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Mizzou Engineering launches nanotechnology enterprise

Consortium participant Von Howard Ebron, a technical lead at Crosslink, a St. Louis-based polymer development company, reviews a Mizzou research poster during a break in the Sept. 13 workshop.

Mizzou Engineering and university leaders have agreed to launch a nanotechnology consortium that would collaborate with area businesses to commercialize the college’s research.

College of Engineering Dean Jim Thompson led a daylong workshop last month to create a public-private sector partnership that would build a new center for nanotechnology entrepreneurship. More than 200 business and federal and state government representatives joined forces during workshop seminars with MU and engineering administrators to come up with a nationally competitive framework for the center, to be housed in a south Columbia research park called Discovery Ridge.

“I think we’re ready to bring our nanotechnology research and materials to the marketplace,” Thompson said. “The extraordinary industry participation in this workshop shows the high level of interest and commitment in moving this research commercialization project forward.”

Research that the university’s engineering, agricultural, medical, physics and chemistry faculty members already are conducting will form the nucleus of the new Discovery Ridge consortium, said Sam Kiger, the College of Engineering’s associate dean for research. The consortium will be designed to help ensure their cutting-edge research makes it to the marketplace, while paving the way for collaboration with the business world, Kiger said.

“We want to build a nanotechnology hub in which our faculty and industry will work side by side to bring our research products to market,” he said.

College leaders are laying the consortium’s foundation now by forming a board of directors and developing a business plan that will include a capabilities statement and potential budget and funding sources, Kiger said.

Ambassador Richard M. Russell, associate director and deputy director of technology at the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the U.S. President, pointed out to consortium participants that a growing number of states are entering the nanotechnology field.

“It’s very competitive,” Russell said. “Every single state is interested in nanotechnology, as is every country.”

Mizzou Engineering leaders are likewise confident that the Mizzou nanotechnology consortium will prove an economic engine that benefits not only the university but Missouri as a whole.

“The nanotechnology consortium will effectively use MU’s research and education capacity to form and grow Missouri-based business and high-paying jobs and rewarding careers,” Thompson said.