In broad segments of the bio-pharmaceutical and medical device markets, the industry leaders are transitioning their technology development strategy from internal innovation to third party acquisition. At the same time the R&D budgets in these organizations continue to grow. The net result is most internal developments are being directed to incremental projects even though these organizations have the unique prerequisites (funding, problem statements, domain expertise, etc.) to conduct transformative research. The widespread adoption of this R&D strategy has broken the connection between the most scientifically intractable industrial problems, and the technical teams who are closest to these difficulties. At the same time academic funding has aggressively taken on grand challenges, and focused on translational research, but the nature of this focus can create inefficiency in identifying critical scientific problems outside the specific funding focus. In this talk I will review my journey in & out of academics and industry in an attempt to motivate an approach for identifying new high impact scientific problems. As examples, I will discuss the research and development I led as part of the maturation of the atomic force microscope, and how fundamental advances were applied to obtain high spatial resolution (sub-nanometer), high force sensitivity (<pN), and high-speed all in a well-controlled in-vitro environment. Using these lessons, I will attempt to frame other high impact bio pharmaceutical and neurosurgical microscopy needs, which would be best addressed in close collaboration between academics and industry.
Stephen C. Minne, under the Leland T. Edwards fellowship, received a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1996; his thesis was on increasing the throughput of the atomic force microscope (AFM). After graduating, Dr. Minne remained at Stanford University as a Consulting Professor. In 1998 he founded NanoDevices Inc. and served as President until it was sold to Veeco Instruments (NASDAQ: VECO) in 2003. NanoDevices developed and innovated technology for the AFM. Following the acquisition, Dr. Minne became General Manager of the newly formed division – Veeco Probes. Also in 2003, Dr. Minne co-founded FirstNano Inc., a company dedicated to producing turnkey solutions for nanotube and nanowire research. In 2005, FirstNano was sold to CVD Corporation (AMEX: CVV). In 2010 Bruker acquired Veeco, and at Bruker, Dr. Minne served in a number of technical roles, and ultimately as the Vice President and General Manager of the AFM and Fluorescence Microscopy business units. He then became the Chief Technology Officer for Wyatt Technology, manufacturer of scientific instrumentation for bio-pharmaceutical development. He is currently the Vice President of Engineering and Innovation for True Digital Surgery, an innovator in digital neruo-surgical microscopy. He holds over 40 publications and 30 patents in the field of Nano/Bio Technology.