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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > Neil Gordon > Will 2010 be a better year for nanotechnology?

Neil Gordon
Early Warning Inc

2009 was a bad year for nanotechnology. The financial demise of long established nanotechnology companies such as Nanogen, Evident Technologies, and NanoDynamics may be an expected fall-out of the economic downturn. However, the real impact of the financial crisis to nanotechnology is more pronounced.

February 24th, 2010

Will 2010 be a better year for nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology products offer the potential for better, faster, cheaper and more environmentally-friendly applications. In addition they also bring high tech R&D and manufacturing jobs that will be in demand for decades to come. So with unprecedented government stimulus spending one might expect a boom time for nanotech companies on the cusp of commercialization.

However, what we are seeing is completely different. Money is being used to reward financiers for bad investment decisions instead of infusing capital to early stage ventures and Series A venture capital investments. Government investments are being directed at programs that will increase the cost of health care instead of new technologies for lowering the cost of health care. Scarce health care dollars have been spent on preventing the spread of the H1N1 flu virus that killed less than 10% of the infected people from a typical seasonal flu rather than funding disruptive technologies for curing more virulent and widespread diseases. Money is being directed at deploying under-effective counter-terrorism activities instead of revolutionary surveillance technologies for the rapid detection of explosives, illegal drugs, infected people, toxic food, and contaminated water. Investments have been made to finance bankrupt automobile companies to manufacture the same cars that caused the bankruptcies rather than funding disruptive production and performance innovations that will be competitive against extremely low price cars to be imported from China and India. Massive funding is still planned for middlemen to manage and extract fees from carbon cap-and-trade schemes rather than acquiring prototypes and early stage products employing breakthrough energy technologies.

So where did nanotechnology stand at the end of 2009? Apparently near the bottom of the 2009 priority list. Technology ventures including those that employ nanotechnology-enabled materials and devices need considerable financial resources and patient first customers to commercialize new products. Until government agencies, multinationals, and private sector investors are more inclined to purchase early stage products and invest in early venture rounds, disruptive nanotechnologies will primarily remain as science projects and underfunded start-ups.

It may be too early to reach any conclusions at this time of short-term, risk-adverse mindsets, but 2010 appears to be another bad year for nanotechnology.

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