Nanoscale Technology Strategy 2009-12

The UK’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) has launched a new four year plan for nanoscale technologies.  Google can’t seem to find it, but you can download the NanoscaleTechnologiesStrategy file here.

The strategy aims to achieve the following objectives: – Further develop knowledge transfer and collaboration in the emerging field of nanoscale technologies between academia and industry – Encourage collaboration with Research Councils – Work to promote responsible commercialisation of nanotechnologies – Further develop appropriate approaches to working with Europe for UK benefit – Working towards a common  UK Government strategy for nanotechnology. Following on from the publication of the strategy, the Technology Strategy Board hopes to discuss priority areas of focus with the business community and establish where we can offer help and advice through our activities.

There’s plenty of the usual stuff about engaging industry and some rather shaky looking predictions for markets, but while setting up web sites and engaging industry and leveraging European money is all fine, there’s little in there to tackle the fundamental problem facing the UK, the lack of nanotechnology industry! So here’s our strategy for 2009-12

  1. Support basic research. While we know a lot more than we used to about nanotechnologies we are still at an early stage. It has taken biotech thirty years to get this far, and nanotech will face a similar long haul.
  2. Create more spin outs. There is no point in supporting something that doesn’t exist. The cash will be sucked up by the usual bunch who haven’t moved nanotech forward one iota. A system of small, no strings attached grants for technology based start ups would encourage university spin outs and support them through that difficult first year of product development.
  3. Address the issues of process and manufacturing. The UK trumpets about a wide range of open access facilities, but how many of them actually do what is needed by business? The key to getting to market is moving a lab based process to an industrial process, meaning not just scale up, but quality control and reproducibility. Leveraging the UKs strengths in pharma and chemicals is an obvious place to start.
  4. Cut regulation for start ups – employers national insurance contributions, corporation tax and demands for information from the Office of National Statistics dissuade companies from expanding. Funding start ups to employ people is surely better than funding people to be idle.
  5. Fire 90% of university tech transfer people and replace them with people who understand how small businesses and science based innovation actually works.
  6. Stop forcing organisations such as the TSB to add conditions such as “invest only in those activities that recognise the need for sustainable development” to their funding criteria. It is a meaningless condition, simple to circumvent and wastes everyone’s time.

OK chaps, let’s get on with it.

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