In 2005 the State of Utah fully recognized the critical role that nanotechnology would play in its economic future when the Office of Economic Development hosted the first meeting to plan the State of Utah Nanotechnology Initiative, and to develop the basis of a Nanotechnology Advisory Council. In 2006 the Utah state legislature passed Senate Bill 75 creating the Utah Science, Technology, and Research (USTAR) initiative to provide funding to recruit world-class researchers in targeted focus areas, several of which have nanotechnology as core components, to build state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research and development facilities at the U and Utah State University, and to aggressively seek to commercialize breakthroughs originating from nanoscience research throughout the state. The USTAR initiative is a long-term investment in the development of innovative technologies leading to more technology-based start-up companies, higher paying jobs, and an increase in high tech businesses in the state.
Utah has a rich history of excellence in nanoscience and technology with a keen focus on biomedical and healthcare applications. Renowned investigators in chemistry, physics, materials science, engineering, medicine, pharmacy, and electronics engage in cutting-edge research in the fields of nanotherapeutics and imaging, nanoscale sensing, nanofluidics, nanosynthesis and nanophotonics, to name a few. The Utah Nano Science and Engineering Laboratories, Surface and Nano Imaging Core Laboratory, Microfabrication and Microsystems Laboratory, Huntsman Cancer Institute, Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery, Center for Neural Interfaces, and School of Medicine, among other units, provide state-of-the-art facilities for research and development. USTAR faculty hires bring new nanoscience expertise and facilities to Utah in the fields of nanobiotechnology, nanomedicine, and nanobiosensors. Utah has the resources in place to capitalize on the opportunities in nanotechnology research markets, and to make important contributions to federal and state initiatives. What was needed to propel Utah to the forefront in nanotechnology and to take it beyond ongoing national and international efforts was a mechanism for bringing together all the pieces and players, chartered with finding innovative solutions to “grand challenges” and “big science questions” with clear socio-economic impact on Utah and beyond. That mechanism was the creation of the Nano Institute of Utah.
Marc Porter, USTAR Professor (Departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Pathology) and Hamid Ghandehari, USTAR Professor (Departments of Pharmaceutics & Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Bioengineering) applied for creation and institute status for the Nano Institute of Utah in June 2008. It was granted temporary approval October 14, 2008, by the Vice President for Research and the Deputy Commissioner for Academic Affairs, and on June 1, 2010, the Nano Institute of Utah received permanent Institute approval. The objective of the Institute has been to create an organization wherein scientists, engineers and clinicians from across the University of Utah (hereafter “U”), the State and elsewhere work together as teams to attain global recognition by conquering interdisciplinary challenges in nanoscience and nanotechnology, while fostering economic development in Utah. The Institute enables Utah researchers from disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, medicine, and pharmacy to create synergistic alliances to drive higher levels of collaborative research, education and commercialization.