MIG at SVTC’s Boston Workshop – October 14th, 2010

Contributed by Karen Lightman, Managing Director, MEMS Industry Group

It was a great (though long) day flying into Boston to be a guest at the SVTC workshop focusing on the commercialization of innovative semiconductor based technologies.

As prefaced in the invitation “there is an explosion of materials and architecture driven innovation happening in MEMS, micro-fluidics, life sciences, energy harvesting and other disruptive new technologies.” This interactive forum was organized by SVTC to give an inside view to several of these emerging technologies, and how to bring them from idea stage to market entry and beyond.

For those of you who attended MIG’s joint workshop with BSAC on MEMS commercialization, you’ll recall that this topic of spawning MEMS commercialization is near and dear to my heart, so I enjoyed this program that featured an introduction by Bert Bruggeman, CEO of SVTC. Though I had the pleasure of hearing Bert’s presentation at the BSAC/MIG program last month, I always enjoy how Bert sprinkles in wise words of wisdom and yes, dry wit. In his presentation on “Bridging the Chasm from Ideation to Production” I loved hearing Bert tell it like it is.  I think I will start making a list of my favorite Bert-isms: quotable quotes such as “stop making specialized equipment, MEMS has enough” (which he said at the BSAC/MIG workshop) and this time my favorite was “don’t innovate if you don’t have to.” Really simple stuff, but so true. Can’t wait to write down more when I see Bert present at the MEMS Technology Summit next week…

Carrying on the theme of how to leverage 40 years of semiconductor industry investment to accelerate innovative new ideas to market, the next speaker was James Carey, Co-founder of Sionyx. While I am clearly not a physicist (though my father-in-law is; so I should get some credit), I was able to follow most of Dr. Carey’s presentation on “Lessons Learned: Guiding Semiconductor Innovation from Lab to Fab.” Dr. Carey described his trials and errors and (hopefully) success in determining how and when to move technology development forward to meet time to market imperatives. My main take away from his presentation is that Sionyx hopes to revolutionize night vision through a nuanced silicon-based manufacturing process. I wish him and his company much success because it sounds so cool.

The next presenter was Arjang Hassibi, Professor at the University of Texas in Austin and CEO of InSilixa Corporation. Dr. Hassibi’s presentation discussed “the next wave: the integration of novel biochemical devices to the semiconductor environment.” And again, though much of the technical aspects of his company’s technology were a bit above my pay-grade, I was pleased to hear him talk of the trend towards Point of Care diagnostics, as this will be one of the key points of the Quality of Life panel at the upcoming MIG CEO-level event, MEMS Executive Congress. Dr. Hassibi showed a great slide with the decision tree that a startup must make with respect to product marketing and positioning, in terms of profit margin, penetration and volume. You can’t have all three, so you have to choose the path that makes the best sense for your company. Wise words…more companies should follow that mantra.

I really enjoyed meeting some new and old colleagues at the program, including SVTC’s Julian Searle (who organized the event), of course, Bert, and the other members of the SVTC sales team who came for the event. I shared thoughts on how “fabless is fabulous” with a newly formed fabless-enabling/consulting boutique firm, Custom Nanotech with their president and co-founder, Brent Buchine.  I also had the pleasure of having lunch with Craig Core, VP of Operations for Qualtre and later with Tim Brosnihan, Director of MEMS Technology at Pixtronix. Besides talking about Steelers football (okay and the Patriots, too), we discussed the HOT MEMS space and how their respective companies are well poised for success (they just need to join MIG as official members to really make it happen, HINT HINT).

All in all – going to Boston was really worthwhile and got me to thinking that MIG should host an event there soon. With all the activity in the Boston area – it seems to beg the question – when can MIG host a seminar of its own?  Here’s my plan – showcase MIG members in the Boston area (ADI, for starters) as well as other MEMS companies in the region (you know who you are!) and then we end the day with a beer at Cambridge Brewing Company. Sound good? Let me know if you are in!

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