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Editor Nanotechnology Now (NN)
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Answers by: Robert D. "Skip" Rung (SR)
MSEE, Founder and Principal, Skip Rung Innovation Advisors
NN: Please tell our readers about your work at Hewlett-Packard, and how, after retiring from HP you were asked to spearhead Oregonís MMD (multi-scale materials and devices) Signature Research Center (recently renamed ONAMI - Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute).
SR: At HP, I was responsible for development of multiple generations of the inkjet technology underlying the DeskJet, OfficeJet, DesignJet, and PhotoSmart product lines and related technology roadmapping efforts. For the last few years I was also responsible for new business creation that leveraged HP's inkjet technological competencies. The first of these have reached the market in HP's line of digital projectors and the LightScribe direct disk marking technology. It was in thinking hard about "life after inkjet" that I concluded that our Corvallis site should develop a much more strategic relationship with our local university in order to expand the range of ideas for new markets and opportunities. That got me started down some new paths I had not been expecting!
So I was quite interested when, toward the end of 1999, I was given the opportunity to represent HP on the Oregon Engineering and Technology Industry Council (ETIC), which was first funded in 1997 to enhance engineering and computer science education in Oregon. The main goal was to increase the numbers of Engineering and CS graduates, since industry was importing 80% of its hires from outside Oregon. While I agreed with this, I also felt strongly that research and innovation coming out of our universities was going to be just as important, since this is the key to generating PhDs for industrial research labs and to starting the vibrant new companies that every thriving technology region has to have.
In 2001, I co-founded the New Economy Coalition with several Oregon business leaders, and helped draw attention to a package of knowledge-based economic development investments including ETIC, engineering college advancement, a state-chartered seed venture fund (now managed by Northwest Technology Ventures), bonding for the OHSU Oregon Opportunity program, and establishment of the Oregon Council on Knowledge and Economic Development (OCKED). OCKED went on, in 2003, to convince the legislature to fund Oregon's first Signature Research Center in the field of multi-scale materials and devices. The new organization is going to be called the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI).
After retiring from HP in late 2001, I continued to study and volunteer in the area of technology-based economic development, as well as take on several consulting projects. Working with the universities and OCKED, I surveyed the university research going on in Oregon, and concluded that the best overlap of competitive research, commercial opportunity, high-wage job creation potential, and alignment with Oregon industry was found in the combination of nanomaterials and microreactor systems research taking place at OSU, PSU, and UO. I helped OSU and UO write a preliminary business plan for this, which OCKED adopted, and the state funded with $20M in capital and $1M in operating funds. The latter was less than we hoped for, but I believe it was the only item of new spending in the most difficult state budget year ever. With this startup funding in place, OSU and UO have jointly retained me to lead the startup of this effort.
|In Japanese, the prefix "OO" or "OU" or "O" with a macron over it denotes the long "o" vowel and means "big" (short "o" actually means small, but can also be an honorific). "Nami" (as in tsunami) of course means wave. In Inuit, Onami means "tomorrow."|
NN: What are the connections between Oregonís Silicon Forest industry cluster, the local universities, and ONAMI? How does one benefit the others?
SR: Oregon's Silicon Forest, which, by the way, extends at least as far south as Hynix in Eugene/Springfield, is arguably the leading semiconductor and electronics cluster in the U.S. The number of Oregon companies and operations that are leaders in their industry or "lead dogs" in their own company is really quite impressive. This occurred without much contribution from the universities (although HP consciously chose to locate next to OSU), other than a steady (though too small) supply of graduates who were, in fact, very well prepared. With the 15-year old crisis in higher ed funding, the gap between Oregon industry prowess and academic capacity has grown, and leading multinational companies do not look in Oregon first for PhDs and research that is important to their future. Further, there has been relatively little venture success in Oregon and a relative scarcity of venture capital.
This situation has to change if we expect a continuation of the supply of high-wage jobs we have come to expect. Fortunately, Oregon universities have managed to attract and retain many excellent faculty and researchers, so we have a better foundation to build on than many people realize. We also have some highly creative and competitive research programs in nanoscience and microtechnology, which are growing.
Industry players such as Intel, HP, Tektronix, ESI, LSI Logic, FEI, and others have been involved with these faculty and programs in many ways, including hiring graduates, providing both undergraduate and graduate internships, sponsoring research (often confidential), interviewing graduate student candidates, donating equipment and facilities, and serving on bodies such as college advisory boards, ETIC and OCKED. Hewlett-Packard, for example, has donated a $2M, 3-year lease of a major building so that the microfabrication arm of ONAMI can consolidate and expand its facilities before capital construction is completed. They are also providing some very senior people to serve on the ONAMI advisory, technical, and commercialization councils. We are almost finished naming a very distinguished advisory board, which will be chaired by David Chen of OVP Venture Partners.
Oregon State University and the University of Oregon have retained former Hewlett-Packard Company executive Robert D. "Skip" Rung to spearhead the start-up of the state's first signature research center, focused on developing nano- and microtechnologies for the semiconductor, energy and microfluidics fields.
Rung, who is a technology and innovation consultant, will advise the new center on development of a permanent structure and governing body. Academic leadership will also be provided by the center's co-directors, OSU mechanical engineering professor Kevin Drost and UO chemistry professor David Johnson.
Oregon's first signature research center will initially be headquartered in donated space on Hewlett-Packard's Corvallis campus but have facilities located at OSU, UO and Portland State University.
EE Times. From, Oregon`s Universities Announce HP Exec to Lead Oregon`s First Nanotech Center.
NN: Given the recent passage of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (and the likelihood of its funding this year), how does Oregon attract some of those dollars to ONAMI?
SR: There are several ways, including applying for the sorts of NSF and DOE grants and projects our researchers have been increasingly winning over the last few years. What is new with S.189 is overall nanotechnology program coordination that will place increased emphasis on commercial potential and leverage of microtechnology research into the nano world, and this is precisely where we decided to focus almost 18 months ago. We expect to be very competitive for center grants from all the agencies receiving S.189 funds: NSF, DOE, NIST, NASA, and EPA. We also have technologies and research that has already proven valuable to DARPA and other parts of DOD. Our thriving partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a major asset.
To maximize our chances of winning, especially in view of the increasing emphasis on practical research and commercialization, we will need the support of Oregon's high technology companies. With unprecedented focus, funding, and collaboration among the three research universities (OSU, PSU, UO) we believe we can make a strong case for that support. The strength of Oregon's high tech industry is a tremendous regional competitive advantage, and we believe they will benefit in many ways from the focus and growth in research represented by ONAMI.
"My own judgement is that the nanotechnology revolution has the potential to change America on a scale equal to, if not greater than, the computer revolution. As Chair of this Subcommittee, I am determined that the United States will not miss, but will mine the opportunities of nanotechnology."
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
NN: As a result of the research at ONAMI, what types of new products and devices are we likely to see in the near future? How are these products better because of our understanding of nanoscale science?
SR: It depends on what you mean by near future. Some of our materials work is immediately applicable to semiconductor processing and tends to be transferred in the form of graduate student hires. We are also currently engaged, with PNNL, in practical projects such as a man-portable heat pump for the Army which could be commercialized in a very few years' time. We are also in discussions with several entrepreneurs and small companies regarding technology that has been demonstrated, and which could be applied to commercial practice, again in a very few years' (but probably not months) time. The best known example may be the recent announcement by Home Dialysis Plus to use some of our microstructure technology to greatly reduce the size and improve the efficiency of hemodialysis filters. The connection to nanoscience in all of these comes from the synthesis of novel materials and atomic-level control of surface properties and interfaces.
We also are engaged in a great deal of research with enormous medium- and long-term potential in the electronics, energy, chemical, and biomedical sectors, and for which most of the initial funding will come from federal research budgets. So we have a good balance of near- and long-term efforts. I want to stress that it is very important that we build our long-term research capacity in Oregon and not value only short-term spinouts.
NN: How may smaller businesses work with ONAMI to develop and market new products?
SR: We have user-accessible facilities for materials characterization and nano/microstructure fabrication that smaller companies typically cannot afford and which can help them develop exciting new products. The charges for access to these services are competitive, but companies do have to come up with the funding. In cases which we believe to be promising, we are willing to assist small companies with applications for SBIR and STTR grants.
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Robert D. "Skip" Rung, MSEE, Founder and Principal, Skip Rung Innovation Advisors
Project ExperienceMulti-scale Materials and Devices Business Plan, 2003
Following a quick assessment of Oregon State University and University of Oregon research clusters, and a presentation to OCKED leading to the selection of Multi-Scale Materials and Devices as the top candidate for a Signature Research Center, Skip Rung was commissioned by OSU and UO to develop a business plan for the center on a very fast schedule. Working with PIs at UO and OSU, and making appropriate contacts at PSU and OHSU, the compelling case for MMD was stated, key objectives and quantitative goals were established, preliminary capital and expense budgets were prepared, organization and governance concepts were laid out, and extensive backup material was assembled. The plan was presented to the full OCKED committee and to the Oregon state legislature on February 12, 2003.
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