Eight of the twenty-six IFN nanoscientists have dominated the intellectual property scene in Puerto Rico with 14 patent proposal submissions —all in Nanotechnology— to the Office of Intellectual Property of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), accounting for over 80 percent of all submissions to that office in the past three years. A study by the AAAS done at the request of PR-EPSCoR (2005) on the environment for innovation in the high-tech sector singled out the great progress that UPR had made to develop research and development, the high-tech nature of Puerto Rico's economy, (42 percent of its GNP is generated by high-tech manufacturing), the creation of two technology corridors, and a $100M Science and Technology Trust that seeks to promote research and development and innovation.
IFN will implement a strategy that will seek primarily start-up nano-technology oriented businesses interested in developing the potential new technologies created by the IFN scientists and in partnering with them; and develop testbed capacity relevant to the IFN-generated intellectual property, initially working with two of its strategic partners to bootstrap the process, and later developing testbeds with industrial partners, as the need arises.
The IFN will stimulate innovation by becoming a member of the NanoBusiness Alliance, the largest national association of nanotechnology-oriented businesses with a strong membership of start-up companies, IFN's primary target for its commercialization strategy. The IFN will send researchers who have potential technologies to the annual NanoBusiness Alliance Conference and other business expos centered on nanotechnology, including the Industrial Fair sponsored by our University Of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing partner to identify commercialization possibilities and find business partners. Seminars for IFN scientists will be organized with the participation of the Executive Director of the NanoBusiness and our UMass and Argonne partners to educate our researchers on the strategies for successful commercialization. Locally, the IFN will make use of the PR NSF-PFI to partner with the largest local Technology Corridor, INTECO, and take advantage of the large incubator being developed in the Corridor to find partners to develop IFN technologies. The IFN will also participate in the Business Expo to be sponsored annually by the Corridor and the PFI partners to network with nanobusiness and with the Small Business Developing Center (SBDC) to train faculty in preparing SBIR and STTR proposals with local and national nanobusinesses.
The IFN will provide funds to develop testbed capacity and implement testbeds to meet the specific needs of potential new nanotechnologies as they develop. To evaluate and assign funds for testbeds, the IFN will create an advisory board made up of experts in the relevant technologies, venture capitalists experienced in analyzing business deals, and nanobusiness experts contacted through the NanoBusiness Alliance network. If the recommendation is positive in a given case, then the IFN Task Force will provide the funds for postdocs, graduate students, and equipment. The testbed will have a finite duration based on the proposed timeline for the specific prototyping, proof-of-concept, or scaling-up needed for commercialization; whenever possible, industrial partners will be found to develop the testbed through SBIR or STTR funds.
To gain experience in testbed creation, execution, and management, the IFN will initiate the process by making use of the facilities and expertise that complement IFN scientists' capabilities. Points of contact, fees for lab and equipment use at the rates set for institutional users, and specific mechanisms to carry out most of the training and certifying procedures on line has already been agreed upon with the partners. The testbeds will be initiated with ongoing projects that have potential for commercialization but need further development. The first will be done with the UMass-CHM partner, using their clean room facilities and equipment to develop the IFN capacity to fabricate devices for nonvolatile memory devices and nano diamond-based UV sensors. This activity will permit IFN scientists to gain experience in device fabrication for future technology development needs. The other will be done in partnership with our NASA Glenn partner by working in their prototyping and scaling-up fuel cell facilities to test novel catalysts in real systems. Both projects will receive IFN funds for a postdoc to be located at the partner institution. Funding will also cover the necessary equipment, materials, and travel funds for the IFN researchers in charge of the projects. The expected duration of a project is 2 years. The partners have agreed to house and support the projects.