Web portal to succeed MN Nano trade group

  • Article by: WENDY LEE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 25, 2011 - 7:56 PM

The nanoscience organization is making plans for a new business model.

MN Nano, a statewide nanoscience trade association, said it will disband this fall.

Organizers said they plan to instead launch a new regional Web portal called NanoVox. The portal will list companies that do research and development in nanotechnology, and the group's staff will help link professionals together.

"The response has been very positive," said MN Nano's Executive Director Lynne Osterman. "The reality is the association model was not going to serve our region well."

Membership at MN Nano had been flat in recent years, Osterman said. At its peak, the organization had a couple of dozen members, she said. Dues were comparable to larger trade associations like St. Louis Park-based LifeScience Alley.

NanoVox's business model would be different. Anyone could take a look at the general Web portal for free and use NanoVox staff services.

Options for NanoVox

The group is considering different options on the structure for NanoVox and is asking people to offer input at MN Nano's website. One option under consideration is to charge a subscription fee to access a blog or chat room where people could pose questions to the group's scientific advisory board.

Osterman said NanoVox could receive additional financial support and in-kind staffing assistance from companies, educational institutions, associations and grants. Companies could pay to have a more detailed profile in the portal.

The group will host events and may organize trade mission to places such as China's Jiangsu Province, Osterman said. The group's budget is expected to be $165,000 in the first year. Its goal is to have three full-time staff members within three years, she added.

The portal's area of coverage would include Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and Canada.

Beau Farmer, chief technology officer at Shoreview-based TSI, said his company had not joined MN Nano because of limited resources. Farmer called NanoVox a "positive change," adding he likes how it is accessible to many people, not just Minnesotans.

"It remains to be seen if there is such a thing for a potential nano-cluster for this area," Farmer said. "If there is, then you've got something."

Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712

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