a nice working arrangement that is in place.”

Steve Gordon, the interim co-executive of OSC, said they will give Procter & Gamble access to their supercomputing resources and Procter & Gamble will move some of their software into OSC, then look to OSU faculty for help.

“Eventually the idea is that they will link up with other OSU faculty for research,” Gordon said.

Mikesell said the collaboration is a great means of communication.

“One of the main things (the collaboration) did was open up the communication platform for Procter & Gamble to communicate what their needs are,” Mikesell said. “So far, that has been one of the major accomplishments to match Procter & Gamble’s needs with OSU’s abilities.”

To begin a project, Procter & Gamble provides OSU a basic idea of what they need, and Mikesell contacts faculty to see if the university has the ability to help. If that is the case, a proposal to the solution is put together and presented to Procter & Gamble.

“It was a very concerted effort to get this set up statewide,” said Kathryn Kelley, senior director of outreach at OSC. “This is the first that I’ve heard where an industry or company has tried to develop a (statewide) relationship with higher education.”

OSC is located on OSU’s West Campus and was established in 1987. It provides “supercomputing services and computational science expertise” to researchers, students and scientists, said Kelley. OSC has had a long-standing relationship with Procter & Gamble, which produces brands such as Tide, Pampers and Pringles.

“We will help them with some of their computing and their modeling,” Kelley said.

Representatives from Procter & Gamble did not respond for comment. 

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