COMS 2014 Big Success for Local and International Researchers

While researchers and policy makers from around the world discussed and even debated some of the technologies showcased at this year’s COMS 2014 Conference in Salt Lake City, there was consensus about one thing — the event was a great success that showed off the research and business climate in Utah.

COMS 2014, which was developed by the Micro and Nanotechnology Commercialization Education Foundation (MANCEF) and the University of Utah Center for Engineering Innovation, was held for the first time in Utah and took place at the Grand America Hotel from Oct. 12 to 15. The annual international conference brings investors, researchers and government officials to discuss how to turn their tech ideas into marketable products and startups.

And this year’s COMS, which had more than 250 people attending, proved to be an invaluable event for those starving for the latest in micro, nano and emerging technologies.

“It’s great. The COMS Conference continues to expand the horizons while inviting new topics into it,” said Deb Newberry, director and principal investigator for Minnesota-based Nano-Link, a center for nanotechnology education. “I also especially enjoy seeing the college students here, not only in terms of what their research is, but just participating in the conference and having a chance to talk to them. It’s a perfect opportunity for them.”

This year, COMS 2014 was combined with the local nanoUtah Conference, which brings graduate students together to pitch their ideas to investors.

“Some of the senior people were interested in seeing what the students do,” said Florian Solzbacher, University of Utah electrical engineering professor and director of the Center for Engineering Innovation who also is co-chair of the conference. “What I’ve heard from some students was that getting the exposure to more experienced people was really great.”

Danick Bionda, secretary general for Micronarc, a hub of nano and microtechnology companies in Western Switzerland, said he was impressed with the technological showcases at this year’s event.

“We have had a wide variety of content, and we have had great entrepreneurs and great feedback,” he said about what he learned at COMS. “It [the conference] is bringing a really deep experience from the industry to a world of nano and microtechnology.”

Rens L.J. Vandeberg traveled from Utrecht, The Netherlands, to the COMS Conference to get a first-hand look at how technology is evolving in the U.S.

“It’s very interesting to get immersed in a region you’re not too familiar with and to see what initiatives are going on, what activities are being employed, and what effects these have,” said Vandeberg, program manager for Technology Foundation STW, which funds research in The Netherlands. “After getting acquainted with Utah, that really broadens my own scope. The activities and cultural climate here is very energetic and leads people to bring ideas to market. Obviously, that’s very successful in Utah.”

Gene Burk, a technology consultant for Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Innovative Micro Technology (IMT), calls Utah “fertile ground” for medical-device technology. That’s why he showed up at this year’s COMS.

“If you look at the hotbeds of where those technologies are being implemented, it’s San Diego and Salt Lake City,” he said of medical-device research. “If you take a look at what’s going on here in Utah, it’s huge. I felt I needed to come down here because it’s my job to look under the stones and find the gold pieces.

“I’ve probably met between 15 and 25 people who, while they may not be clients today, they have the potential to be clients or find clients,” he added.

In addition to the valuable experience she had meeting new people and learning about new high-tech projects at this year’s conference, Newberry said this year’s event also had the benefit of being in Salt Lake City.

“I love Salt Lake City anyway,” she said. “I’ll come down here anytime.”



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