April 6, 2007

Cornell Staff Courts Chinese Companies

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Several senior Cornell staff members traveled to Shanghai recently in the hope of attracting Chinese semiconductor manufacturers to Ithaca. At the SEMICON China annual conference, the Cornell representatives chatted with company leaders and attendees — some of whom had graduated from Cornell — about the University’s research facilities and resources.
Cornell’s purpose in attending SEMICON — a large tradeshow serving semiconductor, flat panel display, micro-electromechanical systems and related industries — was “to solicit some manufacturers to come to Cornell and actually set up and do some work,” Skvarla said.
Representatives from Cornell included Alan Paau, vice provost for technology transfer and economic development and director of the Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization; Abby Westervelt, director of the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations in the College of Engineering; and Michael Skvarla, user program manager at Cornell Nanoscale Science and Technology Facility (CNF).
The Cornellians attended the conference as part of a “N.Y. Loves Nanotech” delegation which included Michael Stamm, director of Tompkins County Area Development, and technology equipment suppliers from around the state. Tompkins County Area Development is a private, not-for-profit organization that offers loans, secures tax incentives and provides other assistance to private sector firms in order to spur job creation and economic growth.
Tompkins County’s “real comparative advantage is Cornell and its research and development activities,” Stamm said.
The Cornell representatives also attended the conference as a means to foster economic growth through nanotechnology.
“What we want to do is hopefully attract people who look to use nanotechnology to make semiconductor products, so that we have some ability to attract industry and generate commercial activities,” Paau said.
What does this mean to non-engineers? Just look around at electrical appliances, cell phones and computers: semiconductors (silicon, for example) form the backbone of these products, many of which come from Asia.
“Cornell’s excellence in nanotechnology research and engineering facilities can attract many of these companies to collaborate with us,” Paau said.
In discussions with conference attendees and participants, Paau, Westervelt, Skvarla and Stamm highlighted engineering resources such as the CNF, one of 13 National Science Foundation-funded nanotech research facilities in the country.
They sought to promote interest among semiconductor-producing companies in the pre-development stage as well as those with a desire to expand in the United States.
Skvarla emphasized the importance of planting the Cornell name in manufacturers’ minds. He travels to several trade shows a year to let small manufacturers know “that CNF is available” for collaboration and “that it exists with open doors.”
Similarly, Skvarla hosts visitors from Europe, Asia and Australia who come to view the nanotech equipment housed in the CNF located in Duffield Hall.
According Skvarla, due to the rarity of facilities such as the CNF and the large-scale investment required of nanotech research, it is beneficial for smaller companies to partner with institutions such as Cornell for product development.