I spent the last few days in various oil exporting nations, although the contrast between Saudi Arabia and Norway could hardly have been greater (despite Bergen experiencing a most unseasonal heatwave). At the Nanomat meeting (already blogged by Richard Jones here) , which has swelled from around a hundred participants at the first one I attended to almost three hundred this year, there was a certain amount of concern that Norway, despite having a huge budget surplus, is still investing too little in R&D.
When discussing nanotech funding, it is always useful to show this chart, showing the lack of any meaningful correlation between R&D spending and sales growth. Of course this is a rather inexact science, and I have seen other studies which indicate a strong correlation between R&D and sales, but the messsage remains the same – simply chucking money at things doesn’t work.
Looking at the Norwegian situation, it is positive that the research council has spent a lot of time and effort developing a nanotechnology strategy, and can produce a plethora of enthusiastic researchers to illustrate that the strategy is working.
The next, and trickier part of the process will be to get some kind of economic return on the investment in nanoscience, through transferring the academic knowledge gained into useful technologies for Norwegian industries.
It is always tricky, giving an overview of the economics of technology diffusion to a mainly academic audience but it usually works. If you want to see the numbers for yourself, you can download the latest presentation here.