France Bails Out Ailing Nanotech Sector

French Chemical Companies Protest Falling Nanotech Prices

With confidence in nanomaterials companies falling faster than UK house prices at the moment, France has done what it always does best, a government bail out.

The aid consists of giving €24 million to Arkema, and a further €20 million to a variety of other consortium members, or in the words of the Commission

GENESIS represents a total outlay of €107 million over five years. It will focus on developing nanomaterials based on formulations incorporating carbon nanotubes and copolymers with controlled architecture. These technologies should pave the way for the industrial development of materials with radically new properties in terms of mechanical resistance, thermal or electrical conductivity, or optical characteristics.

So in effect, despite Arkema setting up facilities to produce carbon nanotubes by the to hundreds of tons, they still haven’t found a market for enough of them. The background info from the EU indicates that the French government has spent two years already trying to bail out Arkema.

Knowing the speed at which governmemts move, Arkema must have started demading governmemt handouts even before it opened its CNT pilot plant in early 2006 which indicates that their market confidence must have been close to zero! At least it seems smarter than the US model, where a lack of products, markets and customers usually seems to be reason enough to attempt a $100 million IPO. 

I have seen this in a number of European countries but especially France where there are a number of quite large firms kept afloat by state aid with the rationale that if the government did not fund them then this or that technology would not exist in France.

So what we end up with is a kind of nanotechnology Common Agricultural Policy, where companies are paid to produce things that no one wants and the taxpayer foots the bill. Usually when anyone tries to reform the Common Agricultural Policy French Farmers start burning sheep in the streets of Paris or spraying the European Parliament with manure. Goodness knows what they could do with a few tons of unsold nanotubes – it could certainly stimulate the French toxicology sector! 

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