I saw this recent BBC article re spiderman and nanotechnology – enjoy. The article notes the technology of one company, nanoGriptech, which is a spin-off company from Carnegie Mellon University (see Professor Metin Sitti). More generally, the article relates to bio-inspired adhesives (see geckos, for example) and applications with robotics. NanoGriptech was funded early on by the Pennsylvania NanoMaterials Commercialization Center. I encourage readers to explore this web page for interesting updates including inputs from their new leader, Leone Hermans-Blackburn.
An important theme in nanotechnology is state government pushing for economic development through funding of nanotechnology high-tech start-up companies and university technology transfer. Adding to this push, a recent report suggests that state governments should increasingly fund “home grown” high-tech start-ups rather than provide money to established companies. Home grown, turns out, provides better return for the state. The report, titled "Good Jobs, Strong Industries, a Better Pennsylvania: Towards a 21st Century State Economic Development Policy," was prepared by the Keystone Research Center and focused on developing jobs in Pennsylvania (see, for example, March 21, 2010 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, D1, summarizing the report, case studies, and its implications). The reports’ implications, however, are national. In addition, the Keystone report also advocated for more transparency in how the state funding money is used and the results of the funding.
The "reasonable royalty," that mythical and highly elusive number that some expert witnesses have built careers on, may at long last condense out of the ether. As Law360 has reported, Intellectual Property Exchange International ("IPXI") may soon become the first financial exchange for selling patent licensing rights as units (similar to stocks). As a result, publicly available financial information on the price of the license rights units could, for example, provide a frame of reference for the market value of such licenses.
For universities negotiating with start-ups, or start-ups negotiating with OEMs to commercialize intellectual property, the exchange may provide a valuable alternative to time-consuming and sometimes expensive development of complex license agreements. This may especially be true very early on with license negotiations for nanotechnology innovations.
Nano biotechnology innovations offer some of the more promising opportunities for the development of medical imaging and diagnostic tools. According to U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2009/0324706, assigned on its face to Northwestern University, gold-nanoparticles can be used to direct the synthesis of structures on which lippid bilayers may be supported. Because the lippid structures sequester cholesterol, the structures can be imaged in localized regions within a blood vessel where plaque may be present.
AuraSense LLC, a Northwestern University start-up founded by Chad Mirkin (listed as an inventor in the 2009/0324706 publication), has recently received a $2.5 million investment to commercialize its cholesterol sequestering technology that can be used to image cholesterol hot-spots. Such an investment in a university start-up may be seen as evidence that investment rounds are proceeding after a dismal 2009. Indeed, more investments like these will help keep American innovation primed with job growth and exciting new nanotech- and nano biotechnology-based products.
If A123Systems receipt of a $249 million Department of Energy grant and later success as the largest IPO of 2009 was any indicator, battery start-ups in 2010 are likely to lead the wave of cleantech success. For example, hybrid cars are taking on an increasing portion of the automotive market and in turn, the development of efficient lithium-ion batteries is a continuing hot topic in the research world.
As earth2tech recently highlighted in, 20 Battery Startups Hitting the Road With Lithium-ion, many battery start-up companies are currently focused on lithium-ion and some will likely succeed.
Nanotechnology, albeit small in size, is driving big impacts on advanced materials and cleantech.
During a down economy, many nanotechnology companies rely heavily on government grants as the influx of funds from private investors decreseases. As a result, these companies become particularly sensitive to IP disputes since many grants place limits on the use of funds to subsidize legal costs. In some cases, nanotechnology companies may risk bankruptcy if issues dealling with trade secret misappropriation, determintation of joint or sole inventorship, and breach of joint development agreements lead to litigation battles. Thus, stemming from the highly collaborative nature between many nanotech startups, universities, private laboratories, and their respective researchers, these entities must takes steps to ensure that their IP interests are protected throughout the R&D process, especially at the front-end.
In a recent article published in Nanotechnology Law and Business, Foley & Lardner attorneys Reed Christansen, Stephen Maebius, Leon Radomsky, and Steve Rutt, PhD provide examples of nanotechnology companies seeking bankruptcy protection as a result of intellectual property litigation. The authors also summarize steps that nanotech companies can take to protect themselves and to forestall litigation.
Venture capital investment and government grants fuel the greentech explosion in the United States. However, due to the recent economic downturn, money from venture capital has been dwindling to a trickle. In fact, many predict that as much as half of U.S. venture capital firms will disappear as a result of the current economic downturn (House Select Committee on Energy Independent and Global Warming – testimony of Robert T. Nelsen July 29, 2009).