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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > ONAMI > Nanoscience, Pioneering Discovery, and Oregon

Skip Rung
President and Executive Director

Robert D. "Skip" Rung
President and Executive Director
Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI)

This column, my first foray into blogging, will be updated roughly each month. In another daily web column I read, it was recently observed that producing your own blog is about as special as producing your own (not so precious bodily fluid), and not much more likely to be of interest to anyone else. So you'll need to tell me if I beat these odds - I don't want to waste my time or yours.

Since the popular use of the term "nanotechnology" began, Oregon hasn't gotten a great deal of respect. We typically don't make it onto the "nano top 10" lists for academic centers, venture capital, or ‘industry' (per Small Times' methodology - described in their Sept/Oct 2006 issue). I think this situation is changing, but in any case overlooking Oregon was always a mistake - especially in the industry and closely related talent pool categories. In my inaugural installment, I'll try to make this point. In future columns, I'll address other topics of a less provincial nature that interest me, such as my view of nanotechnology safety & health; nanotech, the physical sciences and American competitiveness; and the challenges of building great new businesses on nanoscience foundations.

September 25th, 2006

Nanoscience, Pioneering Discovery, and Oregon

We were admittedly late in addressing the critical issue of technology-based economic development (TBED). Our neighbors and good friends to the north established the excellent Washington Technology Center over 20 years ago in 1983, while our public consideration of TBED didn't begin in earnest until 1997 with the creation of the Engineering and Technology Industry Council - in response to the then rapidly expanding high tech sector's concern over the limited supply of engineering and computer science graduates from Oregon institutions. In 2000 and 2001, it became painfully clear that our more fundamental need was ramping physical science and engineering research quality and quantity, and commensurate growth in graduate degree production.

So in 2002, the newly created Oregon Council for Knowledge and Economic Development commissioned an organized assessment of potential topics for "signature research centers", and specifically sought the largest intersection of three things:
• Nationally competitive institutional research programs
• Future markets with promise for high-wage job growth
• Industrial sector strength

"Multiscale materials and devices" (or, more winsomely, ONAMI) was the result of this search, with the particularly strong - and surprising - finding that Oregon's "Silicon

Forest" and adjacent regions actually contained what are arguably the world's most advanced industrial nano- and microtechnology industrial research and development (not simply "manufacturing") assets. The only reason, perhaps, that there was surprise to this, is that most of these assets belonged to corporations headquartered in California.

A brief inventory of these assets:
• The world's leading semiconductor facility, and headquarters for the world's most advanced IC process technology R&D - Intel Corporation, Hillsboro, OR
• The world's leading MEMS and microfluidics technology headquarters, and basis for the #1 revenue (and probably profit) MEMS business: Hewlett-Packard's Corvallis, OR inkjet R&D and advance production operations (also the home to the bulk of HP's nanotech R&D)
• The world-leader in "Tools for Nanotech" - FEI Company, Hillsboro OR
• The world leader in application, chemistry research, and manufacturing for semiconductor nanocrystals (aka "quantum dots") for biotech applications - Invitrogen's Eugene, OR Molecular Probes subsidiary (acquirer of Biocrystal and Quantum Dot Corp, both now in Eugene)
• The in-fab product development partnership between Nantero Corp. and On Semiconductor in Gresham, OR
• Xerox Corporation's solid inkjet technology division in Wilsonville, OR…and many, many more

Armed with the knowledge that our industry assets (contra Small Times, which apparently only measures the number of corporate entities - of all sizes) were second to none, our decision to build on the fundamental science and applications in the micro- and nano-scale regimes was obvious. And where we need to - and are - successfully building is academic research, technology transfer, early stage capital and entrepreneurship. Watch for us.

©2006 Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute

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