Stanford Nanofabrication Facility

Spring-Summer 2015
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Market Analysis,
Strategic Planning
Organization Type


The Stanford Nanofabrication Facility (SNF) serves academic, industrial, and governmental researchers across the U.S. and around the globe. Supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the SNF is more than a lab, it’s a vibrant research community. SNF is housed in the Paul G. Allen building at Stanford University.


For decades, the School of Engineering (SOE) fabrication and cleanroom facilities have supported a research community that wishes to explore uses of micro- and nano-fabrication. The facility centers around a 10,000-square-foot cleanroom equipped with a full suite of tools supporting device fabrication. Although first conceived as an electronics-based research facility, the Allen facilities now support researchers in applications ranging from medicine and biology to fundamental physics and astronomy.

The NSF National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network grant that supports the SNF in Allen ended on August 31, 2015. The end of NSF support provides an opportunity to rethink and reinvent the future of the SOE’s and Stanford’s fabrication infrastructure. The timing is particularly opportune for two reasons: the Department of Electrical Engineering, a major user and steward of the facilities, has been rethinking its future, and the SOE is embarking on major planning activities.

Project Objectives

SNF asked an ACT team to develop a pilot plan to test the major hypotheses about what makes a facility world-class and state-of-the-art. This would provide SNF with a plan for the upcoming years that could best position the SOE to make an informed, major investment in the future facility.

Project Overview

The ACT team assembled for this project had over one hundred cumulative years of industry and academic experience in nanofabrication. In the early process of working with the client to define the business planning requirements going forward, a clear question emerged regarding the future ownership/users of SNF. Historically, SNF was built and managed under the Electrical Engineering Department. Although the clients for SNF 2.0 represented both SOE and EE, the ACT team immediately asked whether this represented the broader user base for the future asset, which included faculty and graduate students from the schools of Medicine and Humanities and Sciences. The ACT team conducted an extensive survey of the user base to understand past and future needs. Survey results provided a valuable indication of needs and desires going forward for current users including the importance of collaborative research across disciplines, but it also highlighted the fact that many of the potential users in the future were missing from the survey population.

Key Recommendations

The primary recommendation of the ACT team was to define the mission and governance of SNF 2.0. A series of options and benchmarks were presented, but it will be up to the leadership and faculty of Stanford to define whether SNF 2.0 will be solely an Engineering-driven facility or will take advantage of the unique, competitive advantage that Stanford potentially holds over comparable institutions competing for faculty, students, and research funding by leveraging the world class faculties of Engineering, Sciences, and Medicine on a single campus and creating a collaborative environment and infrastructure to conduct cross-discipline research in a manner that peers cannot achieve.

Key Conclusions

The team presented business plan options and benchmarks to SOE and EE, but until the scope and ownership of SNF 2.0 are determined, planning is premature.

Final Report Outline

  • Mission options
  • Governance options
  • Faculty and graduate student survey results