This site describes the basis for a substantial investment, an infrastruture seed investment of $25M within USTAR followed by a staged Utah nano Initiative, into Utah's competitiveness nation- and world-wide within the discipline of nanotechnology, including existing areas of U of U nano Research.
Nanotechnology is the study, synthesis, and manipulation of nanometer-scale structures, and the leveraging of the enabling nanostructure properties for technological applications. The relevant spatial scale for nanotechnology ranges from ~1 nm (there are roughly 1,000-2,000 atoms in 1 cubic nm) to a few micrometers (the extent of most complex nanostructures).
Nanobiology is the intersection of nanotechnology and biotechnology and is most concerned with understanding and controlling biological processes within individual cells. Nanobiology typically includes such areas as regenerative medicine, intelligent drug design and delivery systems, nanoparticles in diagnostics, whole cells as biosensors, stem cell research, medical textiles and nanomedical imaging and contrasting agents. It also includes methods that attempt to translate these research efforts into commercially viable entities and patentable intellectual property.
The University of Utah has successfully spawned companies based on the application of microsystems approaches to nanobiology. A key example is the work of Professor Richard Normann who developed techniques for communicating with individual clusters of 1-3 neurons at each point of a multi-electrode neuroprosthetic array. The company now commercializing this technology resides in Research Park, and is currently engaged in expanding their cleanroom manufacturing operations.
View or Download a video.mpg showing the impact of this technology on the life of a quadriplegic who volunteered to receive this implant.
The University of Utah has a number of competitive strengths in this area. In 2004, U of U faculty published 599 peer-reviewed papers listed in the databases of the National Institutes of Health (a number greater than that at the University of Texas, the University of Colorado, Brown University and the California Institute of Technology). These originated almost entirely in the School of Medicine, the College of Engineering and the College of Science (including Biology, Chemistry, Physics). Since the passage of the Bayh-Dole act in 1982, universities have been allowed to patent inventions that were funded by federal money and to retain the royalties that these patents generate. Within the last 15 years, more than 60 companies have been developed from Intellectual property started at the University of Utah. Clearly, opportunities exist to translate ideas into the commercial realm from an intellectually stimulating environment.
The State of Utah is at a watershed in its technology development. Completing the transition to a high-tech industry base while making use of Utah’s unique engineering and science strengths in bio-medical and micro & nano technology is crucial to securing continuous prosperity and economic growth.
The UNIVERSITY OF UTAH as flagship amongst Utah’s academic institutions has been seed and nucleus for highly successful high tech companies and associated IP. Increasingly, the local and global industrial communities look to the U for community-accessible research infrastructure and research collaboration opportunities, in addition to the traditional role as a source of student interns and well-prepared graduates.
Micro- and nanotechnology related markets have continuously seen global growth rates in excess of 14 % over the past 1 ? decades. Examples of these are automotive microsystems (e.g. airbag sensors, GPS, ABS, ESP, etc.) and biomedical implants (e.g. neuroprosthetic devices, Cochlea implants, pacemakers, micro catheters, etc.). Despite the huge commercial success, significant technological barriers are confronted. With Utah’s outstanding engineering and academic knowledge and technology base, coupled with a history of exceptionally strong federal research grant support, Utah is positioned to address these challenges, thus enabling access to a global market and an associated technology leadership position.
Developing private-public-governmental partnerships will enhance Utah's economic base through:
The case for funding
Lux Research report and testimony delivered June 29, 2005 before Research Subcommittee of the House Science Committee hearing on nanotechnology indicated the following:
“The U.S. leads the world in nanotechnology today, but its position is tenuous. To maintain global leadership, U.S. policy makers must grow federal funding for nanotech research; eliminate regulatory uncertainty surrounding environmental, health, and safety issues; and do a better job of retaining foreign Ph.D. students. In addition, the U.S. must create financial incentives aligned with desirable applications and approach export controls sensibly.” Lux_nano_testimony_05.pdf
If the State of Utah and its research institutions do not collaborate with stakeholder industries to remedy this situation locally, the situation could prove dire from the standpoint of an institutional brain drain, and resulting in failure to provide the underpinnings of a strong economic base for the future of the state.