Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Masters of Science in Materials Science and Engineering


Materials Science and Engineering

Major Advisor

Eric Lindquist, Ph.D.


William L. Hughes, Ph.D.


Elton Graugnard, Ph.D.


In 2003, policy entrepreneur Dr. Mihail Roco wrote in Nature Biotechnology, “The key goals of nanotechnology are advances in molecular medicine, increased working productivity, extension of the limits of sustainable development and increased human potential.” From initial visions like Roco’s until now, there has been significant investment and research progress in the field of nanotechnology. According to the White House, over $20 billion has been invested in nanotechnology research and development by the United States government since 2000.1 There is now a growing emphasis on transitioning from a focus on fundamental research towards a focus on overcoming the barriers preventing technologies from being successfully integrated into devices manufactured at an industrial scale. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Project on Emerging Nanotechnology maintains an index of consumer products reported to contain nanotechnology, which has over 1,800 entries.2 However, compared with the pictures of “nano-futures” painted by early nanotechnology proponents, there are far fewer products than we might expect, and with much less life-altering outcomes than some predicted.

While much focus has been placed on the technical barriers to commercialization, barriers outside of the lab must also be addressed in order to achieve broader adoption of nanotechnology. These barriers may include public awareness and acceptance, regulation, and issues with technology transfer. A structure that can have significant impacts on the commercialization of nanotechnologies is the academic-industry partnership. Such partnerships are a delicate dance of communication, intellectual property, and shared resources that have the potential to greatly accelerate research progress and commercialization, but can also stop such progress in its tracks if they do not work out.

A case study has been conducted of an active research partnership between Boise State University and Micron Technology. Together, these partners are examining the use of DNA nanostructures in semiconductor memory manufacturing. This study seeks to gain insight into the roles that policy and cultural barriers play in the commercialization of an emerging nanotechnology developed through this unique partnership.

This case study used coded qualitative interviews to collect perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of university-industry partnerships and of scaling nanotechnology in manufacturing. Groups interviewed included researchers on the project under study, as well as administrators associated with the project or other similar projects that involve collaborations between academia and industry.

From these interviews, insight is drawn into the challenges and opportunities of such collaborations, relative to nanotechnology and other emerging technologies that may be developed through academic-industry partnerships. Recommendations are presented, based on interview findings and relevant literature that seek to inform future collaborations between academia and industry and improve outcomes from such partnerships, both for the collaborators and society at large.


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