March 2007 -- HP has become the first corporate affiliate of a new research institute dedicated to creating scientific breakthroughs made possible by the convergence of biotechnology, information technology and nanotechnology.
The Bio-Info-Nano Research and Development Institute (BIN-RDI) is a collaborative venture established by the University of California Santa Cruz and NASA. It will be based at the NASA Ames facility in Mountain View, CA.
"This is an opportunity for the government, universities and corporations to work together as equal partners on pre-competitive research and leverage available funding to make more effective use of resources," said Stan Williams, HP Senior Fellow and director, Quantum Science Research (QSR), HP Labs.
HP Labs has long worked at the intersection of nanotechnology and IT, Williams said, but having a biological component could help his group learn about alternate potential computing systems.
"For example, how do neural systems compute and communicate, and how can we use those insights for HP?" Williams said. "This is an opportunity to work with top-notch biologists and use expertise that we ourselves don’t have."
Williams has advocated the establishment of the cross-disciplinary research facility for years. It finally was established six months ago through efforts by UC Santa Cruz and NASA. HP is the first of what Williams hopes will be many industrial partners.
Another thing that makes the collaboration unique is that it has a group that will focus on public policy issues.
"You can create wonderful technology, but if the market or society isn’t ready to accept it, it’s a wasted effort," Williams said. "The policy group is responsible for monitoring ethical, environmental, health and economic issues and ensures that the research being conducted is appropriate."
The group will interact with state and federal agencies on technology policy issues.
BIN-RDI is building a state-of-the-art metrology facility that will be useful for HP’s researchers.
"We’re basically looking at the nanoscale properties of matter," Williams said. "When you shrink materials down to the nano size and examine their electrical and optical properties, it’s like discovering the Periodic Table doesn’t have 100 elements -- it has millions. There are more combinations of elements than there are atoms in the universe."
QSR researchers are expected to spend time at BIN-RDI a few days a week, taking advantage of an advanced transmission electron microscope to examine material properties, Williams said.