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from that standpoint, they evolved a structure of participation,
from those companies willing to spend at least $2 million a year
as "founding partners" to small start-ups that might want to take
part in any way they can but didn't have the cash or the in-kind
contributions to spare. "Depending on how strongly they got involved,
we offered them the potential for lab space, for pre-public disclosure
of intellectual property, for first right of refusal, and so on,"
the founding partners was Hewlett-Packard, where former UCLA chemistry
professor Stan Williams was running the company's quantum-science
research group. Williams had been collaborating with Heath for years,
and so when the two went to Williams' boss to pitch him on the California
NanoSystems Institute, says Williams, he was sold immediately. "Being
a founding partner means we get a seat on the board, which means
we have influence over the research directions. We get access to
facilities; we get access to faculty. We even get our own laboratory
facility on campus at UCLA - an incubator lab - where we can literally
close the door and work on our proprietary stuff, or we can open
the door and invite people in. We can go across the hall and talk
to people from UCLA or even other companies. It's a great concept,
something we were anxious and eager to do."
fact, the HP executives were so enamored of the CNSI concept that
they went out of their way to help Heath, Hu and their colleagues
pitch to other companies.
contacted a bunch of other companies and told them what a great
deal we thought it was and invited them to participate along with
us," Williams says. "And some of them, like Motorola and Dupont,
agreed and have bought into it, and others took a wait-and-see attitude.
My guess is that eventually they will have to buy in or they will
be sorry. There is this whole issue of what some people now call
'coopetition.' In other words, your biggest competitor in one area
is often your biggest collaborator in another area. We thought nanoscience
is all very pre-competitive so it's to everyone's advantage to be
collaborating in some areas, and the NanoSystems Institute gives
us a great way to do it."