Articles

Assisting Business To Achieve Success

by David Tolfree

Before communication technologies, people met physically in villages and town centres to exchange ideas and trade. In ancient times, peoples across continents were brought together by the desire to trade. For example, extending 4000 miles across Asia, the famous Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the civilizations of Asia and Europe. The Silk Road derives its name from the Chinese silk trade at the time. It enabled traders to travel long distances to sell and buy products and create new markets. It facilitated political, economic and cultural interactions, and the opportunity for the exchange of scientific knowledge.

In the 21st century, communication and transport technologies have created a Global Village. Satellites and fast optical networks provide world coverage for fast television, radio and telephone transmission and together with the computer and the Internet have connected the world. Now, a virtual world and physical world co-exist, where people can meet to exchange ideas, carry out business and trade; each feeding the other.

In the early 1990s before the Internet was commercialised, virtual trading was just an idea. The main source of physical exchange was through conferences, workshops and trade shows. Then, microtechnology was an emergent technology. It was much later that nanotechnology emerged out of advances in molecular science, materials technology and microscopy techniques. At that time there was no serious international conference devoted to the commercialisation and exploitation of these technologies. COMS (Commercialisation of Micro-Nano Systems) series of conferences filled that space.

Later, MANCEF (Micro, Nano, And Emerging Technologies Commercialisation and Education Foundation), a non-for-profit Foundation, was incorporated in Florida and took ownership of COMS. Its mission is to connect a global community focused on commercializing micro, nano and emerging technologies through conferences and educational efforts. MANCEF is a membership organisation managed by an elected President, three regional Vice Presidents and a volunteer Executive Board assisted by three regional advisory boards.
COMS conferences focus primarily on networking, entrepreneurship and marketable solutions, not just on science and technology. It’s a hands-on, practical meeting to assist individuals and companies in finding new customers, bringing their products to market and if required, finding the right development partners.

COMS provides a platform for speakers to talk about the latest developments in emergent technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and smart diagnostics, and areas such as disruptive technologies, technology transfer infrastructure, automated manufacturing processes, education, investment, venture capital, novel applications and new markets, as well as covering regulatory issues, government programmes, social implications and workforce development. Additionally, government and regional development agency representatives often attend to provide information on their latest funding programmes.

Meetings are arranged with decision makers and qualified buyers from every sector in an atmosphere created for business development. Training workshops are included to assist companies in obtaining finance, partners and sales. Delegates, sponsors, exhibitors and educators mix in a convivial environment to exchange information and ideas. Since networking is an essential element, time and opportunity are made available through social events and activities. Multi-million dollar business deals have been initiated at past conferences. Such deals rarely advance before a personal relationship between the partners is established since there has to be trust and understanding.

Each COMS is managed by an organisation in the host country in partnership with MANCEF. A theme is chosen for the conference within the general concept of COMS and related to the interest of the host organisation. COMS could be seen as a market place on the Silk Road of the 21st century.

The first COMS was held at Kona, Hawaii in 1996, after a successful microtechnologies workshop in 1994 at Banff in Canada identified the need for such a conference based on the commercial exploitation of the technologies. Since then, nineteen international COMS conferences have been held in the following places: San Diego (US), Dortmund (Germany), Ypsilanti (US), Santa Fe (US), Oxford (UK), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Edmonton (Canada), Baden Baden (Germany), St. Petersburg (US), Melbourne (Australia), Puerto Vallarta (Mexico), Copenhagen (Denmark), Albuquerque (US), Greensborough (US), Tonsberg (Norway), Enschede (Netherlands) and Salt Lake City (US). In 2015, the 20th COMS is planned to be in Krakow, Poland.

This year COMS was held in October at the America Grand Hotel in Salt Lake City, hosted by The University of Utah’s Centre for Engineering Innovation. The theme was about Emerging Technologies for 21st Century Energy and Health Solutions. It related well with two of the world’s five greatest challenges: health, energy, food, water and environment.

Ten plenary speakers at COMS set the scenes for the sessions that followed by covering topics ranging from novel miniaturised medical diagnostics devices and translational materials to smart sensors. One of the most interesting talks was given by Dr. John McDevitt He is the scientific founder and inventor of programmable bio-nano-chip technology. It enables a range of new diagnostics instrumentation that can deliver test results directly to the patient; important if the early diagnosis of cancer and heart disease. SensoDx seeks to change the current diagnostics paradigm that focuses on late stage disease diagnosis carried normally out in hospitals.

The conference was preceded by the highly popular, High Tech Entrepreneurial Workshop where people from start-up companies were mentored by seven business experts with successful track records in business. In recent years this training workshop has become valuable to would-be entrepreneurs seeking private funding for their companies.

The virtual world will continue to grow as information and communication technologies enable more people to access the Internet and trade without actually having physical contact. But human nature will prevail and people will still want to interact and meet in person. MANCEF will continue to develop COMS conferences to meet that need. We welcome visitors to our website, www.mancef.org and invite you to join our growing list of Associates to help make the world a better place. Please contact me or any Board member if you wish to have further information.

David Tolfree
Vice President – Europe
David Tolfree is a professional physicist with thirty years’ research and managerial experience working for the UK’s research councils. He was the co-founder and director of Technopreneur Ltd., a technical consultancy company for the commercial exploitation of micro-nanotechnologies and a consultant to UK Government departments on micro-nanotechnologies. He is one of the founders of MANCEF and the UK Institute of Nanotechnology. David has 150 publications, including roadmaps, newspaper and journal articles and books. He has given interviews on television and radio on emergent technologies and been an editor and reviewer for a number of related scientific journals.

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