A study, released Thursday by private technology investment group 3i along with the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Institute of Nanotechnology says applications for nanotech are largely misunderstood and investors in the area too shortsighted.
The study includes the opinions of scientists, academics, and industry experts from around the world. It asserts that nanotechnology can contribute to improvements in a variety of areas impacting aspects of people’s lives such as computing, health care, communications, manufacturing, energy and the environment. Nanotechnology is unique in this way, requiring scientists from many different areas to collaborate.
The most successful investments, according to the report, will be in practical applications. Already some of the promising developments improve paints, pigments and coatings for example.
Deep funding will be key to creating successful companies. As evidence of this, strong government funding has helped the US lead in almost every area of nanotech development. Japan and Germany are making strides in the electronic and chemical applications and the UK is a leader in the development of medical and pharmaceutical devices despite modest European government investments.
In order to help the area reach its potential, investors must keep a long-term outlook. ‘Nanotechnology will require sustained investment over a 10 to 20 year period with the support of customers and governments’ says the report.
Startups looking for funding must be crystal-clear about the commercial benefits they can offer. At the same time they must be careful about creating a backlash that nanotech can fix everything.
In order to be successful the report says ‘experts recommend that startups partner with large companies to realize projects they can’t achieve on their own, and bring in people to inject commercial reality into the science.’
Copies of the report: "Size Matters, Building a Successful Nanotechnology Company" are available from 3i on request.