John K. Borchardt (November 2010)
NanoRidge and Riley's joint effort will create 300 new Houston jobs in the next three years. Now they are pushing for rapid commercialization of the armor technology. "Our strategic focus is now on market growth and profitability through product sales and manufacturing," says Aaron Westrick, Riley's director of armor design. "We are seeking application and product development partners among industry leaders engaged in law enforcement, commercial, and military security." If the armor passes DOD performance tests, "It is expected that the company will seek significant expansion both in production and market sales with the complementary increase in employment for [Harris County] and state of Texas," says Kyle Kissell, Riley's technical advisor.
Nanotechnology companies do more than manufacture. Nanosys designs nanomaterials for LED lights, batteries, fuel cells, and medical applications. It licenses these technologies to firms that produce the nanomaterials and derived products. More than 700 patents and patent applications protect the company's technologies.
Located in Palo Alto, California, Nanosys was founded in 2001 and funded by Intel, Kodak, and eight venture capital firms. Palo Alto is a high-tech nexus for the Silicon Valley. Despite high real estate costs and taxes, firms such as Nanosys locate there because of its critical mass of high-tech firms and globally recognized universities, along with a highly educated work force.
Palo Alto's location makes it convenient for companies there to sponsor joint research projects with Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley faculty and students; offer students internships; recruit graduates; and retain faculty as consultants. At Stanford alone, more than 70 researchers are studying nanotechnology, according to Kathryn Moler, director of the university's Center for Probing the Nanoscale.
From the West Coast to the east, nanotechnology companies are finding locales that nurture their work, and where they can in turn lift the local economy. While turning small particles into exciting products, nanotechnology can be big business for areas that win the site location battle and snag nanotechnology labs and manufacturing plants.