May 5, 2005 — Washington joined a growing list of states offering their nanotechnology communities a place to call home when it unveiled the Washington Nanotechnology Initiative (WNI) in March. But its late arrival on the nano initiative scene isn’t a case of catch-up, according to the WNI’s architects. It’s more a sign that nanotechnology finally has something to offer the state’s industries.
“Late depends on who’s doing the work,” said Lee Cheatham, executive director of the Washington Technology Center and a member of the WNI’s advisory board. “You have to think about what are the drivers in the economy. Industry is at the point where it is ready.”
Cheatham was scheduled to outline the initiative’s goals and strategies on April 8 at the Washington Technology Center’s summit. The summit’s agenda focused on the state’s economic challenges and opportunities with a special emphasis on some of its core industries: life sciences, energy, defense and security, and nanotechnology.
He said one of the key missions of the WNI will be to strengthen the state’s existing industries with nanotechnology-based products and processes. Boeing Co. maintains several divisions in Seattle, where it was headquartered until 2001. Seattle is also recognized as a leader in life sciences. Microsoft is based in Redmond.
The state also holds one of the Department of Energy’s national labs: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland. PNNL’s research initiatives include microsystems science and engineering and nanoscience and nanotechnology.
Lee said that WNI differs from the standard state initiative model, which keeps a focus on trying to grow the state’s research programs. Washington already has a foundation in the nanosciences. The University of Washington and PNNL developed a joint nanotechnology institute in 2001, and the university pioneered a nanotechnology doctoral program through its Center for Nanotechnology.
“The purpose of this as the lead was not to build our research capacity,” Lee said. “We looked at it from the companies’ side. We want to find those nanotechnology ideas, wherever they might be, and find them here, and build that capacity. We want to make sure the companies succeed.”
The technology center, based on the university’s Seattle campus, contains a microfabrication lab that has served 75 clients in its nearly 10 years of existence. Lee said the lab would provide similar services for the nanotech community.
The WNI is also expected to play a leading role in the state’s efforts to become a leader in nanotechnology-based cancer treatments. The University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center partnered in an effort to win one of the five nano research center awards from the National Cancer Institute. The NCI is expected to make its selection in September.