Commercialization of Microsystems (COMS) 2002 Annual Conference

September 9, 2002

Good morning. As Michigan's governor, I would like to express how proud we are to host the 7th Annual International Conference on Commercialization of Micro and Nano Systems.

Thank you to the members of the Micro and Nanotechnology Commercialization Education Foundation for selecting Michigan to be your host of for this critically important event.

This conference is about much more than whether our future is green - that is, dominated by biotech - or gray, dominated by nanotechnology. Indeed, it is about how those two concepts converge and about how we harness technological change to improve medical care, to improve our quality of life, to protect our nation from terrorism, to create jobs and to help our economies grow and our people prosper.

The bottom line is that his conference is about small things with very big consequences. And as the world gets smaller, our ability to think big and to be bold must not be limited. That is Michigan's strategy.

With the extensive activity occurring in microsystems throughout our state, Michigan has been looking forward to the opportunity to showcase our state's cutting edge research and to demonstrate how microsystems technology is being used to improve existing products, create new products, and develop interesting commercial opportunities for businesses. During the next four days, I invite you to visit the exhibition hall and learn more about the micro and nanotechnology activities going on in Michigan.

I believe that in Michigan we have the components that are necessary for a strong MEMS (micro electro mechanical systems) industry. Those components include our research universities, dedicated MEMS companies, and also a base of business partners who have reason to buy into MEMS products.

I'd like to talk briefly about each of those components.

First, higher education. This is an area in which Michigan truly excels. For a high-tech industry such as microsystems to flourish, it is vital to have higher education programs that are generating new MEMS-based processes and products.

Universities also play a pivotal role in creating a pool of engineers, researchers and other professionals to meet the staffing demands of the industry sector.

Certainly, we are all concerned about the national shortage of physical scientist and worry about how it will affect our nation's ability to remain the world's economic powerhouse. Even before the attacks of 9/11, the lack of brainpower in the physical sciences is a threat to national security.

That's why we're doing our best in Michigan to produce the scientists needed to spur the growth and advancement of the physical sciences.

For example, that's why we're campaigning hard for Michigan State University to be named the home of the Rare Isotope Accelerator. Already home to one of the nation's best faculties in nuclear physics, MSU is the ideal place for a quantum leap forward in this cutting edge research that is critical to MEMS and nanotech.

Considering the fact that microsystems as a definable field of science has only existed since the 1960s, Michigan universities have a history of early involvement and success. For example, activities at the University of Michigan began in 1974 with programs in integrated pressure sensors and solid-state chemical sensors. By the mid-1990s multi-channel neural probes - known commonly as "Michigan probes" - were being distributed worldwide and changing the course of research in the neurosciences.

In addition, the University of Michigan recently had the honor of being named the home of the first National Science Foundation Wireless Integrated Microsystems Center. Supported by Michigan Technological University and Michigan State University, this major research initiative has a budget of $30 million over ten years. The focus of the Center's research is on miniature low-cost integrated microsystems capable of measuring a variety of physical parameters, interpreting them and communicating them with a host system over a bi-directional wireless link.

The NSF's selection of U of M for this new center is a natural byproduct of the university's commitment of $10 million a year in microsystems education and research. Ninety-one graduate students, 48 undergraduate and five postdoctoral fellows are currently enrolled in U of M's microsystems programs. Eighty PhDs have graduated to date with another 80 in the pipeline. As I said a moment ago, it would be hard to overestimate the value of these professionals as the needs for microsystems experts continues to grow rapidly. They are critical.

Other Michigan universities are advancing in the field of microsystems research and development. Wayne State University, for example, has made significant progress in non-silicon based microsystems research. Wayne State has also established the Center for Smart Sensors and Integrated Devices. Among its many projects are developing specialized integrated devices in the biomedical, aerospace, automotive and energy systems areas.

Clearly, the value of great research reaches is even greater when transformed into real products that meet real needs. (And, if you are a businessman, making real money comes into play as well). Fortunately, the state of Michigan has an abundance of businesses with recognizable needs that can be effectively met with MEMS-based solutions.

Let me highlight two examples: the automotive industry and the life sciences industry.

The automotive industry has been increasingly incorporating pressure sensors, accelerometers for airbag deployment and other microsystems applications in vehicles that are far more technically involved than the average driver would ever realize.

In fact, it can be rightly claimed that the automotive industry was the first to integrate mass-produced MEMS devices in a commercial product. Early air bags in vehicles involved several separate and fairly bulky components, and cost manufacturers about $50 each. The MEMS-based air bags that began to be widely used in the last decade include the accelerometer and other electronics on a single chip, are far more sensitive than non-MEMS products, and cost less than $10 each. The lower cost has led manufacturers to add side air bags to vehicles, adding greater safety at nominal costs to consumers.

A host of other MEMS-based applications are now or soon will be incorporated into the vehicles we drive every day. Michigan's position as the world leader in automotive production creates a ready market for new MEMS products.

The life sciences industry presents what is arguably the most exciting and important field for microsystems applications, as MEMS products are developed that will actually have an effect on our quality and length of life. Like I said, this is where a green and gray future converge.

New drug delivery systems, DNA analysis and cardiac applications are just the tip of the iceberg in what many expect to become a new frontier of MEMS-based life sciences research and products.

To underscore the importance of the life sciences industry, the state of Michigan has committed to spend $1 billion over 20 years to create a leading life sciences industry in Michigan. The Michigan Life Sciences Corridor initiative is based upon the work of Michigan's leading research universities and the Van Andel Institute, major Michigan pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Pharmacia, and a growing community of life sciences based entrepreneurs and companies.

Microsystems research and commercialization is specifically targeted by the Life Sciences Corridor Initiative, and is expected to result in significant contributions of life-enhancing products in the future.

Our state is also home to a growing number of dedicated microsystems companies, most of which are spawned directly from the research and professionals within our public universities. These companies include Ardesta, Integrated Sensing Systems, NanoBio, Picometrix, HandyLab, Dexter Research, Canopus Systems, Accumed Systems, Advanced Sensor Technologies and others.

If you look closely, it becomes abundantly clear that Michigan has strong university programs to support a microsystems industry. We also have strong businesses creating a demand for MEMS products and new companies dedicated to microsystems applications. Yet everyone here knows that even if the right pieces are in place, one crucial thing is still needed. There must be an exchange of knowledge, technology and products to the marketplace. In other words, we need a clear path of MEMS commercialization.

That is why we are gathered here at this week's conference - to share ideas, to share best practices and strategies, and to look ahead to a future in which MEMS and nano systems find widespread use in a broad range of commercial applications.

To assure that Michigan's MEMS industry will continue to grow and flourish, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has spearheaded several major initiatives. Those include:

  • a commitment of $1 million per year in Emerging Technology Challenge Fund grants to foster development and commercialization opportunities at Michigan universities;
  • creation of a Microsystems Alliance through a $2.5 million Michigan Growth Capital Fund grant. This alliance has been formed to increase awareness of Michigan's microsystems industry, create a forum for information exchange and industry/academic collaboration and rally the required resources for the advancement of cross-sector technology.

My term as Governor will end this year. As twelve years of incredible events and accomplishments draw to a close, I am struck by how much Michigan has changed. And I am proud of how we have been able to work with industry and education to transform Michigan from a rust belt state into a major competitor in key industry sectors that are going to dominate the 21st century. There is no doubt about it - Michigan is a high-tech state!

For example, Michigan's web page, www.michigan.gov is often rated one of the best government pages in the nation.

Michigan is leading the nation in implementing a comprehensive statewide broadband telecommunications infrastructure to speed the deployment of broadband.

Building on our leadership in automaking, our NextEnergy initiative is positioning Michigan as a leader in the alternative energy industry, including hydrogen fuel cells.

Soon, our Cybercourt will be online, hearing and resolving high-tech legal disputes.

We also continue to enjoy the growth and success of the Michigan Life Sciences Corridor. As one indicator of success, Pfizer announced last year that it was investing $600-800 million in new research laboratories less than 20 miles from here. Last year, that was the largest economic development announcement in the entire nation!

Given this incredible record of leadership, I have no doubt that Michigan can also become a leader in microsystems development and commercialization.

So take a look around. Learn about Michigan while you're here for this conference. I think you'll like what you see. Because Michigan may be known as the Great Lakes State, but we would love to be home to some very small things as well.

Thank you very much and welcome to Michigan!