A high-tech small business created in 2011 by three co-founders from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been awarded this year’s U.S. Department of Energy’s Small Business of the Year Award.

The company, Tiptek, LLC, was co-founded by Dr. Scott Lockledge, CEO, Prof. Joseph Lyding, CTO, and Prof. Gregory Girolami, CSO. Lockledge received his PhD degree in Chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1990, Lyding is the Robert C. MacClinchie professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Girolami is the William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor of Chemistry.

Tiptek, LLC, received the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Small Business of the Year award on July 11, 2023, at DOE's 2023 Small Business Forum & Expo in New Orleans.

The award recognizes Tiptek, LLC, for its development of a product line that includes hard, conductive, and ultra-sharp probes that are used by the microelectronics industry in three areas — semiconductor fault detection, scanning tunneling microscopy, and atomically precise manufacturing.

Side by side head shots of Lockledge and Lyding
From left: Tiptek CEO Scott Lockledge and Prof. Joseph Lyding

Tiptek, LLC, manufactures its probes in its Savoy, Illinois, facilities near the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as in Enterprise Works, the University incubator. Their facilities include offices, wet labs, analytical areas, and manufacturing space.  Tiptek currently has one part-time and four full-time employees and sells its products world-wide.

The company, whose creation was assisted by Proof of Concept funding from the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology on the UIUC campus, subsequently has received Small Business Innovation Research funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and more recently, from the U.S. DOE for work in the cutting-edge and emerging manufacturing area of atomically precise manufacturing (APM).

The SBIR/STTR Small Business of the Year Award recognizes a U.S. small business that exemplifies the spirit of innovation and technology transfer by strengthening and expanding high-technology research and development competitiveness and generating innovative and technical solutions that contribute to DOE’s national security and energy missions.