Ask An Expert: Mike Fancher

Ask an Expert: Mike Fancher

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In this edition of Ask an Expert we spoke with Michael Fancher, Director of both the NYS Center for Advanced Technology in Nanoelectronics & Nanomaterials (CATN2) and the Advanced Manufacturing Performance (AMP) Center at the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly). 

Give us a brief overview of CATN2, including how it leverages the assets of SUNY Poly and how it works with industry partners to achieve its mission.

Nanotechnology and the mapping of the human genome, in combination with the 20th century technology waves of information science (IS) and mass production, are impacting the global economy in profound ways. In response, both emerging and established advanced manufacturing (AM) industries are turning to open innovation within the Research, Development and Deployment (RD&D) technology transitioning process. This approach leverages the entire ecosystem of industry, university and government partners to accelerate the development clock; coordinate and leverage necessary investments; and manage complexity by integrating intellectual property and know-how, all within a vertically aligned enterprise.

The New York State Center for Advanced Technology in Nanomaterials and Nanoelectronics (CATN2) works with NY CREATES, a resource for public-private and academic partnerships within New York State, and its more than $20 billion in combined high-tech investments, establishing industry compliant test-bed facilities. These testbeds support both equipment, facility and process operation hardware and the related analysis and control software, operating as a network of systems necessary for successful AM of semiconductor devices.

Since its inception, the CATN2 has played a central role in establishing a next-generation, nanotechnology-enabled open innovation public-private partnership model while working with scores of leading small, medium and large-sized companies from around the world.  Its mission is to drive systematic progression in technology transitions, market adoption, skills attainment and entrepreneurial growth by aligning and coordinating an array of capabilities that support the entire RD&D continuum beginning with applied research by SUNY Poly’s faculty, transitioning to development with technology acceleration through pilot-prototyping, leading to deployment by demonstrating manufacturing scale-up and operational performance.

CATN2 operates the AMP center.  Tell us about that as well.

The semiconductor industry supply chain is confronting increasing technology and workforce challenges as advanced manufacturing (AM) processes become ever more sensitive to variations in operation. Today’s AM environment is now defined by complex systems operating within specialized facilities supporting highly integrated process flows with real-time control, all enabled by robotic automation. These AM systems are operated by highly skilled mechatronics technicians, process/facility engineers and materials/data scientists able to perform data-to-decisions by correlating data from tens-of-thousands of sensors monitoring a myriad of variables for the in-line process, equipment, supporting systems, and the facility that yield a working device.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to hire personnel capable of operating and maintaining complex AM systems that require training in the hardware, software and networks used to monitor, model, and control components, equipment, and systems operating as a system-of-systems (SoS). Compounding this problem is a chronic shortage of new entrants seeking careers as technicians and engineers in AM, requiring new models in workforce training that enable career pathways by delivering multi-discipline, industry-compliant, and hands-on learning opportunities necessary for AM Equipment Operation (EO), Facility Operation (FO) and Process Operation (PO).

With this in mind, the U.S. Dept. of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA), NYS Empire State Development (ESD), and industry partners co-invested over $3.2 million with CATN2 to establish the Advanced Manufacturing Performance (AMP) Center at SUNY Poly. AMP has a dual mission of supporting industry-relevant skills training for technicians and industry-driven technology innovation. Along with being the world’s only academic educational institution co-located with industry-compliant 300mm wafer fabrication facilities, the AMP Center is uniquely positioned to achieve its objectives by leveraging the established shared-use semiconductor infrastructure with global OEM development centers and on-site ancillary equipment and site service teams as well as Semiconductor Equipment Materials International (SEMI)-SUNY Poly partnerships involving technician training, root cause analysis, data analytics and more.

The Center has established a framework for industry, government, and academia to co-invest under a public-private partnership to enable systematic progression in technology innovation and workforce development transitions with a variety of project-ready RD&D test-beds for technology innovation and workforce training.  It offers open access to a standard semiconductor manufacturing environment to address all aspects of the AM ecosystem. With installed connectivity to support manufacturing engineering controls and a full complement of automation infrastructure and data management capability, AMP supports both collaborative programs and proprietary projects using modified industry-standard manufacturing execution systems and other protocols to insure protection of intellectual property and confidentiality.

How are the missions of CATN2 and AMP important to New York’s future?

CATN2’s mission is to drive systematic progression in technology transitions, market adoption, skills attainment & entrepreneurial growth by aligning and coordinating an array of capabilities. The AMP Center’s mission is to establish training and technology test beds by leveraging established industry partnerships and existing state-of-the-art 300mm wafer process facilities to provide multiple on-ramps for industry to participate in targeted outcomes leading to a systematic progression in workforce skills mastery and technology innovation. This approach provides a clear structure to: 1) identify opportunities for unmet need; 2) enable vertical alignment of partners to leverage resources by co-investing in projects and programs; 3) manage a complex and growing array of capabilities; and, 4) establish a systematic progression in activities to achieve the desired outcomes in workforce training.

Please share a success story with us.

Glauconix Biosciences was founded in 2014 by two SUNY Poly graduate students, Karen Torrejon and Feryan Ahmed, to commercialize intellectual property that Dr. Torrejon co-invented as a Ph.D. candidate. The company, which operates out of laboratories at SUNY Poly, has grown into a specialty pharma contract research company that uses an innovative platform technology to reduce the cost of ophthalmic drug development.

CATN2 supported Glauconix throughout its entire startup trajectory from its initial launch, through winning the NYS Business Plan Competition, to securing angel funding and SBIR and STTR grants.  At each stage of growth the CATN2 has been a partner that Glauconix could rely on for business support, assistance in applying for funding, providing access to lab and office space at SUNY Poly, keeping Glauconix informed about state, federal, and private funding and outreach opportunities, identifying and securing SUNY Poly undergraduate students to serve as interns, and many other activities. The CATN2 involvement has also allowed Glauconix to support the pharmaceutical industry after its Phase 3 clinical trials by partnering with medical science liaisons to create relevant experiments that will increase doctor confidence in certain therapeutics.

Additionally, the CATN2 Matching Investment Program (MIP) awarded Glauconix’s long-time SUNY Poly collaborator Dr. Yubing Xie with $100,000 for a project called Stem Cell-based Artificial Outflow Track for Glaucoma Drug Screening. This project benefited Glauconix in several ways, including demonstrating the capacity of using stem cell-derived trabecular meshwork tissue for drug screening using Glauconix Bioscience drug testing platform and expanding SUNY Poly’s applied research capacity in stem cell-based artificial outflow tissues to drug and gene screening for glaucoma, enabling progress in workforce development and securing new Federal grants in partnership with Glauconix.

As a result of the collaboration between Glauconix and CATN2, Glauconix was able to secure non-governmental funds and initiate and subsequently increase sales revenues related to its growing portfolio of services, which now includes drug screening and discovery; drug efficacy and dose response; mechanism of action; safety and toxicity; intraocular pressure; target identification; target validation; and tissue engineering.

You were featured in a video discussing a high-tech workforce training hub.  Please tell us about that.

Over the past several years, SUNY Poly has operated the Northeast Advanced Technological Education Center (NEATEC) with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to deliver hands-on skills training for AM technicians, and more recently was awarded $6.4 million from NSF to develop certifications for AM equipment, facility, and process operation technicians in partnership with the SEMI supply chain association. NEATEC delivers hands-on training for AM company employees (e.g., GlobalFoundries), transitioning veterans (e.g., Fort Drum), high school students (e.g., IBM’s P-TECH program), and community college students.

With funding from NYS’ ESD to establish the High Tech Data Analytics Workforce Training Hub (HTW Hub), AMP has formed a partnership with NEATEC under a Partner Aligned Training Hub (PATH) model to provide a comprehensive approach to workforce training by developing innovative training program capabilities and training delivery services. The HTW Hub deploys an innovative on-line Career Alignment Platform (CAP) to focus on the engagement of prospective employees to undertake systematic progression in skills mastery by using on-line, in-class, and hands-on delivery while concurrently matching these prospective employees to regional employment opportunities.

AMP is leveraging CAP to drive a systematic progression in employee skills mastery by establishing training test beds for Equipment Operation, Facility Operation, and Process Operation systems. This system-focused approach enables targeted industry engagement to assist AMP in the joint development of in-class and on-line curriculum including voice-over PowerPoints, instructional animations, virtual labs, augmented reality, virtual reality; and joint development of Training Test-beds Stands (TBS) for hands-on experiential learning beginning at the bench-level, progressing to the tool-level and concluding with fab-level equipment and facility operation exposures.

AMP has also partnered with NY Wired for Education to jointly develop an on-line Learning Management System (LMS) that was designed for prospective employees to enable their independent career path and manage their skills ascendancy and for the employer to identify and hire participating employees with verifiable skills mastery. The results are career pathways aligned with the various Equipment, Facility, and Process Operation Systems.

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