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North Carolina could experience the same economic returns from nanotechnology
as it has in the past 30 years from biotechnology investments if the state capitalizes
on its strengths in emerging technologies with support that leads to
commercialization of its innovations, according to leading experts in
science, education, and business who spoke at the second annual NC Nanotech
Conference ( http://www.ncnano.com ) held March 13, 2007 at the Grandover
Resort and Conference in Greensboro.
Developed and hosted by the Piedmont Triad Entrepreneurial Network
(PTEN), the conference is designed for entrepreneurs, executives and
investors from across the region who have an interest in the wide-range of
opportunities associated with nanotechnology and its commercial
"Thirty years ago North Carolina did not have a biotechnology cluster,"
said Robert McMahan, Ph.D., Senior Advisor to the Governor of North
Carolina for Science and Technology. "Now it is the third largest
biotechnology state with more than 350 bioscience companies. North Carolina
was successful in recognizing that investments in technology could be a
driver for the economy. Today, such strategic and patient investments in
nanotechnology capability and capacity at the 48 nanotech companies
throughout the state can replicate the biotechnology success."
He said a shift is coming in the biopharma field from single focus,
single domain dominance to broad based disciplines that will have strong
competitive positions in the next 10 years. As an example, he said that the
life sciences cluster will shift from "things you take to the things that
tell you what to take, the diagnostics that support preventive medicine."
"This is where nanotechnology comes into play. The successful companies
will be those that can commercialize innovations that merge biotechnology,
infotechnology, cognitive intelligence and nanotechnology," he said.
Jon Obermeyer, PTEN's president, cited collaboration among venture
capital firms, experienced management talent and universities as the
foundation to a successful nanotechnology cluster. "It takes all these
entities to bring about commercialization, which leads to economic
development and translates into jobs."
One such company that has been successful in commercializing
technologies is nCoat, Inc., the holding company of High Performance
Coatings, manufacturer of protective coatings (surface treatment materials)
with nano-scale particulates and chemical reactions that provide heat,
corrosion and abrasion protection in multiple industries such as automotive
(i.e. benefits such as greater horsepower and engine torque and longer
lasting valve springs). The company currently employs 70 in its eastern
Guilford County facility.
"The key to dominance in the future nanotech economy is to
commercialize products now and get the jobs on the ground ahead of
competing states and international economies," said Paul Clayson, chairman
and CEO of nCoat, Inc. "Governments can accelerate the rate of immediate
commercialization by aggressively promoting rapid and easy technology
transfer from its research institutions now rather than getting caught in a
never finished syndrome. Every nanotech research institution needs a
salesperson seeking daily to transfer nanotech IP to existing businesses or
recruiting idle entrepreneurs to take the ideas forward."
"States with investment tax credits or other economic incentives for
new or emerging nanotech companies will draw business incubation,
especially when they have undervalued assets like North Carolina.
Government leaders can help by providing superior government services
support from local and state public resources, and helping to facilitate
both private capital formation and incubation management team resources. If
commercialization is relegated to later stages of this explosive economic
cycle, states will find their intellectual property and their jobs exported
to states where commercialization and training of nanotech knowledge
workers were the early stage focus. The bedrock locations of nanotech jobs
and products will be defined in the next five years. After that, those who
win now will only gain additional traction. North Carolina does not have 30
years to conquer this Goliath."
Tom Roberg, CEO of LaamScience, Inc., a company developing a
nano-coating that kills and inactivates a number of viruses and bacteria,
"Almost all experts agree that nanotechnology will be the industry of
the 21st century. But to make that happen, we need to have some real
applications for this most extraordinary technology. Investors are
interested in technology, but they are more interested in participating in
successful companies," Roberg said. "State support is vital to help early
stage companies get off the ground. There seems to be plenty of equity
capital available for established companies, but little for new companies
relying on technology transferred out of our university systems."
Nanotechnology is a fast-moving industry and opportunities must be
created for innovators to bring their products to market, said Dr. Reyad
Sawafta, CEO of the N.C. Nanotech Accelerator, QuarTek Corp. and
DentalSafe. In the past six months Sawafta has announced two milestones for
his nascent Piedmont Triad nanotechnology companies -- a partnership with
NanoTech Labs to focus on technology to make more efficient batteries and
the securing of initial funding to launch several innovations for dentists.
"The purpose of the N.C. Accelerator is to nurture technologies that
have the potential for the kind of quick commercialization that investors
like," he said. "There are seven firms that are either in the accelerator
now or planning to join shortly."
Formed in July 2004, Piedmont Triad Entrepreneurial Network provides
comprehensive entrepreneurial support to the Triad. A collaboration of
leadership in Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem, PTEN is funded
primarily by Action Greensboro, Winston-Salem Alliance and High Point
Partners and corporate sponsors. It offers programs, resources and services
in five major areas: education and mentoring, networking, business plan
competitions, capital access and communications.
As a resource for innovative entrepreneurs and companies in the
Piedmont Triad region and the State of North Carolina, PTEN's distinctive
programs include a Growth Accelerator Program, Capital Connection
Breakfasts and an annual NEXUS Supply Chain Strategy and Innovation
For more information, please click here
Piedmont Triad Entrepreneurial Network (PTEN)
7025 Albert Pick Road Suite 303
Greensboro, NC 27409
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