Looking at the 2009 numbers, which you can see on the left or download directly here, things have changed a bit. It’s now a top five rather than a top three, and once we correct the numbers for purchasing power parity (PPP) which takes into account the fact that scientists are a lot cheaper in China than the US (although an electron microscope will cost about the same) the US has slipped from being undisputed world champion in 2001 to racing neck & neck with China for a bronze medal in 2009, while Russia and the EU are racing ahead.
But how much money you have to spend on anything is no indication of success, it’s what you do with it that matters, and that is the real story behind the numbers. Money can be wisely invested, stashed under the bed or frittered away in the pub, and we see all three strategies being deployed in the world of nanotechnologies.
Perhaps the most remarkable change is that from curiousity driven science to attempting to tackle some major issues. We’ll probably see that in the forthcoming Technology Strategy Board nanotechnology policies, and the US, India and China have already started thinking of nanotech as a tool to tackle some real and urgent issues rather than just something that goes on in a lab.