Contact: Masood Akhtar at 608-661-4080 or Tom Still at 608-442-7557

MILWAUKEE – A Madison firm that that has developed a 3-D atom probe microscope for use in the cutting-edge field of nanotechnology is the winner of the first Governor’s Small Business Technology Transfer Award, it was announced Tuesday at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference.

Imago Scientific Instruments, which has turned technology developed at the UW-Madison into a rapidly growing company with 40 employees, was selected from among five finalists by a statewide panel of judges.

The award, which comes with a $5,000 prize and a plaque, goes to a small business that best demonstrates a successful transfer of technology from the lab bench to the marketplace.

Other finalists were: GHD Inc., Chilton; Lucigen Corp., Middleton; Nutra-Park Inc., Middleton; and PhysioGenix, Wauwatosa.

“The ability to transfer technology from the laboratory to the marketplace makes all the difference when it comes to creating high-wage, knowledge-based jobs,” Gov. Jim Doyle said. “Imago and the other finalists are examples of how Wisconsin is making those important connections work.”

“The finalists represented a range of technologies that will help shape Wisconsin’s future,” added Masood Akhtar, president of the Center for Technology Transfer, Inc., Fitchburg. “These home-grown technologies are delivering benefits across the nation to the dairy industry, nanotechnology research, gene cloning, food preservation and drug research.”

Applicants were required to be a small business (100 employees or less), located in Wisconsin, and successful in the commercialization of a technological innovation.  The applicants were required to be selling product(s) linked to the specific technological innovation that was commercialized by the applicant.  A technology innovation that originated outside of Wisconsin, but was commercialized by the applicant, was considered eligible. In written applications and in oral presentations, finalists were asked to describe their tech transfer experience and how it was unique.

The awards process was coordinated by the Center for Technology Transfer in Madison, with assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and the Wisconsin Technology Council. Judging was conducted by a panel of 13 judges from technology transfer organizations, technology companies, research institutions and other organizations representing Wisconsin’s tech economy.

Imago was launched as a business in 1998, building upon pioneering research conducted by UW-Madison materials science professor Tom Kelly. He is now Imago’s chief technology officer.

The 3-D atom probe microscope developed by Imago sells for $2 million each. The Local Electrode Atom Probe Microscope allows users to see individual atoms with extremely clear resolution in three dimensions. It will help scientists develop the next generation of disc drives and memory chips. It is also being used by scientists at Northwestern University who are aiming to design blast-resistant steel, a government-funded project that stemmed from the October 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen.

Timothy J. Stultz, Imago’s president and chief executive officer, projects the company will create an additional 30 to 50 high-tech jobs in Wisconsin over the next two years. In addition to the core technology related to the microscope, Imago is in the process of developing add-on products and other nanotechnology tools.

Nanotechnology is a catch-all description of activities at the level of atoms and molecules that have applications in the real world. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, or about 1/80,000th the diameter of a human hair. Viewed another way, a nanometer is about 10 times the diameter of a hydrogen atom.
Nanotechnology is a platform for advancing other sciences. It is the science of defining, fabricating and synthesizing materials, devices and systems that have features and functionality at the nanometric (molecular) scale. The applications in genetics, industry, robotics, artificial intelligence and physics are so vast that scientists believe they’re only now scratching the surface.
Some nanotechnology applications have already found commercial use. Nanoscale materials are being used in products as diverse as sun-blocking lotions, plastics, lubricants for heavy machinery, tennis balls, computer displays, medical implants, “smart” concrete, paneling on cars and men’s pants.