Tech talk | Arkansas Blog

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tech talk

Posted By on Mon, May 22, 2006 at 2:15 PM

UALR is very happy today about the addition of a high-powered administrator expected to build on the campus' focus on building programs for technology students and the new economy.

He's Tom Walker, who'll be vice provost for innovation and commercialization and director of the Nanotechnology Instiute. He comes from a federal job in which he nurtured scientific projects aimed at becoming commerical enterprises.

Full news release on the jump.


UALR news release

National Innovation Specialist to Incubate UALR Research Discoveries

          LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (May 22, 2006) – J. Thomas “Tom” Walker, known to business and industry executives world wide as an expert in shepherding new scientific breakthroughs from private and public laboratories to commercial ventures, starts work today as UALR’s new Vice Provost for Innovation and Commercialization and director of the UALR Nanotechnology Center.

Walker, who comes to UALR from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the U.S. Department of Commerce, has been credited for building and leading organizations – some national in scope – to nurture and incubate scientific and technological research and move the ideas into the marketplace as commercial enterprises.

As president of the Cardinal Capital Development Fund and director of the Ohio Development Financing Commission, Walker directed over $2 billion of private sector investment into firms which achieved an aggregate market value in excess of $8 billion.

In Washington, Walker worked closely with Dr. Mary Good when the current dean of UALR’s Donaghey College of Information Science and Systems Engineering was the undersecretary for technology assisting U.S. industries to improve productivity, technology, and innovation in order to compete more effectively in global markets.

Last year, UALR received approval from the governor and the legislature to spend $5.9 million in state General Improvement money to establish a nanotechnology center designed to capitalize on nanotechnology breakthroughs discovered at UALR. The appropriation is purchasing specialized equipment that will make UALR’s


Nanotechnology Center the only state-of-the-art facility in the Mid-South that can build and test the subatomic-sized nanotubes that are used to change the property of other substances. Companies wanting to come up with new products created by nanotechnology will need access to the kinds of instrumentation the UALR Nanotechnology Center will be able to provide.

One of Walker’s key duties at UALR will be to provide a bridge between innovative research coming out of UALR labs and helping those discoveries reach the marketplace by incubating start-up companies and finding venture capital to help them grow. Other companies working to develop products from these innovations also will be looking to locate near nanotechnogy labs like the one being constructed at UALR.

“I believe strongly that Tom Walker’s decision to join UALR’s innovative research team is going to be significant for UALR, for Arkansas, and for this region of the country,” said UALR Provost David O. Belcher. “His decision to join us will help UALR take technology that has evolved in our laboratories and transfer it to the business world to make a profound difference in Arkansas’ economic development. He will help us take research from test tubes to new start-up businesses and jobs.”

Walker, an alumnus of Ohio State University, successfully reorganized the Ohio Development Financing Commission, growing the agency’s activity from $9 million to more than three quarters of a billion dollars and refocusing its efforts towards advanced technology industry. In addition, Walker started the Ohio Advanced Technology Program. Renamed the Ohio Edison Program, it continues to be one of the most progressive state-based efforts supporting industry-university partnerships in the U.S.

 “I am excited about the prospects of UALR’s innovative research -- not just nanotechnology, but in several disciplines -- and what they can mean for Arkansas and the Mid-South,” Walker said. “America has lost our competitive edge in industries like home electronics, steel production, and auto making. But we are No.1 in higher education. Universities in the 21st Century are centers of innovation. Innovations involving nano scale materials such as those coming from UALR’s Nanotechnology Center will impact medicine, agriculture, electronics, home construction – every major industry.

Significant breakthroughs in nanotechnology at UALR have already been achieved by Dr. Alex Biris, who came to the University to earn a Ph.D. in applied science. Since completing his degree, Biris has worked as an assistant research professor conducting nanotechnology research.

One of the goals in the recently released UALR Fast Forward strategic plan calls for UALR to build on the nanotechnology equipment and instrumentation base funded by the governor and legislature last year by partnering with other universities and helping to expand technology-based businesses in Arkansas.

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