The Oklahoma Nanotechnology Initiative (ONI) is a statewide initiative focused on assisting established businesses and start-up businesses to commercialize nanotechnologies to create new or improved commercial products. The Oklahoma companies can acquire the nanotechnologies through patent, licensure, IP creation, or purchase acquisition from any federal labs, universities, or other companies, as long as the commercial product is produced in Oklahoma. The ONI serves as a “connector” helping companies locate a nano IP that potentially solves their problem or in the case of a start-up helps them find funding sources to develop that product. Founded in 2003 and funded from 2005-2012 by the state legislature, the ONI has worked with nearly 70 Oklahoma companies getting them involved in nanotechnology. The ONI works closely with the three major research universities in the state and is charged by the state legislature with serving as a clearinghouse of information for the academic, business, financial and industrial communities within the state, while supporting the Oklahoma Nanotechnology Applications Project (ONAP) funded though the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) to provide grant funds for these companies.
The ONI was established in 2003, and was first funded by the OK legislature in 2005 with $125,000 annually, which increased in 2007 to $1.5M annually. To date, the ONI has received a total of about $986,000, and ONAP has received over $3.6M. ONI/ONAP make grants to companies of from $10,000 to $90,000 for a proof-of-concept project, and up to $500,000 for an accelerated commercialization project. These funds flow directly to companies, who then contract with researchers. As of 2011, ONI/ONAP has awarded 32 grants totaling over $3.6M. This funding has also attracted $67.9M in leveraged funding from Federal and private financing, an almost 19:1 ROI from the state funding. ONI has negotiated numerous IP agreements and licenses, and has directly assisted in the creation of 24 startup companies, which have attracted over $16M in private financing, creating over 150 jobs. ONI has also assisted 68 other companies, with a total revenue return to the state of OK of over $70.4M.
Jay Martin was president of Martin Bionics which is a prosthetic inventor/manufacturer. When asked what problem he had not been able to solve, he indicated that no prosthetic maker had ever solved two problems. The first is that a human limb placed in a plastic prosthetic will sweat. That sweat leads quickly to an irritation which makes it uncomfortable to wear and potentially leads to the second problem of an infection. While at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to learn of technologies available for licensure Jay learned of a super-hydrophobic powder developed by Dr. John Simpson. Jay licensed that technology and it absolutely works, the sweat floods outside the device and the limb stays dry with no irritation or infection. However, the powder wears off rather quickly and was not economically feasible. Recently Dr. Simpson has reworked the material to make it a permanent coating and another Oklahoma company has licensed the new material for use in oil and gas applications as it also eliminates corrosion.