A Nano "Think and Do" Tank
Assisting start-ups with government agencies, investors, corporations, universities and national
When It Comes to Nanotechnology, Where are U.S. Corporations When our Country Needs Them?
by Jim Hurd, Director, NanoScience Exchange
Let's face it - questions are arising everywhere by the public as to whether this "nanotechnology" they
keep hearing about can cause problems we haven't looked into thoroughly. Nanotechnology is not a noun, its
an adjective that describes moving into a new era of technology where we can control matter at the atomic and molecular scale.
It encompasses a wide variety of technologies and products across many leading industries. The public is asking good questions
as to whether nanotechnology is safe.
It is up to the leaders of nanotechnology to help the public understand not only the risks but also the
amazing benefits and the serious opportunities that this new era of nanotechnology is ushering in for the U.S. Our public
officials in state houses and in Congress are indundated by questions about nanotechnology.
Where are the leading corporations, who are spending tens of millions of dollars, if not more, on the research in-house
in their corporations into these revolutionary technologies that will change dramatically who wins and who loses market share.
Almost every major US materials company and every US electronics company has a major nano initiative underway.
I often use the following analogy to understand what is at stake here to the U.S.: Asia is moving ahead in nanotech
commercialization at 75 miles an hour. The governments of Asian countries can pick winners, get them millions of dollars
and plenty of workers and come out with leading products practically overnight.
Europe is moving ahead in nanotech commercialization at about 7 miles an hour - in part because few start-ups come
out of Europe - largely because there is very little early stage risk capital that is invested each year, compared to the
U.S. Primarliy we have seen spin-outs happen in Europe, not nearly as many major start-ups as the US has produced each year
for decades. Europe is so bogged down in studying every possible aspect of nanotech and its effects that it has no speed on
commercialization - it has found no ballance between the two.
The U.S. is moving at about 11 miles per hour at nanotech commercialization. And we feel we are going fast because
we compare ourselves to Europe. But the breathtaking speed that the Chines, the Koreans and the Taiwanese are able to move
at is no joke.
Are we willing to risk our economic leadership because we were not able to communicate the risks, the rewards and the
opportunites to the public and to our elected officials?
It is time for action - by leaders in nantoechnology. It is time that leading US corporations spend a tiny fraction
of their R&D budgets and support trusted nanotech organizations - to work togetrher to help our public, and our Congress,
understand the risks, the rewards and the opportunities.
There are many nanotechnologies the public has barely heard about - the nano-cancer initiative by the National
Cancer Institute that will kill individual cancer cells and end the need for chemotherapy in cancer patients in about seven
years from now -- nano-materials for catalysis in cars that take half the need for platinum away, which is a $5 billion market around
the world -- nano-enabled batteries that will run hybrid cars for hundreds of miles and charge in minutes -- synthetic diamonds
that are flawless real single-crystal diamonds that are developed by layering carbon atoms in clean rooms and enable new
applications for semiconductors and lasers that no one has thought possible -- and nano-materials for 50" flat panel TV's that
will bring the cost of our flat panel TV's down substantially. These are but a few of the truly amazing products that are emerging specifically
due to the fruits of nanotech research that we in the US have funded.
US corporations need to pitch in and work together with other leaders in nanotech - to help the public and Congress
understand what is at stake here. Sure corporations are watching their pennies because stockholders these days only want
to see profits - not expenditures that don't pay directly to the bottom line. What is needed is simply a drop in the bucket
from leading companies - to form a public relations consortium, to give awards out to the leading products, to simply let people
know what is happening in commericalization - as well as what is happening in terms of risks to health and the environment.
It is our future - lets not get so inwardly focused that we find ourselves standing proudly... on a ship that has
been passed by and is bobbing in the foam and wake.