Industry Urged to Follow Nano Research

Originally Published MDDI August 2002NEWS & ANALYSIS Maureen Kingsley

August 1, 2002

2 Min Read
Industry Urged to Follow Nano Research

Originally Published MDDI August 2002


Maureen Kingsley

To profit from future advances in nanotechnology, the medical device industry must keep a close eye on university research. This was the mantra of professors and high-level researchers who recently gathered at Nano Republic, a conference on nanotechnology held in July at the University of California at Los Angeles. Getting academia and industry to work together was an oft-repeated theme of the conference. So was the promise nanotechnology holds for the medical manufacturing industry.

"It's very important for industry to watch what's being done," says Mike James, PhD, director of materials at Rockwell Scientific (Thousand Oaks, CA). He urges industry to provide academia with "some guidance in terms of what industry views as important, and then of course watch the developments as they proceed."

Industry and university leaders agree that industry should pay careful attention to current and future nanotechnology research projects. Aristides Requicha, PhD, professor of computer science and electrical engineering at the University of Southern California and director of its laboratory for molecular robotics, advises medical technology companies to keep abreast of government-funded university research projects and identify projects that are compatible with their own long-term goals. He says industry should "educate researchers on what the company's constraints and goals are, and what is likely to have a big commercial impact."

Such agencies as the National Science Foundation, for example, publish information on all the projects they fund. When a company finds an ideal project, Requicha says, it should offer help and additional resources. He believes such "strategic partnerships" will provide the best results.

This type of bipartisan effort doesn't come without its challenges, however. "The one that always jumps out in front is [the] intellectual property [issue]," James warns. "That's most true when industry funds academic projects," he says. "It's really a matter of industry being able to pick up on what's developed and either properly license the technology or properly apply the technology to new products."

Requicha points to the opposing time lines and objectives of academia and industry as posing obstacles to collaboration. University researchers normally work within a 10- to 20-year time frame, he says, while industry is "normally looking for solutions to problems they have now, or [at most] a two- to five-year horizon." Naturally, this discrepancy in time lines can create problems. "Misguided industrial people sometimes view universities as sources of cheap labor and try to contract short-term research to universities," Requicha says. "More often than not, this [system] doesn't work and frustrates all involved."

Copyright ©2002 Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry

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