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Posted 06.30.05

Michael Nichols Appointed Director of Office of MU Industrial Research Relations

I am extremely pleased to announce that Dr. Michael Nichols has been appointed as Director of the Office of MU Industrial Research Relations. Mike will begin July 1, 2005 and his office will be housed in the Life Sciences Center. Please feel free to welcome him. He can be reached at or at 882-1332.

Below I answer a few questions about the Office and give some details on Mike's background. Please don't hesitate to contact Mike ASAP if you would like to discuss the new position with him, or would like to get him engaged in any ongoing discussions you might be having with various industries about supporting your research. I would really appreciate it if you passed this notice on to your faculty who have interests in developing research partnerships with industry.

This is a very, very important position with great potential for helping to grow MU research! I am really pleased that Mike has agreed to take on a truly entrepreneurial challenge to increasing MU's industrial research portfolio.

What is the purpose of the Office of Industrial Research Relations?

The Industrial Research Relations Office is responsible for, and will be evaluated on, increasing the amount and quality of MU's research agreements with private industry. The office and its support structure will act as the key point of contact of faculty and private sector partners when negotiating research agreements. The new office will report directly to the Vice Provost for Research so the director will "sit at the table" with those responsible for intellectual property management and for sponsored research program agreements. This structure will ensure the facilitation of clear communication channels.  But the Office will also have a dotted line relationship to Corporate and Foundation Relations and to the VP of Academic Affairs to ensure coordination with outreach, fundraising and system-wide efforts. The Office's focus will be on working with faculty and private industries to match research interests and simplify the process for making research agreements happen. The Office personnel will spend a great deal of time in the laboratories and offices of MU faculty so that they know what expertise these faculty have to offer;  they will help MU faculty be responsive to the needs of corporate partners and meet expectations of contractual agreements; and they will act as a liaison or matchmaker of faculty with private industry and assist both parties in understanding MU policies and practices with respect to intellectual property and research agreements as early as possible in the process to avoid last minute renegotiations, which has haunted us in the past.

How is the Office funded?

The Office was funded on the basis of purely entrepreneurial model.  The UM system has loaned MU funds to jump start this operation giving us two years of support. Continued operation of the office beyond two years will be dependent on increasing industrial research revenues beyond the current baseline. Our analysis of the situation, and comparisons with our peers, is that an effective Office of Industrial Research Relations should be able to dramatically increase (perhaps double) our current amount of industrially supported research within three years. Doing so would provide more than enough new revenues to repay the System Office and provide the necessary funding allowing the university to continue the support of this office.

Who is Mike Nichols?

I am thrilled that Michael has agreed to join us and bring his proven experience to enhance University-Industry partnerships. His knowledge of University and Industrial cultures makes him the ideal person for this position. I am confident that his extensive networks among faculty and industry researchers and his energetic approach will result in a win-win relationship with the University and corporate partners.

Mike rejoined the University of Missouri as State Director of the Federal and State Technology Program (MoFAST) and the SBIR/STTR State Assistance Centers for the University of Missouri Extension and Small Business Development Centers in 2002 after serving as President and Founder of several high technology companies. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in education and biological sciences from California Polytechnic 1970 and 1972 respectively, and his doctorate degree in biomedical sciences (physiology/bioengineering area) from the University of Missouri in 1992.

Mike was responsible for establishing the MoFAST SBIR/STTR client service network on a statewide basis. In 2002, the state of Missouri received 40 awards compared with a pre-MoFAST total of 16 awards and a state ranking of 46 in 2001. The 2002 totals resulted in the infusion of $8,073,463 federal dollars into Missouri's entrepreneurial high-technology start-up companies. Up to the second quarter of 2005, under Dr. Nichols' leadership, Missouri has received 118 awards, bringing in an additional $22 million dollars to the region through SBIR/STTR seed funding grants. Only 30 percent of the states receive more than 50 awards per year. Missouri is now poised to enter that select group. In addition, companies that worked with the MoFAST program on SBIR/STTR also received additional outside revenues of $67 million dollars through venture or angel capital, ATP awards, commercial contracts and acquisitions. He is an Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UMC and has served as the Interim Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Outreach on the UMR Campus. In addition, he serves as President of a high technology company APS Inc. and as a consultant to government programs and Schick's Worldwide Emerging Technology Division.

Currently, in his academic role, Dr. Nichols is the PI on a NSF Partnerships for Innovation Grant entitled, "The Development of an Innovation Information Infrastructure", funded through 2006.  He is also Co-PI on a Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation grant in the College of Business, "Advancing Academic Research on Entrepreneurship" through 2007.

Mike has over 25 years of experience in Small Business and Product Development, startup funding and capitalization, intellectual property and patent issues and grant and contract management. His years of academic experience with federally funded grant programs was transitioned into the SBIR grant program where he has successfully managed the development of concepts and intellectual properties through successful Phase I and Phase II awards.  Dr. Nichols has participated as a SBIR program reviewer for NIH, NSF, and other agencies since its inception in the 1980's and continues in this role today serving on technical and commercial review panels.

Mike was granted a number of patents while a research faculty member at the University of Missouri. Dr. Nichols participated in the early days of sensor development resulting in the invention of the first solid-state pH electrode for which he received a patent in 1982.  Further investigations into the new field of plasma chemical synthesis of polymer membranes led him to develop a stable adherent membrane for the protection of platinum and gold oxygen sensors and biogalvantic batteries for which he received patents in 1981 and 1983. His work on synthesizing hermetic encapsulants for integrated circuits integrated inductively coupled plasma (ICP) based chemistries and chemical vapor deposition (CVD) in one reactor and resulted in patents in 1990(Process), 1992(Apparatus), and 1992(Article) and foreign patents in Canada, Australia and EPO countries.

He became the Founder and President of one of the earliest spin-off companies from the University of Missouri, Applied Coating Technologies (ACT). ACT went on to receive both Phase I and II SBIR's to develop materials for the cardiovascular and prosthesis implant industry. Many of the improvements in insulation and adhesion were later leveraged into products based on the work funded by the National Institutes of Health program. Dr. Nichols was involved in licensing and sale of ACT to a group of investors that formed Nichols Technologies Inc (NTI). Nichols Technologies was a recipient of the Missouri MO BUCKS award for start up high technology companies.  The company grew to over 25 scientists and engineers with federal and commercial contracts and grants. As President and Principle Investigator, NTI was also successful in collaborating on numerous Phase I and II SBIR's developing materials for life sciences and specifically neurological implants which resulted in the improved development of many products including the cochlear prosthesis that is in widespread use today.  A technology spin-off of contract work managing coating operations with DOD/DOE resulted in the development of advanced temperature controllers, which could be packaged for laboratory use. Dr. Nichols founded Nichols Scientific Instruments (NSI) to manufacture and market a complete line of these controllers software, and temperature sensors that were sold in industry catalogs and tradeshows. NSI still markets the controllers today. In 1996, Dr. Nichols acquired NTI's assets and formed the Atomic Paint Shop (APSI), Inc. Since 1996 he has been developing proprietary coating intellectual property based on mathematical processing models for selected industry clients such as Warner-Lambert, Pfizer, Spectra, Optical Coating Laboratories Inc. (now JDS Uniphase) Energizer, and Schick.

So, I hope you agree with me that we have a super person in this role! Please start working with him as soon as possible!


Jim Coleman, Ph.D.

Vice Provost for Research and Professor of Biological Sciences
University of Missouri-Columbia
Office of Research , 205 Jesse Hall

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