Report Slams Impact, Slow Pace Of Nanotech Research

A new study raises questions about where the global nanotech funding is actually going, and says current levels of government investment will likely show little commercial return.

LONDON — A market research group specializing in tracking developments in nanotechnology has hit out at the pace of commercialising the technology and the lack of commercial impact of nanotechnologies despite $18 billion of public funding since 1997.

Cientifica, based here, says it interviewed government funding agencies and researchers around the world, and finds that many of them have only just begun working on nanotechnologies while government funding is harder to get than imagined.

The just published report, called “Where Has My Money Gone? Governemnt Nanotechnology Funding and the $18 billion Pair of Pants”, concludes that Japan spends three times as much on the technology as a proportion of its gross domestic product as the U.S.

In 2005 global government spending on nanotechnologies totalled $4.8 billion, according to the Cientifica researchers.

They say government nanotechnology funding takes an average of two to three years before it even reaches the lab, and consequently the impact of nanotechnology will only start to be felt from 2007 onwards.

It also warns that much of the government spending is concentrated on research areas with little immediate commercial impact.

Commenting on the findings, Cientifica CEO Tim Harper said: "Only by talking to the people at the coal face of nanotechnology, the research labs, can you get a real idea of what nanotechnology is all about. These people speak a very different language from that of Wall Street, and the story that emerges is very different from the hype and over expectation that we have come to associate with nanotechnology."

Last week, a separate report pointed to the environmental concerns associated with nanotechnology.

It suggested controlling the adverse environmental effects of the technology would be difficult under existing U.S. regulations, and that new laws may be required to manage potential risks.

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