UK Venture Capitalists ponder nanotech

Commercial opportunities are being trumpeted by FirstStage Capital, a venture capital firm in the United Kingdom. The firm recently issued a brief overview (Nanotechnology Today-Reality or Hype?) of these opportunities as a prelude to an investment-oriented seminar the company hosted on 5 December 2001. According at a press release (5 December 2001), over 130 venture capitalists and academics attended. According to the release, "The panel of leading academics and venture capitalists agreed that while the quality of technology in Europe and the US is similar, the opportunities in Europe tend to be much closer to commercialisation than in the US, and hence more attractive in todayís environment from a venture capital investment perspective. Europe is particularly strong in materials, tooling and precision engineering, all pre-requisites for successful exploitation of nanotechnology."

Additional coverage of the seminar, as well as a more extensive presentation of the views of investors and researchers in the U.K., is available in an article on the Small Times website ("U.K. tries to strick balance between the science and business of nanotech", by Guy Paisner, 7 December 2001). The article sounds a more cautions note: "As nanotechnology prepares to leave the laboratory and enter the marketplace, investors are circling around Great Britain's academic centers. But unlike the United States, the United Kingdom is not renowned for its ability to mix academia with business, and a degree of confusion exists over how nanotechnology research should be funded. . . . In the United Kingdom, government funding allows for long-term research that is largely untainted by a commercial agenda. But venture capital is desperately needed to unlock the commercial potential from the ivory towers of academia."

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