Canadians look to long term for nanotech payoff

from the World-Watch dept.
An article in the Canadian National Post ("Nanotech revolution is coming (wait for it)", by Jill Vardy, 29 March 2002) repeats many of the increasingly common shibboleths regarding the emerging nanotech sector, including cautions about nano-hype: "Growing hype and bigger R&D budgets won't change the fact this science is still years away from practical application"

"I think we do have to be careful about managing expectations of the investment community and the public," said Dan Waynor, acting director-general of Canada's new National Institute of Nanotechnology, which is being set up in an engineering school at the University of Alberta's Edmonton campus while it waits for its own building. The $C120-million (about $US 75.3 million) institute, paid for by the federal and Alberta governments and the university, will eventually employ 150 National Research Council staff, 70 professors and 250 students doing nanotechnology research. "It will become a major centre for nanotechnology research on a global scale," Dr. Wayner said. Specifics of the institute's nanotechnology research plans will be unveiled in late April.

"There is a tremendous amount of hype around nanotechnology. But at the same time this is extremely important technology," said James Hollenhorst, director of the Electronics Research Laboratory at Agilent Technologies. "The investment community is interested in really exciting basic science work in universities and other labs … but what's getting attention right now is stuff that for the next 10 years or so will not be ready for real commercial business applications."

Dr. Wayner agrees that we're still years away from the big commercial and medical breakthroughs that nanotechnology promises. "There may be short-term applications of nanotechnology but most experts agree the payoff is 10 to 15 years down the road. We don't know enough about the science of nanotechnology yet to have a clear sense of what the economic impact will be in the next 10 years. But it will be enormous. It will be transformational and revolutionary."

For more information on Canadaís nanotechnology programs, see the Nanodot post from 11 January 2002.

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