CORVALLIS - The Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute has a new $100,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to help create a system that will more efficiently move its inventions out of the laboratory and into Oregon products, companies and jobs. This initiative should help fast-track technology transfer and get the most possible value out of ONAMI, a high-tech collaboration of three Oregon universities that state officials hope will help boost the region's economic growth.
"Our universities have made some progress in recent years with good technology transfer programs that help with things like intellectual property and licensing," said Richard Billo, professor and head of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Oregon State University. "But some of the products we believe will emerge from ONAMI may require entirely new companies or major initiatives within existing companies."
"Traditionally, that has always been one of the shortfalls in university-based research, getting things out of the lab and turning them into marketable products," he said. "Our researchers are extremely talented, but not very experienced in creating new companies. So we're going to address that concern with a very coordinated plan that will get us from where we are today to the ultimate goal, which is family-wage jobs for Oregonians."
ONAMI, the state's first signature research center, is a collaboration of OSU, Portland State University, the University of Oregon, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the state of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest business community. Temporarily headquartered in a building on Hewlett-Packard's Corvallis campus, ONAMI focuses its research efforts on a variety of new technologies at the extraordinarily small nano- and micro-scale. In the past year, ONAMI has gained national attention and attracted $22 million in federal grants for its broad range of research, officials say, and some products are nearing the stage where they can be commercially developed. A portable dialysis technology is fairly close to the market, Billo said, and a major program to create lightweight, portable refrigeration technologies is evolving quickly.
"A common thread among all the technology that ONAMI research creates is that these are very innovative products, which will take a skilled workforce to produce," Billo said. "The Oregon labor force has exactly those capabilities. If we manage it right, that's why we believe there is so much potential here to create new businesses and jobs that will stay in Oregon, pay high wages and continue to take advantage of the innovations emerging from our universities."
An unusual collaboration of academia, state and federal agencies, private industry and strong political leadership has made ONAMI possible, Billo said. The new initiative to bring together economic development experts with university scientists is another step in that process, he said.