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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > Piedmont Triad Partnership > Global Nanotechnology Center Opens in the NC Triad.

Dixon Johnston
EVP
Piedmont Triad North Carolina

Abstract:
So, in December, 2011 a dream formed in 2004 and a concept first promoted in 2006 became reality with the opening of the $64 million Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering in Greensboro, NC.

January 9th, 2012

Global Nanotechnology Center Opens in the NC Triad.

Last month saw the opening of a $64 million facility and university campus, the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering in Greensboro, NC. This opening comes seven years after founding of the Triad's first nanotech company, QuarTek, by Dr. Reyad Sawafta hoping to make the Triad region in North Carolina the center for nanotech research and innovation in the state. Two years later forward thinkers at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG), North Carolina A&T State University (NCA&T) and the city of Greensboro first conceived of the idea, embraced the concept, built a convincing story and persuaded the legislature to provide the necessary funds. So, in December, 2011 a dream formed in 2004 and a concept first promoted in 2006 became reality with the opening of the school.

The educational, business and political leaders who helped celebrate the grand opening of the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering last month were not shy about sharing their expectations for the school.

"This facility that we're in today is not only setting a standard for all of the United States, but for the world," said state Rep. Harold Brubaker of Randolph County. "Think about it. This will be the educational destination for training our future workforce."
The universities are hoping that work within the school will boost their research profiles. NCA&T is offering degrees in Nanoengineering, and UNCG is offering Nanoscience degrees. City, county and state leaders anticipate that research will play an important role in expanding the Piedmont Triad economy by attracting business and industry.

"We had a clear objective in mind, and it was simple: to take advantage of our two research universities and move our community into a more competitive position for high-tech, high-paying jobs," said Ed Kitchen, board chairman of the Gateway research park.

North Carolina Governor Perdue suggested the Nano School has the same potential for impact on the Triad as the Research Triangle Park has had on the Triangle region.

"Today, RTP is a crown jewel," Perdue said, "and I would believe in the next five or six years, there will be leaders from all over the world who come here to look at Gateway and to look at the innovation and the investment that's happening here as a result of nanotechnology."

UNC President Tom Ross said it was a collaborative effort that made the idea a reality, particularly on the part of UNCG's Brady and A&T Chancellor Harold Martin. "We would not be here celebrating this event were it not for two chancellors who have learned not only to work together, but to become models for what partnerships in higher education can be and frankly, going forward, must be," Ross said.

QuarTek Corporation, founded in 2004, remains the preeminent nanotech company in the area, but is now joined by the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering in Greensboro. Many additional nanotech based companies are expected to be formed as a result of these new resources and focused students, faculty and scientists.

When asked about his company, Dr. Sawafta said, "At QuarTek we do not confine our thinking to conventional domains; we dare to imagine. Our mission is to introduce innovations at the forefront of Nanotechnology to create better products for the benefit of mankind. Innovative thinking drives our success."

QuarTek is conducting research and developing processes to produce smart materials, devices, and sensors that exhibit physical properties and functions different from those found at larger scales. These processes have many technical and commercial applications. QuarTek is collaborating with the new Joint School and other academic and industrial institutions on innovative ideas and projects. Backed up by 25 patents and patent applications, the company has active research programs in the following areas:

Energy Management: Phase Change Materials (through QuarTek's affiliate Phase Change Energy Solutions, Inc., the leading US maker of phase change products based in Asheboro, NC www.phasechange.com )
Biofuel Separation and Extraction Technology
Water Safety: Sanitation and Filtration
Antimicrobial Technology
Textile Innovations: Conductivity, Fire Retardant, Stain Release, Novel Binders, Odor Control
Nano-Sensors for Diagnostics

Complementary to the Joint School, which will offer rental spaces and access to the labs and equipment, QuarTek actually created the concept of becoming more than an incubator; it created an "accelerator" for new companies with nanotechnology interests and innovations. Such start-ups are expected to come from the new Joint School as they have come in the past from other, less focused schools.

The NanoAccelerator (NCNA) is a business and technology development center for startup companies that own innovative technology in the field of Nanotech with significant commercial potential. In the NCNA would-be entrepreneurs, perhaps a college professor or an excited inventor can get the advice and assistance from business and legal experts, technology experts and investors. By being technology focused, business oriented, and success driven the accelerator can eliminate the barriers and obstacles that exist for entrepreneurs and investors by minimizing risks and maximizing opportunities.

In the accelerator, QuarTek works with founders of partner companies to reduce expenditures and give them access to equipment, office and lab space, business, financial and legal advice. For the partner companies, a manageable capital burn rate is achieved by controlling the capital-draining expenses of staff salaries and benefits, office rent and overhead. Capital is spent on the highest priorities to maximize success.

The following factors are considered in evaluating potential partner companies:
Synergy with QuarTek's Technology Platforms
Level of Intellectual Property Protection
Application and Market Potential of Technology
Risk and Potential Return on Investment

Dr. Sawafta hopes that QuarTek, NCNA and JSNN will join forces and take advantage of the newly created state of the art facility, the scientific and technical talent, the business, licensing, and commercialization experience and expand the accelerator concept to grow the nano tech sector in North Carolina.

Contacts:
Dean of JSNN ( http://jsnn.ncat.uncg.edu ) : Dr. James G. Ryan
QuarTek www.quartekcorp.com
Phase Change Energy Solutions www.phasechange.com
Dr. Reyad Sawafta

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