The new Tech-Biz: Designing Nanotechnology

redazione / 15 May 2015

The impact on any society of mindful discoveries has always created the basis for faster economic growth and higher competitiveness with long-term dramatic improvement in quality of life for most of common people. Taking advantage of technology and transforming challenges in successes have always been a priority for enlightened leaders, for instance: the benefits created by those technologies that arose in Europe during the second half of the 15th century were so widespread to characterize the Renaissance period, and help country-states succeeding in the many endeavors of that time.

Or again, no wonders for the further increase in the pace of modernization occurred thanks to the exploitation of innovation technology by private companies during the Industrial Revolution. Nonetheless, in the current bad economic downturn, the increasing size of the world population, scarcity of natural resources and migration-trends seem to represent new challenges for mankind, instead than new opportunities. It is therefore disappointing to realize that, despite the potential role of technology in helping us to overcome these problems, most of government-commissioned forecasts on the future impact of technology in our society go often underrated.

Although difficult to figure out, the extraordinary interest for innovation technology in fields as diverse as automotive, ITC, food or healthcare showed worldwide by almost every company, from NASDAQ and LSE Tycoons till to small Start-Ups, tell us another story. Indeed, an epochal shift is upon us, and this trend could reshape the planet Earth, yet by 2050, as a world where the socio-economic impact of a nine billion people population will be definitely unburden by technology. So probably, more market-oriented forecasts should advocate the exponential growth of new technological discoveries, and their imminent application out of the labs in the real life, as the main reason for more optimist projections. In fact, a window of opportunity is certainly opening up, and the access to this huge market of new customers and companies is meant to revitalize economy sooner than we expect.

Noteworthy, enlightened CEO, as well as ambitious entrepreneurs, are more and more looking at Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale, as the new Tech-Biz. Let’s consider the Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory, an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program, which tracks consumer products claiming to contain nanomaterials. It dates back to 2005 and is now one of the most frequently cited resources showcasing the widespread applications of nanotechnology: as of the end of October 2013 this inventory indexes 1,628 products already introduced into the market, representing a 24% increase since the last update in 2010.

This trend illustrates the growing importance of private corporates and NGOs in technology assessment, roles so pivotal that once used to be led by governments. On the other hand, a number of key questions arise, the main important one is perhaps the following: will be the market itself responsible for anticipating the long-term, societal implications of this new technology? While this is far away from the scope of the present and following posts, specific answers might be find in some dedicated websites (i.e.: www.nanopinion.eu).

As for this article, our goal will be to understand what exactly makes nanotech so commercially valuable. To this regard a brief glance to the fundamentals of nanotechnology, and some indication on the tools currently available on the web will be herein provided in order to give you the flavor of how dazzling the potentialities of this Tech-Biz can be.

Being solely defined by size, Nanotechnology is naturally very broad including fields of science pertaining self-assembling biomaterials, semiconductor physics, solar cells or pharmaceuticals polymers…just to name a few. Nevertheless molecular manufacturing describes any nano-engineered system operating on the atomic scale. To this regard, two main approaches might be identified: the Bottom Up one in which smaller components are assembled into more complex structures, and the Top Down one in which lithographic techniques are exploited to create features smaller than few nanometers.

The tiny dimensions of those nanomaterials give them unique properties, often completely different from the ones characterizing their macroscopic physical state, thus creating novel opportunities of commercial applications. This explains why products underpinned by nanotechnology are forecast to grow from a global volume of €200 billion in 2009 to €2 trillion by 2015. And the employment in the nanomaterial sector, which currently reaches 300.000 to 400.000 individuals in Europe, is expected to keep rising.

If more interested, the readers will find many useful resources freely available on the web, mostly meant to help approaching and experiencing the world of nanotech. Let’s highlight some of our favorites:

  • The Nano Science and Technology Institute, a thematic website which aims to integrate nano and other advanced technologies through education, conventions, business publishing, and research services (see http://www.nsti.org).
  • The Northern California Nanotechnology Initiative, whose attention to the preeminence in cutting edge technologies of Silicon Valley, along with its venture capital, hi-tech industries and entrepreneurial spirit provide a perfect example to understand how nanotechnology can create a competitive advantage and transform a region into a leading cluster (see http://www.ncnano.org).
  • The European Commission website on Nanotechnology, which brings regulatory information to help public and private organizations across Europe to perform collaborative research and development, a key strategy for a more than needed interdisciplinary approach (seehttp://ec.europa.eu/nanotechnology/index_en.html).

Going beyond speculation about unlikely doomsday scenarios, a world renowned Tech-Guru like Peter Diamandis recalls us in the pages of “Abundance”, his 2012 book-manifesto, that “the future might be better than we think”. Supported by this spirit, the present post has opened up a series of articles entirely dedicated to Nanotechnology, and the related business opportunities.

We live in a society plenty of entrepreneurs who are daring to reinvent the future, and our mission is to partner them! The entire iStarter community is particularly eager to welcome you fellow trailblazers and innovators, and help you succeeding in this new competitive Tech-Biz. If you think that our Nanofuture has not been written yet, visit us, come onboard, and have fun designing it the way we like the most.

Author: Mario Ganau MD, MSBM, PhD

Credits: Anna Citerio (data search and analysis), Lara Prisco (cartoonist)