Some years ago, the Gartner Group developed a concept known as the “Hype Cycle” that followed five steps and went something like this:
1. “Technology Trigger”
The first phase of a Hype Cycle is the “technology trigger” or breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest.
2. “Peak of Inflated Expectations”
In the next phase, a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures.
3. “Trough of Disillusionment”
Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.
4. “Slope of Enlightenment”
Although the press may have stopped covering the technology, some businesses continue through the “slope of enlightenment” and experiment to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.
5. “Plateau of Productivity”
A technology reaches the “plateau of productivity” as the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. The technology becomes increasingly stable and evolves in second and third generations. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.
It is pretty clear back in 2001-2002 when the National Nanotechnology Initiative was launched that we were at the peak of nanotech hype, or the “Peak of Inflated Expectations”. One of the authors of a report on nanotechnology, which was intended for “investors” and published during those heady times, became somewhat infamous for a shameless marketing piece that included this:
“So please, get in on the nanotech revolution now. You stand to make a fortune.” – also “The nanotech revolution and the obscene profits it will bring astute investors who get in early – will carry on without you.” – Josh Wolfe
Meanwhile, while some were appealing to people’s greed and ignorance, we here at Cientifica were appealing to people’s intelligence and sensibility when we launched the first edition of the Nanotechnology Opportunity Report™ (NOR) in 2001. While it managed to receive accolades such as, “The N.O.R. will become the defining report in the field of nanotechnology”, it did so without any predictions of vast fortunes to be made or even speculations on its value in market sectors beyond timelines for when its impact will be felt.
A characterization of the first NOR that seemed fair to us at the time said, “Its sheer comprehensiveness and conservative nature is its strongest suit and may help to reset an industry that has suffered, like the rest of tech, from too much hype.” Small Times.
Well, seven years have passed since the launching of the NNI and the first publishing of the NOR, and times have certainly changed. While our competitors slowly came around to adopting (or co-opting) our basic ideas, such as “There is not, nor will there ever be a nanotechnology industry” during this time, now that we are in the midst of the “Trough of Disillusionment” they have abandoned nanotech almost entirely and moved on to the next area they can hype with impunity: Clean tech.
Cientifica has made its reputation from being sensible, and often sensible behavior requires that you not follow the herd mentality.
With that in mind, after a five-year absence, we have just completed our 3rd edition of the NOR, in which we recognize that now is the time that nanotechnology is beginning to make its presence felt in the economics of market sectors like textiles, electronics and drug delivery.
As a result, after developing an economic model that we felt could measure the market impact of nanotechnology and predict rates of growth into the future, the new NOR provides what it avoided before: market sizes and growth rates for all of the key market sectors nanotech is impacting.
We expect that the launching of this report will herald the point at which nanotech moves out of the “Trough of Disillusionment” and into the “Slope of Enlightment”.
We always knew that it would get there, one just needed a little patience to see it come to fruition.