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PYSK: Michael F. Nichols

Michael F. Nichols

AGE: 59

JOB DESCRIPTION: As the university’s senior executive for economic development and research-related initiatives, the vice president for research and economic development is responsible for promoting the commercialization of patented intelligence and products of faculty discovery, innovation and development. Working closely with the chief research officers and chancellors from each campus, I serve as a conduit to local, state and federal agencies to ensure research results aid the growth of the state’s new economy and lead Missouri’s transformation toward a knowledge-based economy dependent upon innovation and entrepreneurship. I am required to routinely interact with state, community and business leadership to engage their financial and political support for university needs and initiatives that promote its role as a partner and key contributor to the state.


ORIGINAL HOMETOWN: Manhattan Beach, Calif.

EDUCATION: Doctoral degree in biomedical sciences with an emphasis in bioengineering and statistics from the University of Missouri (1992). Bachelor’s degrees in education, with emphasis in biological sciences (1970), and in biological sciences, with an emphasis in chemistry (1972), from California Polytechnic State University.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Special Olympics softball and basketball coordinator, board of directors member for Visiting Nurses Association, president of board of directors for Shelter Enterprises, member of Rotary South board of directors.

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: More than 25 years of experience in small business and product development, startup funding and capitalization, intellectual property and patent issues, and grant and contract management. Successfully managed the development of concepts and intellectual properties through Phase I and Phase II awards in the SBIR grant program. Participated as a SBIR program reviewer for NIH, NSF and other agencies since their inception in the 1980s. Participated in the early days of sensor development resulting in the invention of the first solid-state pH electrode, which received a patent in 1982. Received patents for development of a stable adherent membrane for the protection of platinum and gold oxygen sensors and biogalvantic batteries in 1981 and 1983. Founder and president of one of the earliest spin-off companies from the University of Missouri, Applied Coating Technologies (ACT). ACT received both Phase I and II SBIRs to develop materials for the cardiovascular and prosthesis implant industry. Developed 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 since 1996.

A COLUMBIA BUSINESSPERSON I ADMIRE: Bo Frasier. He brings to the table “honest intelligence” that I admire most in people.

WHY I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT MY JOB: Few people get the opportunity to truly change people’s lives and watch the change take place during their lifetime. Economic development helps people at all levels, from entry-level jobs to CEOs, and with the new information economy, the transfer of knowledge from universities will become even more important to the state’s economic success. I have been fortunate to get the opportunity to help lead this effort at the University of Missouri.

IF I WEREN’T DOING THIS FOR ALIVING, I WOULD: Start more small businesses. Small business is the backbone of our economy. I come from a family that started companies, so it is in my blood. The university is a hotbed for startups, and if I were not involved with the university, then I would be scouting for intellectual property that could be the next mega-business.

BIGGEST CAREER OBSTACLE I’VE OVERCOME: Wanting to do everything. A better understanding of how to set and accomplish goals helped to propel me in my career.

A FAVORITE RECENT PROJECT: Helping to form the Intellectual Property Development Fund (IPDF), which will allow us to protect intellectual property (file patents) for startup businesses so that we do not lose our intellectual property and startup companies to other states.

WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THIS PROFESSION: You have to be a very multidisciplinary person to succeed in this business. In addition, you have to be very customer-service-oriented to cater to the challenging faculty requests.

WHAT I DO FOR FUN: Locally, I like to run or bike on the trail with family and friends. I love to travel to the Caribbean Islands, especially in the winter. I love fishing with friends. If I can find the time, I love to sit in the sun and read.

FAMILY: I have a son, Michael F. Nichols II (11), and a daughter, Jackie B. Nichols (14).


ACCOMPLISHMENT I’M MOST PROUD OF:  I don’t think it has happened yet.

MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THAT: I played sports at a professional level.

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