Press releases


Nanospective Joins UCF Technology Incubator

Press release UCF Technology Incubator
March 14, 2003

Orlando, Fla. –  NanoSpective, a technology firm that specializes in advanced materials characterization, has joined the University of Central Florida Technology Incubator. Carol Ann Dykes, associate director of the UCF Technology Incubator, said NanoSpective has formed a partnership with UCF that enables them to tap talent and facilities at the University for nanoscale and macroscopic materials evaluation. NanoSpective has industry and research experience in a broad spectrum of materials,” said Dykes. “They offer complete materials solutions serving markets in semiconductor, aerospace, engineering, optics, biomedical, intellectual property and defense,” she said. 

The UCF Technology Incubator, founded in 1999, serves more than 30 technology companies and has helped create more than 400 jobs in laser development, photonics, simulation products, advanced materials, electronics and energy related technologies. The Incubator is supported by UCF, Orange County, the City of Orlando and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council.

Advanced materials firm joins UCF incubator

Orlando Business Journal
March 28, 2003

A technology firm specializing in advanced materials has joined University of Central Florida's technology incubator.

NanoSpective Inc. specialize in materials for potential use in semiconductor, aerospace, engineering, optics, biomedical and defense industries.

The company specializes in evaluating the atomic structure and composition of materials. That information is useful in establishing the physical characteristics of materials, and determining which materials are best for a particular use.

The company was founded in January this year.

Nanotechnology is still in its infancy in Central Florida

Lynn Thomasson | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted September 11, 2006

A ranking of nanotechnology activity puts Florida in the bottom 5th in U.S., but Orlando is making some progress

VaxDesign Corp. wants to copy your immune system. The company, which is trying to engineer artificial tissue that replicates the body's immune response, hopes its technology could someday replace the use of animals in testing vaccines and cosmetics.

To mimic the tiny complexities of the body's immune system, such as its ultra-thin membranes, the company has turned to nanotechnology.

It's just one of a handful of Central Florida companies mining nanotechnology for the next scientific breakthroughs. These companies are studying matter at the level of a nanometer -- a billionth of a meter across, or the span of eight to 10 atoms. A typical sheet of paper, by comparison, is about 100,000 nanometers thick.

Materials that behave one way on a normal scale often act completely different on a nanoscale. Take the aluminum in a soda can, for example: isolate a few particles at the nanolevel, and they can spontaneously explode. And zinc oxide, normally an opaque, white ingredient common in sunscreens and skin lotions, becomes clear.

Nanotechnology doesn't have much of a profile in Central Florida, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. While still in its infancy, it is expected to become a big deal in the coming years.

"It's going to impact virtually every one of our business areas and products," said Sharon Smith, Lockheed Martin Corp.'s corporatewide director of technology.

Mix of disciplines

At Lockheed's Missiles and Fire Control unit in Orlando, scientists are researching nanotechnology for a range of products -- from making thinner, more efficient coatings for the optical lenses in its night-vision and infrared systems to lighter, stronger fighter-jet wings and smaller, more sensitive sensors.

Unlike other hot science sectors in the business world, such as biotechnology, which focus on a particular branch of science, nanotechnology is about scale and usually involves a mix of scientific disciplines. So any big developments in nanotechnology are likely to affect a wide swath of industries, from electronics to textiles to medicine.

Compared with some other regions of the United States, tourism-dominated Central Florida doesn't have a lot of nanotechnology research and development. It does display some high-tech prowess in areas such as defense, electro-optics and training simulation. And with last month's announcement that the Burnham Institute for Medical Research would open a satellite laboratory here -- thanks to $310 million in state and local incentives -- Orlando now has the makings of a medical and biotechnology cluster in the Lake Nona area.

Off to a slow start

A handful of local companies, from industry giants to young start-ups, are using nanotechnology in working on everything from satellite antennae to VaxDesign's artificial immune system.

"We want to look at things like lung disease and immune responses -- how people can come up with more effective therapies," said William Warren, the company's chief executive officer.

VaxDesign, originally from Oklahoma, has been in Central Florida for two years. "Some states got ahead of the game before Florida did -- California, New York, Pennsylvania," Warren said. Still, "the state offered us a pretty good incentive package to come."

By most academic standards, UCF is a relative newcomer to nanotechnology. The school's Nanoscience Technology Center opened just a year and a half ago with a half-million dollars in state, federal and private funds.

Progress is being made, however; the center attracted 300 percent more in research funds this year.

"I think they're doing a pretty good job trying to get people to come down and build a program," said Warren, whose company is next door to UCF in Central Florida Research Park.

But the center faces several hurdles. It doesn't have its own building on campus yet and must rent space next door in Central Florida Research Park. That diverts dollars that could be used to buy laboratory equipment or hire more staff, said M.J. Soileau, UCF's vice president of research.

"If we had any sense, we'd just go fishing," said Soileau, who is credited with building UCF's optics program into a nationally recognized program. "But we work hard, rent some space, and we're going to compete anyway."

UCF is one of the few universities in the nation that offers undergraduate courses in nanoscience. As nanotechnology grows, companies may start clamoring for graduates with skills and knowledge in this small area of science.

Government estimates indicate that 200,000 people worldwide are working in nanotechnology now, but the National Science Foundation expects the number to increase a hundredfold over the next 15 years.

'Room at the bottom'

The federal government, through its multi-agency National Nanotechnology Initiative, has pumped $5.4 billion into research during the past five years.

The initiative estimates it will spend $1.3 billion in fiscal 2006, which ends Sept. 30, and President Bush has proposed a fiscal 2007 budget totaling more than $1.2 billion.

But Florida isn't positioned to ride any wave of nanotechnology growth.

The state ranks in the bottom fifth among U.S. states in nanotechnology activity and technology-development strength, according to a 2004 report by Lux Research, a nanotechnology research and advisory firm.

"I would say the vast majority of those start-ups [in Florida], compared to what you would find in California, are in the very early stages -- similar to what you'd find with a professor with an idea," said Matthew Nordan, president of Lux Research.

One such company is NanoSpective Inc., a 3-year-old business whose four founders all graduated from UCF.

"We know where we need to go to find the support we need, and we've found it here," said Vice President Jennifer McKinley, speaking from the start-up's quarters in Central Florida Research Park.

University and company researchers, from Lockheed Martin to NanoSpective, are calling nanotechnology the next big thing. Many of the next big breakthroughs in better electronics are expected to come from advancements in this field.

" 'There's plenty of room at the bottom,' and there really is," said Leslie Kramer, chief technologist at Lockheed Martin in Orlando, quoting a 1959 speech by physicist Richard Feynman credited with inspiring scientists to begin thinking about nanotechnology.

"We need as many people as can get out of our universities to fill the jobs that are coming," he said.

"It's just the start of opening the floodgates."

Senior scientist Russell Higbee (standing) watches Brian Schanen perform a sampling procedure at VaxDesign. The company is using nanotechnology to engineer tissue that replicates the human immune response.


Investigating Nano Fraud

Dec. 10, 2009

By Robyn Sidersky
Guest Reporter
, East Orlando Sun

It's easy to tell when a company is infringing on a patent when the two products are easily visible by the human eye. But what happens when the product is on the nanometer scale — measuring about 50,000 times smaller than a human hair?

Then it becomes a job for NanoSpective, a materials characterization company located with Central Florida's Research Park in East Orlando, whose main job is to look at a Company A's product on a nanometer scale and tell them if Company B is a copycat.

"We help companies protect their ideas," said Jennifer McKinley, vice president of NanoSpective.

McKinley used the iPhone as an example. She said there are many parts that make up the iPhone — microchips. The microchips, and the process of making the microchips are patented.

If someone thought that their idea was being used without permission to make the iPhone, NanoSpective would examine the microchips with high-powered microscopes. With the equipment and the knowledge of the four founders, they'd be able to determine if an idea was stolen.

NanoSpective works with clients all over the world — but operates from right here in Central Florida. Ironically, the company has no local clients.

The technical firm, which specializes in advanced materials characterization, now in its seventh year, has had nothing short of success since its inception. The internationally-known technology company is run by four founders — and they like it that way.

"You take the good times and you take the bad times," McKinley said. "We are committed to our company and each other. It makes things work."

The four founders, President and Chief Financial Officer Brenda Prenitzer;, Jennifer McKinley, vice president and chief financial officer, Brian Kempshall, vice president and chief technical officer and Steve Schwarz, vice president and chief operations officer, have worked together since they were students at UCF.

They overlapped working and interning for different companies throughout Central Florida. But when two were laid off and two graduated from graduate school, they saw a golden opportunity.

One of the ways NanoSpective has kept strong ties to UCF is by working with the UCF Technology Incubator.

The program helps technical companies learn the business side of running a company. Although the company has just four employees, it boasts a large company-feel with international clients and an office in Research Park.

"The fit is perfect for us," said Brenda Prenitzer, president and CEO of NanoSpective. "We love working with the Incubator. It seems to be a good collaborative relationship."

Carol Anne Dykes, Associate Director of the UCF Technology Incubator, praised the company.

"They are such a model company in a lot of ways," she said. "We love that when our grads come back and join the Incubator."

Typically a company only stays with the program while it's getting on its feet, but NanoSpective has maintained a strong relationship with the program in its seventh year.

"We were four scientists without a lot of business experience," McKinley said. "They gave us the business skills we needed to succeed."

For five years, the company grew between 5 and 20 percent. Then, it its sixth year, it was flat. In its current and seventh year, they've had a slight decline — but not enough to hurt the company.

They didn't get to where they are easily though.

"For any business venture, have a solid business plan. Focus, focus, focus on what it is that is your core competency. Ignore the sideline distractions," Prenitzer advised.

She also said it's important to stay true to what you set out in business to do.

McKinley said to do research and talk to successful entrepreneurs.

The company helps budding scientists and future entrepreneurs by working with UCF students and faculty.

They work with students through internships, lab experience and co-operative programs, as well as writing joint proposals with faculty.

"I think we all love our work; we find it interesting, challenging," Prenitzer said. "We're a happy little company."