Since the UK’s new nanotechnology strategy was launched I have been either having a crash course in regenerative medicine or getting over a cold. In the meantime, my colleagues Andrew Maynard and Dexter Johnson have both taken a long hard look at the ‘strategy’ and found it wanting. No, I’m being kind, the general consensus is that it is total rubbish that makes the UK an international laughing stock. Why?
- The entire strategy seems to have written by the kind of people who spend the first hour of a meeting explaining what to do in the event of an emergency, such as a leaky pen, and then don fluorescent jackets and hard hats to indemnify themselves the consequences of one of their number being hit by a meteorite. It’s all about public consultation, risk assessment and regulation, in fact anything that involves anything other than having meetings is excluded from the ‘strategy’.
- The strategy seems to have been written by people too lazy to do any research. The evidence is damning as the report makes no reference to any of the previous UK nanotechnology strategy reports, and quotes entirely different numbers. Could it be that everyone on the comittee that produced this monstrosity was too dim to use Google, or simply too lazy?
- The numbers just don’t add up. The report claims that “The global market in nano-enabled products is expected to grow from $2.3 billion in 2007 to $81 billion by 2015” – a far cry from the also derided $2-3 trillion market numbers. I know that one of the organisations involved in this report spent a large amount of money for us to dig out the real numbers, and then apparently chucked it in a bin and grabbed the first thing they could find on the Internet instead. No wonder the UK has such a huge national debt!
I suspect the emphasis on talking rather than doing is because someone in BIS knows the true scale of the UK national debt and has realised that there won’t be any money available to implement anything anyway. Let’s face it, in the six years since the RS report the entire UK nanotechnology strategy has involved the setting up of meetings, agencies, committees and public consultation so that we can worry about possible dangers and improve regulation. Meanwhile important areas, or indeed anything that works have been slashed, the UKs involvement in nanotechnology standards for example or the Nano & Me website.
Can we be absolutely clear? Spending six years calling for more discussion and setting up ever more steering groups to engage ever more stakeholders is not a strategy. Figuring out a way to move the excellent basic science in the UK into the economy would be, but this seem beyond the remit of this report.
Calling four government departments a bunch of dimwits probably won’t get us much work in the UK, but the truth is that we don’t do any UK government consulting work. I was told by a senior civil servant at what was the Department for Trade and Industry back in 2002 that if they gave any work to Cientifica then the Institute of Nanotechnology would ‘go spare’ and as a result they were unable to work with or support either organisation. In the meantime we’ve developed strategies and dug out numbers for governments around the world, and despite being London based we have been roundly ignored by the UK Government who seem far more eager to promote anyone other than UK companies. Every UK nanotech report to date has excluded any data provided by UK companies. Even offers of free copies of our market research to government committees looking into various bits of nanotechnology provoke the same response as if we’d offered them a fresh dog turd wrapped in newspaper.
The real tragedy is that by publishing ridiculous documents like this it devalues the work of the entire science and business community. I know that there are some great people looking at nanotechnologies in BIS, in the TSB and of course Lord Drayson is no fool when it comes to science, but this seems to be a case where the whole is far, far less than the sum of its constituent parts.