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November 19th, 2007
Many high technology firms rather signal than actually do nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is forecasted to be among the most significant technologies of the current century, and one of the important megatrends of this decade. Nanotechnology refers to a size scale of one billionth of a meter, and to the new physical phenomena the size scale reveals. It is currently being applied e.g. in sensors, diagnostics, materials and the memories of computers. In her PhD thesis, Granqvist studies the emergence of nanotechnology as a domain of public investment and business activity in Northern Europe and USA. She interviewed some 60 people and analyzed over 200 publications for her research.
The thesis reveals that the emergence of new technologies is enabled by various parallel processes. The roots of nanotechnology are, on the one hand, in the development of science and technology towards ever smaller size scale since the 1950s. On the other hand, the very creation and dissemination of the concept in the American science fiction literature played a role in its wider dissemination. Due to political processes, nanotechnology became established to refer to research and development in the very small size scale. The birth of nanotechnology in Finland was aligned with the global development. However, the form and function it took reflected the local competences and institutions. The Finnish nanotechnology program in 1997-1999 was one of the first nanotechnology programs globally. Launching the program was enabled by the visions and autonomy of experts in the public funding organizations, as well as researchers' international networks and established competencies in nanotechnology related areas.
Granqvist also investigated how nanotechnology was transferred from research to business. Companies have certain reputational and visibility related benefits from being associated with novel technologies. However, the research shows that companies that are attracted by new technologies signal nanotechnology even though their activities would not reach into that size scale. According to the research, up to half of the companies signaling nanotechnology do not match the widely accepted definitions for the technology. Further, only small part of the business and revenues of most true nanotechnology companies' business come from these technologies. In addition to this, many true nanotechnology firms do what they have always done, but now under the new nano-label.
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