National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network

National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network

Serving Nanoscale Science, Engineering & Technology

Commercialization and Small Business Support

Key Nanotechnology InfrastrutureCNF Cleanroom

NNIN is a key part of the nanotechnology infrastructure of the United States, and thus plays a critical role in commercialization of the nanotechnology revolution. While most NNIN users are academic, NNIN makes a key contribution to nanotechnology innovation and commercialization by providing both small and large companies with advanced facilities for research and development. Each year NNIN hosts researchers from 100s of small and large companies. Sometimes these are for short projects, but often these users engage in long term development projects, using NNIN facilities extensively or even exclusively. For many of these companies, NNIN played a critical part in their R&D during their formative stages.

The facilities of NNIN can be thought of as a nanotechnology incubator, most useful in the research and product development stages. Product and process development can be done using NNIN equipment (with the assistance of NNIN staff as necessary) for relatively minor cost. Usage is charged on a per hour basis so there is little up-front investment; access to NNIN facilities can be arranged within a few weeks if necessary, and the large and flexible equipment base is ideal for testing novel designs, concepts, and materials.

Intellectual Property

Small company logos

As an open user facility, NNIN’s intellectual property policy is pretty simple: Don’t tell us what you don’t want us to know. This simple policy is suprisingly effective and allows for maximum productivity at minimum overhead without impacting intellectual property ownership.

Most small companies send experienced process engineers to work at NNIN Sites. These users need very little support from NNIN staff, other than basic equipment instruction. It is neither necessary nor desirable for users to share their intellectual property with NNIN Staff. This allows the users to keep their intellectual property pure, without encumbrance by the NNIN site. Of course it is possible to create mixed ownership if you ask for and are given specific advice by an NNIN staff member. It is extremely rare, however, for this to happen. If you take care to protect your intellectual property, it will remain pure at NNIN. Operation in this mode allows us to have the maximum flexibility in serving users and allows our users to start projects with a minimum of legal agreements.

Many NNIN facilities have a small set of experienced users who are available as independent contractors on a short or long term basis. These "contractors" do not work for the NNIN site but are available for private hire. This can shorten the learning curve and provide additional intellectual property isolation within NNIN. Please inquire to any NNIN site if you have questions about intellectual property or independent contractors.

ITAR/Export Control

While NNIN facilities support a variety of proprietary research, NNIN Facilities are in general not set up for confidential or export controlled research. NNIN facilities are under no obligation to participate under these restrictions.

Hand-off to Pilot Production or Manufacturing

For a variety of reasons, NNIN facilities are not suitable for manufacturing. Most companies chose to move to alternative settings for pilot production once prototype products have been developed. In some cases, if the technology set is small, companies may chose to set up their own facilities. In other cases, further commercialization is done at one of the smaller development foundries such as SVTC ( (San Jose/Austin) or STC (Canandaigua, NY) In some cases, production may be transferred to the pilot facility, while retaining research and development activities within the NNIN site. Many NNIN users have made the transition from research within NNIN to production outside of NNIN.

NNIN is working with SVTC and STC to develop a process mapping tool to facilitate transfer of processes from NNIN sites to these foundries.

For further information about commercialization of nanotechnology using NNIN, please contact the Deputy Director, Dr. Lynn Rathbun, 607-254-4872,, or any NNIN Site contact.