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Evolving Innovations » 2010 » June

Archive for June, 2010

NanoBusiness Alliance Interview – Scott Livingston, Chairman & CEO, Livingston Securities, LLC

Posted on June 21st, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Today, we continue part IV of our Interview Series looking at Nanotechnology’s top innovators and influencers.

In this month’s interview, we talk to Scott Livingston, Chairman and CEO of Livingston Securities, LLC www.livingstonsecurities.com. Mr. Livingston has been working on emerging technologies at Wall Street firms for over 18 years and has specialized in nanotechnologies since 2002. Mr. Livingston has been called “sharp and highly connected” by the Forbes Wolfe Nanotechnology Report (July 1, 2005) and has been a keynote speaker on advanced technology investment trends at MIT, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), the NanoBusiness Alliance, Brookhaven National Labs, Rice University Center for Nanotechnology, the Lawrence Berkeley Labs, Albany Nanotech, Hillary Clinton’s Jobs for New York, the US Congress Nanotechnology Caucus and the US Congress High Tech Caucus, and at conferences on economic development and job creation through investment in advanced technologies in over a dozen states across America. In addition, Mr. Livingston is also the creator of the annual “Livingston Nanotechnology Conference,” Wall Street’s largest annual nanotechnology investor conference since 2005.

From 2005 to 2009 Mr. Livingston was a Managing Director at Axiom Capital Management, Inc, and head of the Livingston Group, a division within Axiom focused on nanotechnology. From 2000 to 2005 Mr. Livingston was a Director in the Private Investment Management Division at Lehman Brothers. While at Lehman in 2002, Mr. Livingston began his focus on nanotechnology and started to cover the field for institutional and individual investors. Mr. Livingston graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in International Economic Relations. Mr. Livingston is a Board Member of the NanoBusiness Alliance and a founding Board Member of the New York NanoBusiness Alliance. Mr. Livingston is also a founding member of the Water Innovations Alliance. Mr. Livingston sits on the Board of the Dolan DNA Learning Center of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the NanoEthics Group. Mr. Livingston’s registrations include Series 4, 7, 24, 27, 53, 55, 63 and 65.

In this interview, we talk to Scott about his views of nanotechnology on Wall Street, the state of the nanotech IPO market and his views on financing nanotech innovation, among other topics. We hope you enjoy our interview with Scott. – Steve Waite

SW: Good to speak with you today, Scott. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to do the interview. How are things going at Livingston Securities these days?

SL: We are very busy. Thanks for having me as a guest, Steve. I am a regular reader of your interviews.

SW: What is Wall Street’s view of the potential of nanotechnology these days?

SL: Emerging technology cycles tend to be similar. Whether we are talking about the internet, which was the emerging technology wave of the 90s, or biotech in the 80s, or autos in the early part of the 20th century, we see a period of initial euphoria, followed by a longer period of investor disappointment, followed by a longer climb out of the hole to a point where the promise is reached. We are still in the “crawling out of the hole” phase, but many of our public nano companies have had tremendous moves over the last year so investors and bankers are noticing that nano can make them money.

SW: With many people on Wall Street seemingly focused intensely on the next quarter, how do you convey to investors the importance of staying focused on the tremendous, longer term potential of nanotech?

SL: Public companies that are a part of the nano universe have shown great quarter over quarter growth over the last year and short term investors have responded by pushing the stocks way up, and allowing the companies to price secondary offerings at levels not dreamed of the year before. While we want to focus on the long term, we aren’t afraid of investors who are focused on hitting quarterly numbers. That can be a two-sided opportunity. If the company misses their short term estimates they may complain about fickle shareholders, but if they hit the quarter they are very happy with those same shareholders.

SW: How has the success of the A123 Systems’ IPO affected your business? Are you seeing great interest among investors in nanotechnology?

SL: A123 Systems was officially the best performing IPO of 2009. The success of the A123 IPO led to S-1 filings for venture backed, innovation-driven companies in biofuels, communications equipment, electric vehicles, solar, and healthcare. Institutional investors have also taken note of A123 primarily due to its volatility and liquidity.

SW: What does the nanotechnology IPO pipeline look like these days? Are there any interesting deals out there on which people should be focused?

SL: I won’t mention specifics because to do so would require me to post prospectuses for each name I mention, but the pipeline is robust right now. The problem is that many of the venture-backed IPOs, that have priced in the first half of 2010, have performed quite poorly. We feel that big investment banks are under serving the innovation economy and this represents the single biggest risk to realizing the potential of nanotechnology in the short term. I’d say the best way to sum it up is “stronger than ever but tenuous.”

SW: Which CEOs, working in nanotechnology, have impressed you the most and what qualities make them special?

SL: Since we are regulated by FINRA rules, I would decline to mention specifics. But generally we’ve seen a pretty good showing by management teams at the major public nano companies. The qualities that make them special include: ability to raise money and manage relations with Wall Street, vision on acquisitions, and ability to inspire and build loyal employee and management teams.

SW: What are the most common mistakes companies make in financing nanotechnology-related ventures?

SL: Underfunding. If you think your business plan calls for $5mm over the next two years, plan to invest $7.5mm. If your business plan calls for $7.5mm, invest $10mm. You don’t want to run out of money just as you are hitting the goal line.

SW: What advice do you have for people who are looking to raise capital to fund nanotech innovations?

SL: That’s a loaded question. Other than the fact that they should all work with Livingston Securities, I’d say that they need to have a deep bench of investors, both strategic, venture and high net worth. They should keep close track of the financings announced by other companies in their verticals and note what is attracting capital in their space.

SW: Do you sense that companies today are taking a more proactive role in discussing the benefits and risks associated with nanotechnology?

SL: We cover over 300 of the S&P 500 companies and loads of other companies, all the way down to the early stage startups. Companies are aware that they need to be on top of advances in nano more than ever.

SW: How is government regulation affecting the nanotech community?

SL: Regulation and the threat/promise of more regulation are a factor but, for the most part, not confined to nanotechnology. Chemical companies, pharmaceutical companies, consumer product companies, etc. are also dealing with the prospect of a more assertive regulatory regime and nanotechnology is not significantly different. Again, this is the opinion of the executive who is looking at the bigger picture. If they drill down into nano there is more depth to those concerns but they’re not isolated to just nano in general.

SW: What, in your view, should policymakers do with respect to nanotech regulation in order to promote and foster nanotech innovation?

SL: Insist on data. Data should be in the form of accepted scientific methods and procedures. Many of the studies that have shown that nano is potentially a threat have done so based on studies that wouldn’t be allowed at FDA or other regulatory agencies. Without data we can’t make informed decisions as to whether or how to regulate.

SW: Livingston Securities has a mission to be one of the world’s leading financial institutions in nanotechnology. What do you think it will take for your firm to be successful in the future?

SL: We have a large clientele of institutional investors and also have accounts with many of the top individual investors in nano. We will be successful even in a weak environment, but a strong market, a better market for IPOs and a little luck wouldn’t hurt.

SW: What are the three most important lessons you have learned in the process of working with the nanotech community over the past decade?

SL: I try to teach people in the nanotechnology community the lessons that I’ve learned over 20 years in the emerging technology community: Pride comes before the fall, It’s all about the rolodex and don’t ever, ever, ever stop raising money.

SW: How has the NanoBusiness Alliance been helpful to Livingston Securities? What role do you see the NbA playing in the future?

SL: The NanoBusiness Alliance is an extremely important organization to our firm. Over the years I’ve pretty much met everyone that there is to meet through the NbA and the access that the group has to key decision makers is unparalleled. If the NbA were better funded it would have the opportunity to become one of the most important industry organizations in America, but without adequate funding from members it is not as effective as it could be. I think that the most important role the NbA plays is as an aggregator of all of the key stakeholders in the nano-based economy and as a regular programmer for those stakeholders to meet and connect.

SW: We assume Livingston Securities will be having its nanotech conference again this year in New York City. Tell us about what you have planned for this year’s conference.

SL: Haven’t started yet, but we always get a great mix of keynotes, panels and discussions and every year we have more hedge funds and VC funds than the previous year. We’ve been exploring adding conferences on a virtual reality platform which would facilitate connections between attendees and bring in a whole new group of participants, as well as saving travel budgets for those that are far away. The key question that still needs to be answered is “Will 2010 be a robust year for IPOs after A123 Systems’ strong IPO in 2009?” Whether that answer is “yes” or “no” is still yet to be determined and the answer to that question will set the tone for our conference in December, 2010.

SW: Thanks again for your time today, Scott. We wish you and your colleagues at Livingston Securities all the best in the future.

NANO NEWS
I www.vincentcaprio.org would like to share with you the following Nanotechnology news articles:

Taking the NanoPulse – Help Wanted: Nanotechnology Experts
http://www.industryweek.com/articles/taking_the_nanopulse_–_help_wanted_nanotechnology_experts_21786.aspx

Forbes/Wolfe Emerging Tech Report
New technologies for removing oil from water are everywhere… Except the Gulf
http://www.luxresearchinc.com/blog/2010/05/new-technologies-for-removing-oil-from-water-are-everywhere%E2%80%A6-except-the-gulf/

The Coolness of Tiny Things
http://www.economist.com/node/16214096?story_id=16214096

Patent Fast Track Proposed
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704515704575282951991894276.html

Regards,

Vincent Caprio “It’s Green, It’s Clean, It’s Never Seen – That’s Nanotechnology”
www.vincentcaprio.org
Executive Director
NanoBusiness Alliance
203-733-1949
vincentcaprio@nynanobusiness.org

This Week in DC – Water, Fabien Cousteau’s Plant A Fish and Gulf Oil Spill

Posted on June 16th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I www.vincentcaprio.org returned from Washington, DC this week. Every conversation I had was a discussion on water and/or the Gulf oil spill. On Monday evening, I had the pleasure of attending Fabien Cousteau’s “Plant A Fish” www.plantafish.org Fundraiser www.vincentcaprio.org/vincent-caprio-fabien-cousteau-at-plant-a-fish-fundraiser.

Know your Cousteaus: Diving deep into the family pool
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/reliable-source/2010/06/rs-_cousteau.html

Reception launching Fabien Cousteau’s new organization, Plant A Fish
http://washingtonscene.thehill.com/party-events-pictures/archive/4511-reception-launching-fabien-cousteaus-new-organization-plant-a-fish

Fabien Cousteau www.fabiencousteau.org is an Advisory Board Member of our Water Innovations Foundation www.waterinnovationsfoundation.org. I asked Fabien to share his thoughts on the Gulf oil spill. “For far too long, we’ve been using our ocean planet as both an infinite resource and a garbage can. The recent Gulf oil spill vividly demonstrates the devastating impact our careless actions are causing. The only potential upside is that the tragedy is gaining public awareness and compassion. Perhaps now, we will begin to comprehend the fragility of the ocean world and the severe impact our carelessness is having on our one and only life support system. With regards to the invaluable resources our oceans provide, we must see our natural world as a bank account and start living on the interest instead of eating away at the capital. Despite the current challenges we face as a species, we must go forward and strike a delicate balance with the oceans if we are to survive well into the future. By ending our wasteful practices, weaning ourselves off our 100-year-addiction to fossil fuels and shifting to, and embracing renewable energy sources, we can a reach this critical balance. As challenging as it may be, let’s do everything we can to properly clean up this disaster, focus on how we can prevent such a tragedy from reoccurring and start nursing our planet back to health.”

A Cousteau Continues Legacy of Ocean Exploration
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703303904575292601095309906.html

Grandson of Famed Undersea Explorer Celebrates World Ocean’s Day
http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/mornings/grandson-of-famed-undersea-explorer-celebrates-world-oceans-day-060810

On Tuesday, I attended Corporate WaterVision 2010 http://www.infocastinc.com/downloads_pdf/corporatewater_agenda.pdf, a very informative water conference in DC. I enjoyed the Luncheon Keynote Address: Obama Administration Initiatives, presented by Peter S. Silva, Assistant Administrator for Water, US Environmental Protection Agency. I would like to remind our members that all the presentations from our Dayton Water Conference www.daytonwaterconference.org/presentations.php are on our site to review.

Yesterday in DC, there were 5 Congressional hearings on the Gulf oil spill.

Kevin Costner Testifies Before Congress On Gulf Oil Spill
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/09/kevin-costner-testifies-b_n_606542.html

Kevin Costner is not the only celebrity with a product to clean the Gulf oil spill.

Jean-Michel Cousteau, Troy Aikman, and Drew Bledsoe Hold Press Conference in Louisiana to Endorse Breakthrough Technology
http://www.tradingmarkets.com/news/stock-alert/esph_jean-michel-cousteau-troy-aikman-and-drew-bledsoe-hold-press-conference-in-louisiana-to-endorse-br-976449.html

One of my late father’s favorite quotes hit me while in DC. General Douglas MacArthur said, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” In regard to the Gulf oil spill I thought, “Old toxins never die and we hope they just fade away.”

Regards,

Vincent Caprio
Chief Operating Officer
Water Innovations Alliance
vince@waterinnovations.org

Water Innovations Foundation Salutes the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Jacques Cousteau

Posted on June 16th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Friday, June 11th is the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Jacques Cousteau http://www.notablebiographies.com/Co-Da/Cousteau-Jacques.html and we would like to highlight activities celebrating the life of this legend.

Fabien Cousteau http://www.fabiencousteau.org/, third generation ocean explorer, documentary film maker, environmental ambassador, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and Water Innovations Foundation http://www.wif.tallyfox.com/fabien-cousteau-0 Advisory Board member, is launching a nonprofit organization in June called PLANT A FISH. Its core mission will focus on engaging and educating local communities and children toward the restoration efforts of their local marine environments. The lessons that participants will learn about nature and sustainable living are relevant everywhere. Initial programs include the planting of 1 billion oysters in New York City’s Harbor, 1 billion sea turtles in El Salvador and 1 million mangroves in Florida.

Fabien is planning a PLANT A FISH reception http://www.fabiencousteau.org/index.php?s=26 on Monday, June 7th in Washington, DC in celebration of his grandfather’s 100th birthday. I will be attending this special event. Please consider donating to this worthy cause.

Of note, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will be airing a special event beginning on June 11th called, Under the Sea: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Jacques Cousteau’s birth http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article/?cid=309185. The Cousteau birthday itself, June 11, includes a twenty-hour marathon of documentaries in which he participated. All are TCM premieres, including six episodes of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau dating from 1968 to 1974, and twelve episodes of The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey, an Emmy-nominated 1977 television series featuring the research adventures of the man called “the public conscience of mankind’s stewardship of our oceans.” Also premiering is an award-winning documentary about Cousteau. Jacques Cousteau: The First 75 Years (1986), directed by John Soh and narrated by Jose Ferrer, documents the explorer’s life from birth and childhood to his 75th birthday.

Please join me in the celebration of the life of Jacques Cousteau and in supporting Fabien’s vision of PLANT A FISH.

Regards,

Vincent Caprio
Chief Operating Officer
Water Innovations Alliance
203-733-1949
vince@waterinnovations.org

Vincent Caprio & Fabien Cousteau at Plant A Fish Fundraiser

Posted on June 10th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

V-Caprio_F-Cousteau-sm

America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 Clears the House With Bipartisan Support

Posted on June 10th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

On Friday, May 28th at 3:00pm, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5116, America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, by a vote of 262 to 150. Included in H.R. 5116 is the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:h5116rh.txt.pdf of 2010. The bill, which has over 100 cosponsors and more than 750 endorsers http://democrats.science.house.gov/Media/file/Commdocs/2010_COMPETES_Supporters.pdf, makes investments in science, innovation, and education to support employers today while strengthening the U.S. scientific and economic leadership to grow new industries of tomorrow, and the jobs that come with them.

I www.vincentcaprio.org would like to provide an outline and highlights of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2010.
TITLE I – SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY
Subtitle A – National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments
SEC. 101. SHORT TITLE.
SEC. 102. NATIONAL NANOTECHNOLOGY PROGRAM AMENDMENTS.
SEC. 5. TRIENNIAL EXTERNAL REVIEW OF THE NATIONAL NANOTECHNOLOGY PROGRAM.
SEC. 103. SOCIETAL DIMENSIONS OF NANOTECHNOLOGY.
SEC. 104. TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER.
SEC. 105. RESEARCH IN AREAS OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE.
SEC. 106. NANOMANUFACTURING RESEARCH.
SEC. 107. DEFINITIONS.

Over 750 organizations have endorsed the legislation including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, the Council on Competitiveness, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the NanoBusiness Alliance, the National Venture Capital Association, TechAmerica, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the American Chemical Society, and others, including nearly 100 universities and colleges.

“If we are to reverse the trend of the last twenty years, where our country’s technology edge in the world has diminished, we must make the investments necessary today,” said Chairman Bart Gordon http://gordon.house.gov/ (D-TN). “The path is simple. Research and education lead to innovation. Innovation leads to economic development and good paying jobs and the revenue to pay for more research. And as private firms under-invest in research and development because the returns are too far off in the future, there is a clear and necessary role of government to help our nation keep pace with the rest of the world.”

To maintain a pipeline of ideas, the bill puts basic research programs on a path to doubling authorized funding levels over ten years at: the Department of Energy Office of Science, the single largest supporter of research in the physical sciences in the U.S.; the National Science Foundation, which supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology labs, which conduct research to advance the nation’s technology infrastructure and support industry.

The bill will help foster innovation in new energy technologies by: reauthorizing the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is pursuing high-risk, high-reward energy technology development; and authorizing Energy Innovation Hubs, which are multidisciplinary collaborations with a single technological focus that currently presents a critical barrier to achieving our national energy innovation goals.

The bill supports local efforts to form Regional Innovation Clusters, which will strengthen regional economies and advance the work done in a given field by leveraging collaboration and communication between businesses and other entities.

The bill addresses immediate needs by creating Innovative Technology Federal Loan Guarantees to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers access capital to make necessary updates to become more efficient and stay competitive.

The bill will also assist industry by ensuring that the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) better reflects the needs and challenges facing manufacturers today. In addition, the bill reorganizes NIST labs to reflect the multidisciplinary nature of technology and better meet the needs of industry in the 21st century.

The bill also will help improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education by reauthorizing the Noyce scholarships, which help give K-12 teachers a strong grounding in their fields, so they can more fully engage students. The bill also addresses coordination of STEM activities across the federal government, and improves STEM education at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral levels.

“Throughout the Committee process, there was a lot of legitimate discussion about federal deficits. I agree that we must address the challenges presented by our deficits, but we must also invest in our country’s future. I remember Newt Gingrich saying one of his greatest regrets was not doubling the funding for NSF when he put NIH on the doubling path,” said Gordon. “During committee consideration of this bill, we made some significant changes to the bill’s authorization levels – cutting them by over 10 percent. Though we will maintain a doubling path for our research accounts, we do so on a slightly less aggressive trajectory.”

“As I’ve said before, this bill is too important to let fall by the wayside. Today, we took the action necessary to see consideration of this bill completed. And we allowed the Members of the House to be on record voting on provisions gutting funding for our science agencies, voting on whether we should eliminate programs that will help create jobs, voting on whether to eliminate programs that will make us more energy independent, voting in opposition to federal employees watching pornography, and voting on whether universities that ban military recruiters should receive federal research dollars. We have provided all Members, in a reasonable manner, with the ability to vote on each of these items separately instead of all together,” said Chairman Gordon.

For more information on the Committee’s work on COMPETES please visit website http://science.house.gov/default.aspx.

I would like to thank Chairman Gordon and the Committee for their vision for America.

Regards,

Vincent Caprio “It’s Green, It’s Clean, It’s Never Seen – That’s Nanotechnology”
www.vincentcaprio.org
Executive Director
NanoBusiness Alliance
203-733-1949
vincentcaprio@nynanobusiness.org

Water Innovations Foundation Salutes the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Jacques Cousteau

Posted on June 10th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Friday, June 11th is the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Jacques Cousteau http://www.notablebiographies.com/Co-Da/Cousteau-Jacques.html and we would like to highlight activities celebrating the life of this legend.

Fabien Cousteau http://www.fabiencousteau.org/, third generation ocean explorer, documentary film maker, environmental ambassador, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and Water Innovations Foundation http://www.wif.tallyfox.com/fabien-cousteau-0 Advisory Board member, is launching a nonprofit organization in June called PLANT A FISH. Its core mission will focus on engaging and educating local communities and children toward the restoration efforts of their local marine environments. The lessons that participants will learn about nature and sustainable living are relevant everywhere. Initial programs include the planting of 1 billion oysters in New York City’s Harbor, 1 billion sea turtles in El Salvador and 1 million mangroves in Florida.

Fabien is planning a PLANT A FISH reception http://www.fabiencousteau.org/index.php?s=26 on Monday, June 7th in Washington, DC in celebration of his grandfather’s 100th birthday. I will be attending this special event. Please consider donating to this worthy cause.

Of note, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will be airing a special event beginning on June 11th called, Under the Sea: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Jacques Cousteau’s birth http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article/?cid=309185. The Cousteau birthday itself, June 11, includes a twenty-hour marathon of documentaries in which he participated. All are TCM premieres, including six episodes of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau dating from 1968 to 1974, and twelve episodes of The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey, an Emmy-nominated 1977 television series featuring the research adventures of the man called “the public conscience of mankind’s stewardship of our oceans.” Also premiering is an award-winning documentary about Cousteau. Jacques Cousteau: The First 75 Years (1986), directed by John Soh and narrated by Jose Ferrer, documents the explorer’s life from birth and childhood to his 75th birthday.

Please join me in the celebration of the life of Jacques Cousteau and in supporting Fabien’s vision of PLANT A FISH.

Regards,

Vincent Caprio
Chief Operating Officer
Water Innovations Alliance
203-733-1949
vince@waterinnovations.org

NanoBusiness Interview – Ajay P. Malshe, Co-founder & CTO, NanoMech, LLC

Posted on June 1st, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I www.vincentcaprio.org have just returned from Denver at our 3rd annual Nano Renewable Energy Summit www.nanoenergysummit.org. I would like to share a video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MORetnfixQ of the conference.

In this month’s interview, we talk to Ajay P. Malshe. He is the Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of NanoMech LLC (http://www.nanomech.biz). NanoMech LLC is a nanotechnology innovations platform company with major current nanomanufacturing and product foci in four application sectors. These sectors are Machining (ex. TuffTek®) and Lubrication (NanoGlideTM), Sustainable Retail Packaging (Guard-In-FreshTM), Biomedical and Defense. NanoMech is creating world class innovations and innovations based hi-tech job opportunities in Arkansas and US, at large. Ajay has received thirty one awards and recognitions for research, education and service achievements (1996-2010). The most recent prestigious recognitions, Frost & Sullivan 2005 Technology Excellence Award and 2006 Top 25 Micro and Nano Innovations from R&D Magazine and Micro/Nano Newsletter are due to his team’s innovative contributions in the area of cBN-TiN nanocomposite coating and other related products. He is a Fellow of American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME) and a Fellow of Institute of Physics, London, UK and is listed in Lexinton’s Who’s Who and Marquis Who’s Who America.

Ajay is also 21st Century Endowed Chair Professor of Materials, Manufacturing Processes and Integrated Systems at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and adjunct-faculty of Micro Electronics and Photonics Graduate Program at the University of Arkansas. He is the Director of the Materials and Manufacturing Research Laboratories (MMRL; a cluster of 5 laboratories). Malshe has multidisciplinary research programs in the fields of nanomanufacturing, IC, MEMS and micro and nano device packaging and integration, and surface engineering for advanced machining. He has authored over 200 plus peer reviewed publications, 10 books / chapters, and holds 9 patents (4 licensed to industries). He has graduated over multiple graduate students, trained numerous post-doctoral fellows, and provided research experience to several undergraduate and high school students and school teachers. He has an extensive track record of global collaborations with academic institutions and companies. He is a member of professional societies such as ASME, SME, IEEE, MRS, ASEE and IMAPS.

In this interview, we talk to Ajay about NanoMech and his vision for nanotech in the decade ahead. We hope you enjoy it. – Steve Waite

SW: Great to speak with you today, Ajay. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. How are things coming along at NanoMech?

AM: It is a very exciting time and we are very busy. We are building and strengthening the company through investments in people, ideas and tools, in that order, to create a truly world-class enterprise. What that means is that we are bringing on new talent, from a world-class executive team including our recent hiring of Keith Blakely as CEO to eager and skilled young engineers, manufacturing, and administrative staff, all of whom are focused on our corporate mission of bringing truly innovative and exciting technologies into the commercial marketplace. Not a week goes by that we aren’t involved with major industrial customers and partners to create high value nano-enabled product solutions. As importantly, we are excited and having fun making the transition from an R&D company to a profitable high tech commercial enterprise.

SW: NanoMech’s business strategy is based on a concept you refer to as the Innovation Pipeline. Tell us about the concept and how it guides the company.

AM: The idea of Innovation Pipeline is perhaps a bit more than the words describe. We aren’t just talking about a linear sequence of taking ideas from a laboratory setting to a feasibility stage and then further refining them to achieve alpha, beta, and finally commercial products. Instead, our “pipeline” is perhaps better thought of as a matrix; a combination of vertical and horizontal parallels fed by exciting work being done in academic and laboratory settings by students and postdocs (like multiple springs of water feeding into a lake to keep the freshness of water that provides life to marine animals and plants) and then examined and applied across a range of important markets by our engineering and business teams. We have found that in this way, we can work on innovations that may have a runway of two to four years from idea (“lightning in the bottle”) to a commercialized product (“light bulb”) while simultaneously investing in and establishing important and protectable technology platforms for broad market applications, addressing global problems. It is critical that we then align the developments and commercialization road maps of these innovations using strong interactions with customers and partners to ensure that we deliver what the market needs and in a timeline and at economics that are appropriate. This allows us to stay both properly focused and at the same time, continuously deliver new innovations and products. With this approach, we believe NanoMech will achieve great results in the near-term and remain strong in the years to come.

SW: NanoMech has four areas of focus in terms of business activity: Machining/Coatings, Lubrication, BioMedical/Defense technologies and Retail Packaging. Give us some perspective on NanoMech’s Machining technology and business opportunities you are seeing in the market today.

AM: Manufacturing is, in my opinion, core to the success of any country and a major driver and source of innovation. One of the central processes in most manufacturing – either directly or indirectly – is machining. Current technologies are making materials strong and durable and demanding higher productivity but with increased consciousness on environmental safety and energy efficiency. We achieved a breakthrough innovation at NanoMech in what we refer to as our TuffTek® coating for cutting tools to machine steels and other related alloys. Steel and related alloys are at the heart of uncounted application areas spanning from heavy earth movers to equipment used in oil and gas exploration and production to automotive and aerospace industries – just to name a few! The most efficient machining of hardened steel is best accomplished using a man-made material called cubic boron nitride (cBN). TuffTek® is world’s first cBN composite coating that has been successfully applied to a wide range of cutting tool insert geometries. This came out of my academic research at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. The product is manufactured using a patented platform technology that we believe will be disruptive in the area of nanomaterial coatings. Being the first with successful cBN coating in the market is a competitive advantage. We are finding great interest from major customers (and competitors) looking to take advantage of the performance and economic benefits that TuffTek can provide. Our hope is that the TuffTek innovation can be rapidly assimilated in a traditionally conservative cutting tool market and NanoMech is forging a broad range of partnerships and commercial arrangements to make this happen. In the pipeline of TuffTek innovations we have aligned a series of products based on new chemistries for coating, designs of tools and other parameters. But again we are balancing the act of laser focusing and keeping an eye on the future, to make sure revenue is king!

SW: What kind of research and commercial activities do you see in the Lubricants business for NanoMech?

AM: Lubricants are another key building block of the manufacturing infrastructure in the US and other countries. In fact, the Department of Energy has reported that in industrialized nations, the annual cost of friction and wear related energy and material losses is estimated to be between 5 and 7% of their gross national products. In the US, that represents nearly $1 trillion per year! So as we are building a Green Economy, focusing on ways to reduce energy losses is as equally important as building new sources to harvest energy. As we have learned over years, current lubricant chemistries are largely at their limit and, in many cases, represent challenges to the environment as well. NanoMech’s innovation in lubrication is a product called NanoGlide®; a multicomponent chemistry system delivering new lubrication characteristics based on molecular design considerations and which can be delivered in the form of an additive, a grease or a spray. As we begin to design and deliver particles of functionalized lubricants with many of the chemical groups in the nanometer size range, our classical way of thinking about solids versus liquids is challenged. Today, we are focused on commercializing the product through installation of our initial phase-I pilot production unit, while working closely with strategic customers and setting up a desired supply chain. Again this innovation is founded on a simple but powerful patent pending manufacturing platform. The pipeline of NanoGlide® innovations will offer application specific chemistries and forms. This breakthrough really came about to address a timely need when my students and I could not find a source where we could buy a “bucketful” of nanoparticles of lubricant chalcogenides for a funded project at the University of Arkansas… “need is mother of invention!”

SW: What type of work is NanoMech doing in the Biomedical/Defense area and what is the commercial potential of the work?

AM: The cross pollination of platform innovations and continuous infusion of new innovations is one of the strengths of NanoMech and as the Founder and CTO I cherish that dearly. As an evidence of this, in the biomedical area we are working on developing multifunctional coatings and surfaces for biomedical implants to provide better health care and this is realized using one of the core platform IPs of NanoMech from the development of TuffTek®. For the defense sector, we are exploiting a combination of our current IP platform and infusing new IP to make body armors smarter to protect our troops fighting in harsh and asymmetric combat conditions. These are some of the major breakthroughs in the product pipeline and we will have formal product announcements and launches in due course. The somewhat sensitive nature of these markets makes it difficult to describe them publicly at this time.

SW: The retail packaging business seems like it has a lot of upside. What is NanoMech working on in this area?

AM: NanoMech, unlike many nanotech businesses, was founded in the middle of the country, in what some people refer to as “Wal-Mart country”, where Wal-Mart and other business like Tyson Foods and JB Hunt are great role models of entrepreneurship; not unlike Google, Microsoft and others on the west coast. Being in the retailing, food and transportation hub of the US, NanoMech is aggressive in helping and promoting innovations to address problems faced in these industries and building ties to such opportunities. NanoMech’s work in this area is also a great example of building global partnerships, where IP is developed jointly with innovators from India and the US, in one of the cases. At this time, our focus is on building strategic partnerships where we will be addressing and easing particular “customer pain” in these markets.

SW: NanoMech recently brought on former NanoDynamics CEO, Keith Blakely, as CEO. We were pleased to see this move. What kind of qualities does Keith bring to NanoMech that made him attractive?

AM: NanoMech was founded in 2002 and had gone through Phase I in nucleating some initial key IPs and building product prototypes like other early stage “garage innovators”. After that initial period of innovation and having established some confidence in our technologies and some early customer successes, the company was poised to begin the second phase of its growth model. Investment in the right People, Ideas and Tools is at the heart of that road map. In 2009, we conducted a national search to find an experienced, accomplished, and recognized leader who could drive the NanoMech bus in the right direction and help the organization by putting appropriately skilled people in the appropriate seats. In Keith we saw a unique blend of energy, passion, technical knowledge, business experience and communication skills. Since joining us, the company has undergone a major transition and is poised to take full advantage of the investments made over the last eight years. Today at NanoMech we have more than a century’s worth of collective managerial experience in the areas of technical innovation, nanomaterials, corporate finance, marketing, and commercial operations. I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with such a terrific team and have fun in building a world-class business.

SW: NanoMech is based in Arkansas. What are the advantages being based in that state for a company engaged in nanotech research, development and commercialization?

AM: Over the years, Arkansas gave the US and the world, skilled and accomplished figures such as Sam Walton, President Clinton, Senator Fulbright, known for international scholarships, Don Tyson, JB Hunt, and many others. So leadership and entrepreneurship are in the blood of the state. Combining the opportunities in retailing, food and transportation with product enhancements due to nanomaterials and manufacturing process innovations is a potent combination and one that we believe will offer explosive growth with tremendous upside. There are very few environments where similar combinations exist. This, combined with significant strategic investment in nanoscience, engineering and entrepreneurship by the University of Arkansas and the State and community leaders, is the best alignment of stars that one might expect. The State is eager to build a technology based economy to add to the blend of current economic drivers. Remember that in every century innovations in materials delivered new products and that is what we expect from nanomaterials here in Arkansas. I call that a real “stimulus.”

SW: NanoMech has a relationship with the University of Arkansas. What is the role of academia and universities in nanotech innovation in the decade ahead?

AM: In the age where innovation and product lifetimes – from just a flash of lightning in the bottle (idea) to a ready-made light bulb and LED light (commercial product) – is often measured in years not decades, Universities are a critical source of new knowledge, skilled work forces, and new product ideas. In this way, they have tremendous opportunities in this century to be economic engines. For example, the University of Arkansas has exactly realized this opportunity and in partnership with the state and business leaders has put together an infrastructure to create, what I call “innovation supply chain,” certainly in the nanotechnology area. Teams of world class researchers and educators like Professor Greg Salamo and others are building a Nano Science and Engineering Center on the foundation of already a national success of numerous nanotech breakthroughs and company spin offs. Senator Pryor and other members of the state delegation, Governor Beebe and their staff, the University’s past and current administration led by Chancellors White and Gearhart, respectively, and many business leaders have provided their expertise to build significant innovation and enterprise centers and to attract the best workforce and facility. Agencies like Accelerate Arkansas, led by career entrepreneurs like James Hendren and Jerry Adams, are connecting dots in the state for networking. And Who’s Who of National Entrepreneurs like Jim Phillips, Keith Blakely, Clete Brewer and others are investing their time and funds in these growing companies. Today, NanoMech is an integral part of this vibrant growth in the state. NanoMech is a spin-off from the University of Arkansas in 2002 and is an example of what I described above.

SW: We’ve been talking to other nano researchers about the concept of matter as software of the 21st Century. Do you see nanomaterials becoming software in the years ahead?

AM: It is an important observation that from Stone Age to Copper and Bronze age to Golden age to last, which was the Silicon age, innovations in materials inspired innovations in new products for improving the quality of life for people. For example, without innovation in silicon material, there would be no Internet today and everything that follows – Google, Facebook, iPhones, etc.! Every material can be engineered in three ways: chemistry, structure and form. Nanoscale is a powerful dimension for engineering new materials with high precision and it is not limited to only one type of material. So imagine in front of you a 21st century tool box of nano scale chemistries, nano scale structures, and nanoscale forms (1D, 2D and 3D) allowing you to engineer metals, ceramics, semiconductors, polymers and their combinations. You quickly realize you have just put together an ensemble of infinite but realistic possibilities to tailor new materials and products across various business sectors from energy to transportation to defense to retailing to food and others. It is important to note that with global population on the rise, and natural resources being limited, we will need abilities to conserve materials, allow less usage, higher productivity and conduct life functions in the most sustainable ways. Nanoengineered materials precisely address that need for the growing global demands. In fact, I would like your readers to note another key observation that “without the success of advanced materials like nanomaterials there is little or no success of new green technologies, for example in the areas of pure water and air quality or energy conservation and production.”

SW: There has been a lot of discussion about the environment, health and safety of nanomaterials, and nanotechnology, in general. What’s your view on this issue?

AM: With every new innovation there is a new responsibility. It was true in the Stone Age and it was true in the Silicon Age and it will be true in this Nanomaterials Age. I view consciousness of the nanomaterials supply chain, awareness and education to gain the respect of the society, due diligence and good business practices by industries and government providing proper funding support to generate credible data, particularly to small growing companies, as vital. These views and actions are at the heart of applying successful measures to avoid perceptions and use facts for unleashing myriad opportunities offered by nanomaterials in numerous sectors for enhancing the quality of life and creating well paid jobs for the growing population. The key is that we create the balance between brilliant and rapid growth in nanotech and nanomaterials and products, with the pace of developing facts on EHS for these products, as otherwise we have not yet learned important lessons from the past.

SW: You believe that nanotechnology can play an important role in bringing manufacturing back to the United States. Can you tell us why you believe this?

AM: Economic engine sits on a three legged stool: innovation, manufacturing and service. In the last decades, as a country in zeal of seeking “good, fast and cheap” products, we shipped lot of parts and portions of these legs out of the US. In this process, the rest of the world has learned a lot of skills from the US. But one fact that we forgot was that “need is the mother of inventions and innovations.” One experiences needs when you make something and when you serve something. When manufacturing is exported, and service is partly exported, I am not sure we are experiencing needs which will keep pipeline of scientific inventions and engineering innovations coming back and refueling us to keep us competitive globally. In this complex global scenario, I believe the US cannot afford, and must support scientific nanotech discoveries and inventions, as well as equally and effectively support their engineering demonstration and manufacturing for creating real stimulus for job creation. The US has long been the beacon for innovation and creativity. I strongly recommend that in nanomaterials and nanomanufacturing we do not stop only at funding science but also fund major efforts in engineering and manufacturing where the fruits of such efforts will be rapidly realized and help to reestablish the US in global competition as the best place to do business – at all levels.

SW: How do you see nanotechnology in the U.S. versus the rest of the world? Do you see the competitive position of the U.S. in nanotechnology strengthening or slipping in the future?

AM: I believe that the US should preserve its “risk taking” culture in the arena of innovation and allow for rapid growth in the nanotech space. US Universities are still world class and are creating nanotech inventions and innovations. However, the rest of the world is adopting this culture and time is not our ally. We must focus on the model of creating new value added products, technologies, and services while keeping a certain level of effort in commoditized technologies as well so that the pipeline of nanotech innovations will keep the pond of our national economy fresh and vibrant.

SW: One last question, Ajay. What are the most important business lessons you have learned since launching NanoMech?

AM: Value People, Ideas and Tools in that order; hire the best people in what they do and make sure they are in the right seat so they can be happy in delivering their best and are successful in their careers. In such a situation, the entire organization achieves success while delivering both harmony and growth! Last but not the least, always remember that “time will never come back and the only constant is change.”

SW: Thanks again for your time today, Ajay. We wish you and colleagues at NanoMech all the best in the future.

Thank you Ajay and Steve for sharing this information with our Nanotechnology Community.

Regards,

Vincent Caprio “It’s Green, It’s Clean, It’s Never Seen – That’s Nanotechnology”
www.vincentcaprio.org
Executive Director
NanoBusiness Alliance
203-733-1949
vincentcaprio@nynanobusiness.org