Realism on the size of nanotechnology market

Realism on the size of nanotechnology market

Michael Berger of the useful Nanowerk website has produced a clarification essay on the size of the nanotechnology market, helping to put the hype in perspective. Some excerpts:

First of all, these market size forecasts are dealing with what is called evolutionary nanotechnology. The goal of evolutionary nanotechnology is to improve existing processes, materials and applications by scaling down into the nano realm and ultimately fully exploit the unique quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale. This trend is driven by companies’ ongoing quest to improve existing products by creating smaller components and better performance materials, all at a lower cost…

By contrast, truly revolutionary nanotechnology envisages a bottom-up approach where functional devices and entire fabrication systems are built atom by atom. There is no way today to put a market value on this visionary technology and its hypothetical products and it is therefore not covered in any of the nanotechnology market size reports…

But seriously, what is the practical value of knowing the market size for nanotechnology-enabled products if soon almost everything will be nanotechnology-enabled (at least by the definitions used in the market sizing reports)? The recent Cientifica paper states: … an enabling technology that supports other industries will not ever be considered a stand-alone industry…. Quite rightly so. So why then try constructing an artificial market for of a wide range of enabling nanotechnologies by adding up the value of all products that somehow benefit from these technologies?…

…these trillion-dollar forecasts for an artificially constructed “market” are an irritating, sensationalist and unfortunate way of saying that sooner or later nanotechnologies will have a deeply transformative impact on more or less all aspects of our lives.

You tell ’em, Michael. —Christine

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  1. Marc Demarest April 19, 2007 at 8:19 am - Reply

    I would think that anyone who is committed, excited or otherwise positive on the notion of a world in which evolutionary and revolutionary nanotechnology shape many aspects of our daily lives would welcome any and all attempts to size — that is, attach dollar values and growth rates — to the “nanotech market.” This is a clear sign that the nanotechnology phenomenon (in the neutral sense of that term) is of interest to capital — that is, that investment capital is prepared to consider committing itself to the market.

    That is, in my view, “the practical value of knowing the market size for nanotechnology-enabled products….”

    The fact that the sizing estimates we see are crude at best and sometimes laughably so is something most people — including those managing investment capital — recognize. They will get better — that is to say, more predictive of a future reality — as time goes on, as we understand which traditional markets — fibers, building materials, etc. — are most directly impacted by evolutionary nanotechnological methods and materials and to what degree, and the modeling shifts to “nanofabrics” or some similar constructs closer to the market categories we habitually trade in today (and which more easily recognizable by ordinary folk).

    The market sizing efforts we see today are an important sign of market maturation, and as such I welcome them. The sooner we all know about and discuss something called the “nanofabrics market” or the “nanomedical devices market” using forward-looking market metrics supplied by a reputable market-maker, the better. To get there, we first have to go through a period in which less-reputable (and sometimes downright suspicious) market-makers present us with bad sizing, absurb compound annual growth rates, and untenable modeling assumptions. This is how market maturation works.

    Bring on the bad models, I say.

  2. Tim Harper April 27, 2007 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    Please don’t tar everyone with the same brush. We already have accurate market numbers for many industry sectors, and this white paper is just an excercise in adding them all together. These are developed in conjunction with industry, economists, and experts in technology diffusion. However I agree that there are many “less-reputable (and sometimes downright suspicious)” market numbers out there.

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