Business Transforms What Science Began

Nanotechnology in the next decade.

Did you hear that satisfying thump? That's nanotechnology reaching the tipping point -- and hitting the ground running as an everyday-all-the-time business. What started as a wide open research field has garnered 30 years of maturity, taking it from the lab to the real world.

I'm marking the moment of transformation as March 30, 2011. The signal? That's the day the NanoBusiness Alliance became the NanoBusiness Commercialization Association, signaling it's commitment to a more direct connection between science and commerce. (Full disclosure: I'm a founding member of both incarnations of the group.)

The reasoning? Let's start with none other than the National Science Foundation and the National Nanotechnology Initiative. They believe nanotechnology has entered a second foundational phase that will see a ten-fold increase in the value of nano-enabled products and mass use of nanotechnology.

You can prove out that theory yourself. I Googled "nanotechnology" while writing this column and turned up 12 news articles posted in the last three hours -- all about real-world applications, not research. Try it yourself and I suspect you'll get similar results. Another data point: in the last week, I've run across scholarly articles on how the rise of nanotechnology is requiring reshaping workplace skills, a website that aggregates 27 other nanotech websites, and even discovered the find Nano iPhone app from the Pew Charitable Trust's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.

Perhaps Vince Caprio, Executive Director of the newly named nano Association explains the need best: "A decade of intense scientific research [is giving] way to fundamentally new products that will likely change the way we live, work and play. As billions and trillions of dollars of new nano-enabled products enter the marketplace, there will be a growing interest and focus on nanotech innovation and commercialization. The NanoBusiness Commercialization Association will be positioned to be the voice of nanotech innovation and commercialization."

He also notes that they will provide a platform to ensure that the United States remains a global leader in the still burgeoning field.

Inquiries to my own organization see the same evolution. Now instead of labs and researchers, it's manufacturers who are looking for answers. And, every trade show you visit -- from housewares to safety equipment, construction to electronics -- features nano products.

So, how has this new reality shaped the NanoBusiness Commercialization Association? It's refocusing its mission, now defined in these three tenets:

  • Promoting the commercialization of nanotechnology-enabled products
  • Advocating support for the National Nanotechnology Initiative which moves R&D to commercialization
  • Informing members about environmental health and safety issues and legislation

I'm energized by the possibilities this new approach presents. This group brings a diverse audience direct access to an extensive network of leading startups, Fortune 500 companies, research institutions, non-governmental organizations and public-private partnerships. I believe they'll become the go-to organization, as valuable to companies seeking nanotechnology solutions as for the developers.

If you've been reading this column over the last three years, maybe you're one of us, too.

Scott E. Rickert is chief executive of Nanofilm, Ltd., located in Valley View, Ohio.

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