Pittsburgh Technical Council



Article Published: March 10, 2014

In 2011, the National Science Foundation reported that
the global nanotechnology market is projected to be worth
$1 trillion by 2015 and will increase to $3 trillion by 2020. There is a global advanced materials/nanotechnology race to 2020. Several nations (EU, China, and Korea, to name a few) have 2020 initiatives where they are contributing major R&D funding for advanced materials technologies development. The U.S. currently holds the lead in this race, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office has warned that we would lose the race due to funding issues for the gap between R&D and full-scale manufacturing, which means there needs to be more funding for prototype development. Last year, the National Nanotechnology Institute (NNI) proposed more than $1.7 billion for FY2014 to support nanotechnology activities, such as basic science to sustainable nanomanufacturing to solar applications. Unfortunately, this is an eight percent decrease from the NNI FY2012 budget ($2.1 billion). 

The Pittsburgh region is very fortunate to have a rich and diverse advanced material environment, featuring chemicals, metals, nanotechnologies, robotics, etc. The Greater Pittsburgh area has more than 40 small, medium, and Fortune 500 companies and state-of-the-art universities. Last year, Pittsburgh’s top two engineering universities (Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Pittsburgh) participated in an unprecedented statewide collaboration with five other universities—Drexel, Lehigh, Penn State, Pitt and Temple—called the PA ENGN. The PA ENGN’s main vision is to reinvigorate the manufacturing industry through science, engineering and innovation. These leaders in higher education have recognized the importance of advanced manufacturing research as the critical driver of economic development. http://paengn.org/

Here in Pittsburgh, we are proud to say that the PA NanoMaterials Commercialization Center has recognized this funding gap since 2006, when it was founded. The PA NanoCenter’s commercialization model helps technology providers through a collaborative approach that strategically partners technology providers with industry partners to help advanced materials/nano-inspired technologies cross this gap or “valley of death.” The PA NanoCenter is very passionate in supporting advanced materials and nanotechnologies toward prototype development and beyond. The Center has completed another round of economic impact survey data, and here are the results. With the $6.2 million received in funding since its inception, the PA NanoCenter has supported 53 projects, which have leveraged $61.7 million in additional funding. The Center has helped develop 71 technologies and 27 commercial products. The most important factor is that the PA NanoCenter has helped to create 114 jobs and retained 220 jobs with its funding support. 

These collaborations and partnerships are important to drive advanced materials innovations toward full-scale manufacturing. The PA NanoCenter has funded several startups that are working with industry partners to achieve full-scale manufacturing commercialization activity. Crystalplex has developed proprietary quantum dot (QD) technology for solid-state lighting applications. Crystalplex’s application is for the commercial light bulb with the same illumination as a 60W bulb but using only 3W of electricity. In 2012, Crystalplex’s opto-electronic product launched and is now available for purchase in Sigma Aldrich Catalogue. Liquid X, a CMU start-up company, seeks to supply molecular inks comprising novel metal complexes that can be printed as either solutions or neat liquids. After the PA NanoCenter’s funding, Liquid X secured multiple rounds of follow-on angel investment for the processing and scale-up of the technology. nanoGriptech is another CMU spinoff and is working on the design and manufacture of novel fibrous adhesive material prototypes inspired by a gecko’s adhesive foot pads. nanoGriptech plans on a pilot scale launch in Q4 2014. 

Pittsburgh has the innovation capacity, connections, and manufacturing power to become the global leader in this advanced materials and nanotechnology race. Organizations like the PA Nano Center are helping us realize this potential. Learn more at www.pananocenter.org.


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