NanoScience Exchange

Facilitating between leading nanotech experts and government officials and key media.

Impressions from the Albany Symposium on Global Nanotechnology

September 11 - 13th, Bolton Landing, NY

By Jim Hurd

    An unusual cross-section of technologists converged on September 11th at Lake George, New York, an hour and a half north of Albany, in the beautiful Adirondacks mountains. The three day Albany Symposium of Global Nanotechnology brought together experts from both the semiconductor and the nanotechnology worlds.

    Given the noteable announcement six weeks before that Sematech - the global consortium of leading semiconductor companies, was contributing to the Albany Nanotech Center ( $45 million to add to the $210 million the state of New York and the $100 million that IBM contributed, attendees knew that Albany is becoming a major technology center, and a leader in nanotech development. The visionary head of University of Albany's nanotech program is Alain Kaloyeros, and the Director of Business Development, LaMar Hill, headed up this year's Symposium.

    A stellar group of speakers updated attendees on the current state of the industry. John Kelly, Senior VP of IBM's Technology Group, Doug Andrey of SIA (Semiconductor Industry Association), Alan Allan of Intel and Bob Helms, President of International Sematech, reviewed recent developments and emerging trends in the semiconductor industry. They talked about the current downturn and gave perspectives on past downturns and how the markets have cycled back up afterward. They talked about the latest innovations in miniaturization in development currently.

    Mihail Roco, Chair of the National Science Foundation and head of the NNI (National Nanotech Initiative - gave a dynamic overview of recent nanotech developments. He reviewed the progress of the NNI since '96, talked about the definition of nanotechnology and then discussed the reasons for pushing forward on nanotech R&D and the benefits that can result.

    He talked about the major programs underway at the sixteen government agencies that have nanotech programs and the increases in their funding that have been approved for fiscal year 2003 (up to $710 million, from $610 million in fiscal 2002). The National Science Foundation leads with $221 million budgeted for '03, with Dept of Defense second at $202 million, Dept of Energy at $139 million, NASA at $51 million, NIST at $43.8 million, NIH at $43.2 million, EPA at $5 million and Dept of Agriculture at $2.5 million.

    Dr. Roco talked about, and distributed, copies of the recent publications put out by the government, including:

    - "NNI - The Initiative and its Implementation Plan" - a 151 page Detailed Technical Report published in June of 2002 and

    - "Small Wonders, Endless Frontiers - A Review of the NNI" - a 57 page critique of the progress and challenges of the NNI, sponsored by the National Research Council. Both publications are available online at

    Dr. Roco reviewed the progress being made on the nine "Grand Challenges" that the NNI has put forth. He also talked about the work being done to develop a national Education and Training program - given the strong need for highly trained individuals, and the distinct possibility that many of the students and workers who come from overseas may be called back in the future by their countries

    Sharon Hays, Deputy Associate Director at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) talked about the challenges that OSTP focuses on - in working to protect the United States against terrorism and to identify and assist technologies with will strengthen the US economy.

    W. Michael Cox, Senior Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, TX, gave an insightful and humorous speech on where the U.S. economy is really headed. Known for his ability to make plain sense out of difficult economic issues, Michael is the author of "Myths of Rich and Poor," which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Michael says that by taking a long-term view, we end up with a much more optimistic, and more realistic, view of where America is headed.

    Capitalism is a system of economic change, according to Michael, - if it wasn't then 90% of us would still be farmers. Major new technologies accelerate this change. And this change, this progress destabilizes the economy. The ability to adapt to this change, to find new jobs, to make major changes in our life, is critically important.

    Michael talked about the importance of understanding "spillovers," - the effect that a major innovation has on numerous areas of our lives. The invention of electricity enabled so many things we take for granted, including the telephone, the radio, the refrigerator and the automobile. Just try to imagine your life today if the electricity in your city was out for an extended period, like three months.

    The second major technology was the invention of the computer chip, which has enabled the calculator, the personal computer, the Internet, and the "smart" appliances, including VCR's, cell phones, garage openers that we see proliferating today.

    He reminded us that Alexander Graham Bell's father-in-law said that the telephone was "only a toy" and that Daryl Zanuck said of the television, soon after it was invented, that "people will get tired quickly of watching a plywood box."

    Michael sees computational biology and nanotechnology as the "spillovers" that are beginning to radically affect our lives today, as profoundly as electricity and the computer chip have in previous decades.

    Miwako Waga, of GETI ( (Global Emerging Technology Institute) detailed the advancements that Asian countries, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China and Singapore are pushing forward now. She reviewed some of the major Japanese semiconductor initiatives, and which universities and corporations are heading them up. She gave an overview of Japan's nanotech research work - in materials, electronics, automobiles, chemicals and emerging baseline technologies such as self-assembly.

    William Flynn of NYSERDA ( (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) talked about the work being done in developing new energy technologies and its relation to nanotech and semiconductors. NYSERDA funds emerging energy technologies.

    Mark Modzelewski, Founder of the NanoBusiness Alliance ( gave an in-depth look into the realities emerging in the business world - in the U.S. and the world - as nanotech becomes a force that business and governments are eagerly embracing. Mark discussed the following:

    - how can the U.S. stay competitive in a variety of important nanotechnology-affected areas when it does not have a compelling lead and

    - what companies are shipping products today that help the average person get a glimpse of the potential for nanotech products in two to seven years.

    This gives you a glimpse of some of the people, the companies and the technologies that came together for the Albany Symposium. Attendees headed out planning to keep a close eye on the Nanotechnology Program at Univeristy of Albany - as the projects in development with IBM and Sematech and others, develop further.

    Copyright Jim Hurd 2002

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