By Candace Stuart
Small Times Senior Writer
July 11, 2001 — One of the nation’s leading authorities on MEMS and microsystems announced Wednesday that he will trade in his post at a federal laboratory on Aug. 6 to help build the small tech industry in the Southwest.
David Williams, director of the Microsystems Science, Technology and Components division at Sandia National
Williams’ charge is to open Ardesta’s second office in Albuquerque, N.M., to further develop the potential of both small technology and the region. Williams is expected to launch several new projects soon after his arrival at Ardesta, according to Rick Snyder, Ardesta’s chief executive. Snyder declined to provide details.
“My goal is to make the strategic alliance between Sandia and Ardesta come alive,” Williams said.
Snyder said Williams offers a combination of expertise and enthusiasm. “He’s the highest and best person you could get,” he said. “A lot of it is more than someone’s position and title. David is a top quality person and a technical resource.”
Anita Caress, Williams’ assistant at Sandia, also will work at the Albuquerque site.
Williams said his knowledge of the technology, the community and Sandia make him a good candidate for launching small tech initiatives. “I have worked with industries and I know what it takes to run disruptive technologies.”
Ardesta selected Albuquerque for its second hub because of its proximity to Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratory, both leading small tech research institutions, as well as the corporate presence of Intel Corp. and Motorola Inc. The labs and companies have created a work force with small tech expertise and infrastructure with the potential for spin-offs and economic growth.
“There’s been a tremendous investment in the Southwest,” Snyder said. “Intel has two or more fabs in Albuquerque and multiple fabs in Phoenix. That’s a huge resource. And add to the national labs on top of that.”
Gary Tonjes, president of Albuquerque Development Inc., said having Williams at the helm of a small tech office would be a boost for the industry and city. “David is widely respected, not only in this community but internationally,” Tonjes said. “David is a visionary. He will continue to work to further the industry.”
In a 2000 study, the Milken Institute named the Southwest region as one of the top seven regions likely to emerge as microsystems industry leaders. The study based the prediction on the area’s existing leadership in MEMS and microsystems combined with its low production costs, high quality of life quotient and support for entrepreneurial efforts.
Williams predicted the alliance will have a profound effect locally and nationally. “It will cause the industry to be stimulated here and create thousands of jobs,” he said.
But equally important will be the impact that Sandia’s technology will have on the industry, Williams said. The alliance allows Ardesta’s companies and others to make products based on Sandia’s technology. As a national defense lab, Sandia emphasizes the highest quality, he said.
“The real gain will be the first products that hit will be more manufacturable and reliable,” he said, adding that manufacturing and quality problems often plague emerging technologies, dragging down the entire industry.
Williams has led Sandia’s microsystems program since 1999. He manages a $114 million annual budget and oversees a staff of 500 scientists and engineers plus two fabrication facilities. Researchers at the Microelectronics Development Laboratory (MDL) and the Compound Semiconductor Research Laboratory (CSRL) are known for designing some of the world’s most advanced microsystems, MEMS and photonic devices.
Their MEMS and microsystems prototypes include microrobots, microbatteries and sensors that can detect hazardous materials, combustible gases and other dangerous materials.
Williams is a strong advocate of commercializing MEMS and microsystems technologies, arguing that they should be tested in the marketplace before being incorporated into national defense programs. He has transferred several technologies developed at Sandia through licensing royalty and equity agreements.
He supported the development of an entrepreneurial program that allows researchers to take unpaid leave to try to market their inventions. Williams himself will be on the program while working for Ardesta. While still in its infancy, the program has created one successful spin-off: MEMX, a company developing MEMS-based optical switches. Ardesta signed an agreement last April with Sandia to establish a design and training facility, and microsystems fabrication facility in Albuquerque. The deal also granted Ardesta nonexclusive licensing rights to make and sell products using a technology developed at Sandia. The technology, dubbed SUMMiT for Sandia Ultraplanar Multilevel MEMS Technology, uses a five-level polysilicon surface micromachining MEMS system to produce complex devices.
Williams joined Sandia in 1976 as a member of its technical staff. He worked for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms between 1978 and 1981, when he returned to Sandia. He has held top positions in several Sandia divisions before assuming his present post.
He earned a Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University in 1976 and an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Irvine, in 1972.
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Candace Stuart at email@example.com or call 734-994-1106, ext. 235.