Highlights from COMS2014

Dr. Janusz Bryzek
Chair, TSensors Summit


COMS2014 was hosted by the University of Utah and located in Salt Lake City, UT, USA. Conference was located in a beautiful Grand America hotel.
It was attended by about 250 participants. Sessions included 67 speakers split into three parallel tracks covering multiple commercialization themes, ranging from Emerging Technologies, Trillion Sensors, Health and Biotech, NanoTech, Energy and VC funding.

Bryzek’s Keynote

  • Fusion of computing, communication and sensing, as a foundation for the 3rd Technical Revolution reshaping global GDP.
  • Emergence of Exponential Organizations, expected to replace 40% of large companies in the next 10 years.
  • mHealth, or Mobile Health, expected to restructure global medical care, lower its cost, improve quality and bring healthcare to everybody.
  • Internet of Things and Everything, expected to increase global economy by $19 trillion by 2020.

These global tides need sensors, many new types, with a demand expectation to reach trillions in the coming decade. As a reference, mobile market sensors grew from 10 million units in 2007 (iPhone introduction), to 10 billion in 2014.

Students from the University of Utah presented 41 posters outlining state-of-the-art technologies developed at the University.

Young Technology Award Competition
One of the unique COMS traditions is Young Technology Award Competition. It is focused on young startups competing for the COMS Jury Award ($5000), and COMS Participants Award ($500). Both 2014 awards were won by Tide Microfluidics (from Netherlands) for their ultrasound body imaging contrast enhancing microbubbles.

The most advanced technology in the Competition was lab-on-chip based diagnostics presented by another finalist SensorDx. Company developed the platform technology called Programmable Bio-Nano-Chip (p-BNC) utilizing advanced biochemistry to provide a rapid and easy-to-use method for quantitative biomarker assessments for use at the point-of-care. By using the reagent minimization principles of microfluidics and a lab-on-a-chip, the p-BNC assays provide a convenient way to monitor multiple biomarkers simultaneously, require drastically reduced volumes of chemical reagents, and can provide a biomarker diagnosis in minutes as compared to the week long-wait times of market available lab-based tests. The current SensoDx disease diagnostic portfolio encompasses cardiac heart disease, oral cancer, trauma, drugs of abuse, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer. Company also became the finalist in Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE Competition.

Lifetime Achievement Awards

Mancef awarded this year two Lifetime Achievement Awards, one to late Ron Lowes, the early Mancef contributor, and another one to Gene Burk. Gene is one of MEMS technology pioneers who started technology development at Bell Labs in late 1950s, brought it to Silicon Valley to Fairchild in 1960s, and co-founded the first spinout from Fairchild, IC Transducers, Inc., in 1972. He is currently supporting business development at IMT, MEMS foundry in California.

COMS 2014 Highlights – as experienced by Regan Stinnett

Last month I attended the COMS2014 conference in Salt Lake City. The venue was terrific, surrounded by beautiful mountains and held in the Grand America Hotel, a five star hotel with every amenity. The local organizer for the conference was Dr. Florian Solzbacher, supported by an able team from the University of Utah and many other organizations within the Salt Lake City region as well as by Dr. Steve Walsh and his team from the University of New Mexico and MANCEF. Financial support from many industry participants both regional and global was also a key to the success of the conference.

The COMS conference series provides a unique forum for a very international group of participants to discuss issues focused on commercialization of micro, nano, and other emerging technologies that will help address important global issues as well as related education and innovation activities. There were about 200 participants this year. The conference pre-program began with an Innovation Bootcamp for Entrepreneurs attended, among others, by Robert Sachs, the CEO of Team Technologies Inc. in Albuquerque. Bob won one of the awards given at the banquet for his presentation.

The technology focus areas of the conference were Healthcare/Bio-medical, T(rillion)Sensor technologies, Energy Technologies (including fossil fuels and renewables), and emerging Nanotech and Materials opportunities. During the conference several student poster sessions (about 40 posters) were held and awards given to the winners in each area.

COMS 2014 was a great forum for my Sandia National Laboratories colleague, Neal Shin, to give a plenary talk the first day on research opportunities for industry and universities provided through the DOE-sponsored, joint Sandia/Los Alamos-managed Center for Integrated Nanotechnology. The commercialization focus of COMS also made this a great place for another Sandia colleague, Greg Nielson, to give an invited talk on “Leveraging Scale Effects in PV Cells, Modules, and Systems for Multiple Power Markets” in the Renewable Energy, Harvesting & Solar Technologies session.

Some of the other plenary speakers included John Richards (Google Fiber) and Paul Ahlstron (Alta ventures) who both emphasized the need to “Nail it, then scale it”, the idea being that new tech ventures should start lean and demonstrate that the product, initially with minimal features, will actually solve the customer’s pain before scaling up. Several other tech-focused VCs and business owners talked about lessons learned in their businesses. Deborah Jackson from NSF gave a talk on how NSF supports innovation from a system perspective. Janusz Bryzek led a technology-focused, high-level session on the value of ubiquitous microsensor networks and what it will take to get there.

One of the most interesting plenary talks was given by John McDevitt from Rice University. His runs a large group that is now commercializing a Bio-Nano micro-fluidic sensor chip platform to detect bio-markers for various medical applications. This group’s work as part of the medical cluster in Houston is pretty far along toward commercialization and has been for several years a good candidate for NIH investment of its commercialization funds. +

Richard Adams from NREL also gave a plenary talk the second day on their work on renewable energy, their vision for the future, and how to work with U.S. national labs. Together with Neal Shin’s earlier talk, the subject of working with national labs on emerging technology commercialization got lots of attention and many questions from the audience. I talked with Richard after his talk and he is interested in joining MANCEF’s General Advisory Board.

Greg Nielson’s talk on photovoltaics was very good, demonstrating the very attractive weight, performance and cost advantages of his approach. Several students contacted me about job opportunities at Sandia.

Of course, the presentations above are only a small fraction of all of the terrific presentations and activities (e.g. the Young Technology Awards) that made this conference valuable. The three days of good talks, networking, and interacting with leaders in their fields who I do not talk with routinely was certainly a great experience for me.

COMS 2015 will be held in Cracow, Poland with Jan Dziuban as the local organizer. Dr. Dziuban has already arranged the location, hotel, and several regional and national level sponsors as well as EU support. Cracow is said to be a great city with an interesting history as the former capital of Poland and is the center of a region that is putting great emphasis on developing micro and nanotechnology capabilities to enable growth in high wage jobs. The MANCEF (Micro and Nano and emerging Technology Commercialization Education Foundation) Board asked that COMS 2015 be held no later than mid-September and Dr. Dzuiban has confirmed a timing of September 13-16, 2015.

The COMS series, sponsored by MANCEF, continues to provide an unusual forum in which emerging technology capabilities can be combined with business understanding, investment opportunities and an infrastructure that supports innovation, entrepreneurship, and education with a global vision. I look forward to COMS 2015!

Regan Stinnett, MANCEF Vice President – Americas
Sandia National Laboratories