NanoMech unveils major innovation award

story by Kim Souza
ksouza@thecitywire.com

One the most widely successful research ventures out of the University of Arkansas was recently honored by R&D Magazine as its 2013 technology product of the year. On Thursday (Dec. 19), NanoMech execs unveiled the R&D 100 plaque which puts the Springdale-based nano technology firm in elite company.

NanoMech CEO Jim Phillips said the award ranks just beneath a Nobel Prize in the science world and signifies the firm’s TuffTek product is considered one of the country’s top technological innovations. The Tufftek product is a special coating that is used in industrial manufacturing applications. This patented coating reduces wear, heat resistance and improves precision for cutting tools.

UA Chancellor David Gearhart told the small crowd at the unveiling ceremony the R&D 100 award is considered the “Oscar of Innovation” and other past winners include the flash cube, the fax machine and High Definition television

“I think you all are in good company here,” Gearhart said to the NanoMech team.

Dr. Ajay Malshe, founder of NanoMech and the inventor of TuffTek technology, said this award brings honor and significance to decades of work and sacrifice of several individuals.

“For me, I go back to when I told my wife I wanted to mortgage our futures, come to this country (from India) to teach and explore nano technology. She was behind me,” Malshe said.

Years later he told his story to Jim Phillips who came on board to invest. Together, he said they approached the cities of Fayetteville and Springdale and the governor who all came on board to help this entrepreneurial venture flourish.

NanoMech was founded in 2002, from Malshe’s research at the UA, where he is professor of mechanical engineering. He thanked his mentor Dr. Wenping Jiang, the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency for their contributions to the university research and Nanomech over the years. Gearhart said the university has received more than $575,000 in royalty payments from the profits generated at NanoMech since they licensed the products and acquired the patents in 2005.

NanoMech employs 35 professionals at its manufacturing labs in Springdale. These are high-paying jobs averaging $80,000 ,and 80% are UA graduates. Phillips said the company plans to add 10 more employees in the near future and routinely hires interns from the UA engineering and technology schools.

In July, when NanoMech first heard of this honor, Gov. Mike Beebe said nano technology is important for the state’s economic growth because of the impact it can have on manufacturing.

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Phillips echoed those statements during his speech on Thursday. He said nano technology has the power to impact many areas, from pharmaceuticals to artillery, but the biggest winner is likely the manufacturing segment which produces durable goods and helps move the GDP needle in the right direction.

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Significance of this Award

"The award ranks just below the Nobel Prize.."? Really? That statement shows an amazing lack of understanding of how the Nobel Prizes are awarded, the extraordinary scientific impact that they represent, and perhaps a similar lack of understanding about R&D Magazine's process - which relies almost entirely on applicant supplied (and not fact checked) materials; in other words, the honor system! It's nice recognition of commercial products. It's light years from being a Nobel prize worthy discovery.

Think small

How many people drove by late at night and shook their heads as two nuts worked on making smaller computers in a garage late at night? It's the nature of the beast, you're a fool until it happens.