I recently published an article on AZoNano about the trillion dollar market which was supposed to exist by 2015. The comments on various LinkedIn groups such as The Graphene Council and UK Nanotechnology varied between disappointment that nanotech hadn’t scored a bullseye and discussion of how it is impossible to measure the impact of something as fundamental as nanotechnology.
Reflecting on the comments two issues stand out.
Firstly that as we still don’t have a universally agreed definition of nanotechnology in the same way that we agree on what kilogram or a second is, there will always be massive errors in any measurement of its impact. I, along with many others, was working on thin films and surface science and measuring our work in nanometers long before the concept of nanotechnology emerged. Does that count? Is it supposed to be top down or bottom up? Did the semiconductor industry become nanotechnology as soon as feature seized dipped below 100nm? Does it matter? Probably not any more. The various scientific instrument companies I co founded or advised at the time were probably quite happy with the markets they managed to address.
Secondly there is a lesson in here for anyone involved in making predictions. If you predict something that can’t ever be measured then you can never be proved wrong. It turns out that the folks who set up the US National Nanotechnology Initiative weren’t just good scientists they were canny politicians too.