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O.C.’s Future Innovation is NOW
The Orange County Register, Oct. 24, 2005
By: Jan Norman
In the past, Orange County innovators have helped produce spacecraft, artificial heart valves and Botox. Today, local researchers and entrepreneurs are developing the county’s next generation of innovations.
To celebrate this flow of technological and scientific improvements – and to stimulate more of it – several groups are promoting Oct. 26 through Nov. 3 as Orange County Innovation Week. It comes at a time when the county’s business, education and investment leaders are making new attempts to build a support system for innovation after years of falling short in venture investments and commercialization of university research.
“Every time I turn on my computer, talk on my cell phone or send e-mails through my Blackberry, I am using a product that was once science fiction,” said Orange County Supervisor Lou Correa. “We need to do more to encourage that type of vision and originality here in Orange County.”
Here’s a look at four groundbreaking local companies that are developing products that Correa, his fellow Orange Countians and the world soon may be using. They illustrate the type of work Orange County Innovation Week wants to encourage.
QUANTUMSPHERE INC., SANTA ANA
Leader: Kevin Maloney, chief executive
Type of business: QuantumSphere makes super-fine metallic nanopowders (consisting of particles three to five atoms in width) for such uses as small batteries and fuel cells, coatings and inks. Powder with particles that small has different properties from normal powders. Nanotechnology has the venture world abuzz the way dot-coms did in the 1990s. While many other nanotech companies dwell in the still-theoretical world of cancer cures, QuantumSphere makes such products as nano-nickel/cobalt alloy that behaves like platinum but is 80 percent cheaper. Since platinum is 40 percent of the cost of small batteries and fuel cells, QuantumSphere’s alloy could greatly reduce the cost of batteries for laptops, cell phones, digital cameras and hearing aids. Fortune 200 companies are coming to QuantumSphere for various product partnerships. Most of QuantumSphere’s 11 employees are scientists. So far, the company has grown without venture capital. It has started selling its products this year and could possibly break even in 2006. QuantumSphere was recently selected for a 2005 Technology Innovation of the Year award by research organization Frost & Sullivan.
On innovation: “I get fired up each morning because we have potentially disruptive technology that could change the way things are done. And we haven’t scratched the surface.”
Read about all of the companies featured in this article