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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > NanotechnologyKTN > How networking and collaboration bring nanotechnology ROI

Fiona Brewer

The NanoKTN's primary aim is to encourage and support organisations to collaborate and share knowledge with key partners in attractive end user markets, to achieve growth of the UK nanotechnology sector. One of the key methods to ensure networking between key market players is to facilitate interactions through events. Dr Alec Reader, Director of the NanoKTN, explains.

July 21st, 2010

How networking and collaboration bring nanotechnology ROI

The NanoKTN's primary aim is to encourage and support organisations to collaborate and share knowledge with key partners in attractive end user markets, to achieve growth of the UK nanotechnology sector. One of the key methods to ensure networking between key market players is to facilitate interactions through events.

To date, the NanoKTN has hosted over 50 physical and virtual events, covering topics from nanomaterials and nano-electronics to life sciences and food. Presentations from high-profile and experienced speakers, along with varied subject matters and unique venue locations, have ensured the events are a success.

Exhibitors and delegates have testified that attending events hosted by the NanoKTN has increased sales and had a significant, commercial impact on their businesses. As a result of the NanoKTN's events, businesses have also made vital contacts that have lead to strategic partnerships. Events like those are of key importance if we are to continue to see the UK nanotechnology market grow.

Bob Carr, Chief Technical Officer and Founder of NanoSight Ltd, comments, "I have attended numerous NanoKTN events and they have, without a doubt, been invaluable to us as a business. They have ensured we stay up-to-date with the latest developments and have allowed us to raise our own company profile and meet with national and international contacts, that have given us a huge amount of exposure,"

Carr continues, "We have obtained sales from NanoKTN events and there is no way we could afford, or would want to miss them. Events like these are invaluable to UK businesses."


The NanoKTN has recently announced the AIM IPO of one of its members, Ilika. Ilika plc (AIM: IKA) is an advanced cleantech materials discovery company. It accelerates the discovery of new and patentable materials using a unique high throughput technologies (HTT) process for identified end uses in the energy, electronics and biomedical sectors. This process enables hundreds of scalable materials to be made in a single, automated operation and subsequently tested for key properties.

The Company has raised 5.2 million before expenses through the issue of 10,147,059 Placing Shares at 51 pence per share. On Admission, the Company will have 36,569,359 Ordinary Shares in issue and a market capitalisation of approximately 18.7 million.

The NanoKTN has supported Ilika since its origins as a spin-out company from the University of Southampton. Its first major activity with the NanoKTN was as a delegate at Nanomission 2008, a high-profile workshop and networking event held at the British Embassy in Berlin. Ilika joined other innovative nanotechnology companies in the UK to meet with German organisations to discuss the application of nanotechnology to the needs of the energy and environment sector. The mission resulted in an 82-fold return-on-investment on the funding from the Technology Strategy Board.

"The NanoKTN has been extremely supportive of Ilika as it has grown since its spinout from the University of Southampton in 2004. In particular, the NanoKTN has facilitated some first-class networking opportunities which have formed an important part of Ilika's business development activities," comments CEO of Ilika, Graeme Purdy. "The NanoKTN plays an important role in highlighting the commercial benefits of innovative materials science to grant bodies. This has undoubtedly reinforced Ilika's successful applications for grant funding, particularly in the area of hydrogen storage."

The AIM IPO of Ilika is excellent news for the nanotechnology industry. The NanoKTN's key aim is to support innovative companies to create wealth for the UK industry. The NanoKTN has worked intimately with Ilika from spinout to listed company and the results have been tremendous.


During the last year, the NanoKTN has been working closely with Covesion, a UK-based SME, helping them to secure funding and partnerships, enabling company growth to exceed 85% between 2009 and 2010. Working with the NanoKTN, Covesion has formed strategic partnerships that have resulted in significant commercial impact on the business.

With highly distinctive IP spawned from the University of Southampton, Covesion is a leading producer of PPLN (Periodically Poled Lithium Niobate) and its magnesium oxide doped counterpart (MgO:PPLN). These are materials that can be used to change the wavelength (colour) of incident laser light. Using their unique manufacturing processes, Covesion is undergoing a rapid expansion, supporting many high-growth markets such as: Laser-projectors (next generation displays), Terahertz Generation (3D Imaging Equipment) and OPO systems (for spectroscopy / material analysis).

Since 2009, the NanoKTN has worked closely with Covesion. By attending events hosted by the NanoKTN, Covesion has learnt about key funding opportunities which have resulted in them receiving funding from the Technology Strategy Board and EPSRC which in turn has helped the company move from being a university research idea to a commercially successful company.

Covesion is the only European-based manufacturer of its technology and currently only sees competition from companies in Asian states such as Japan. The versatile materials offer benefits to many markets including the entertainment industry, healthcare and homeland security.

"Attending events hosted by the NanoKTN has enabled us to link with UK companies, allowing us to improve processing and form partnerships that will enable Covesion to grow in the future," explains Mark Middleton, Managing Director at Covesion.

Middleton continues, "Strategic partnerships are so valuable to companies in the early stages of development, they enable you to move forward and develop relationships within industry. We have met people at NanoKTN events that we now work closely with. We regularly work with local electronics companies that we wouldn't have known were there if we didn't attend the NanoKTN's NanoEntrepreneurs Group event. It is these partnerships that have resulted in the company's sales increasing by 85% in the last year."

It is unique and versatile technologies, like those offered by Covesion, that we need to invest in. Covesion is the only company in Europe offering this type of technology and with the vast number of applications it can be used in, the NanoKTN recognises how vital it is to support. Covesion is working within an annual billion-dollar market and there is no doubt it is going to bring huge wealth to the UK.

Applied Nanodetectors & Kelvin Nanotechnology:

As a result of one of the NanoKTN's flagship events held in London last year, a partnership between two UK nanotechnology SMEs has been established. Kelvin Nanotechnology Ltd and Applied Nanodetectors Ltd, who were introduced by Alec Reader, Director of the NanoKTN, have formed a partnership that will focus on the design and production of next generation, point of care diagnostics for healthcare.

The partnership will focus on the development of breath analysis technology that uses sensor arrays. The companies will work together to design these applications that are able to detect asthma and diabetes, as well as a number of infectious diseases by breath analysis. In many cases, point of care solutions offer patients better standards of living and a more successful course of treatment, and providing a diagnosis whilst the patient is with the doctor can ensure the right treatment is received early, avoiding complications caused by delays.

As nanotechnology is still an emerging market, its supply chain is not as mature and complete as it perhaps could be. The NanoKTN plays an invaluable role in connecting businesses and is critical to the development of a more complete supply chain.

Victor Higgs, Director at Applied Nanodetectors comments, "Presenting and exhibiting at the NanoKTN's events has raised our company credibility and raised our profile both nationally and internationally to our target audience. I would recommend NanoKTN membership and events to anyone who wants to gain valuable networking opportunities for their business."

BHR Group:

The NanoKTN has helped secure over 2.5 million funding for a number of its members, to aid further development into a new generation of fluid lubricants that use nanomaterials.

In February 2008, BHR Group, a leading UK research and consultancy provider, in association with the NanoKTN, held an Open House event focusing on incorporation, break-up and rheology of nanoparticles. At the event, delegates from Infineum, an Oxfordshire-based developer of chemical additives for lubricants and fuels, invited them to join in a proposal for a grant application from the Framework Programme 7 (FP7) Nanotechnology, Materials, Industrial Processes (NMP) call. The FP7 Programme is the European Union's chief instrument for funding research over the period 2007 to 2013, to gain leadership in key scientific and technology areas.

In late 2008, it was announced that the FP7 project application had received approval from the EU and following a period of contract negotiation, the project started up in October 2009. The total value of the project is approximately 12M for a total of 15 project partners to investigate the prospects for overcoming the many existing technological barriers in the supply and usage chain, towards the establishment of a large scale market introduction of a new generation of fluid lubricants incorporating nanomaterials. From the total EC funding, NanoKTN members BHR Group, will receive 1.8M, Infineum 325k and Ricardo Engineering 430k.

Gerry McNulty, Director at BHR Group commented, "The Open Day at BHR Group organised by the NanoKTN in February 2008 has been a very successful event for us. We received an invitation on the day to join a proposal for a grant application to FP7 from the delegates from Infineum and since then have established a strong working relationship with them and the other partners to secure this funding. The support of an influential body like the NanoKTN is essential to businesses looking to expand and the advice we have received has been invaluable."

Infineum's UK Country Manager, and AddNano Project Coordinator, Martin Dare-Edwards, commented, "Infineum has appreciated the significant value of the NanoKTN in bringing together academia, independent research establishments and prospective commercial implementers of novel nanotechnology. Assistance for finding potential partners for collaborative nanotechnology R&D projects is a core role for the NanoKTN".

By hosting events and creating networking opportunities, the NanoKTN aims to support the growth of UK capabilities and raise nanotechnology awareness. Further information on how you can be involved with the NanoKTN and the nanotechnology community can be found at

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