My colleague Dexter Johnson (aka the Nanoclast) highlights a forthcoming report about the decline in the number of Australian nanotech companies, but it’s hardly surprising. Before anyone heralds the death of anything consider this:
- The global economy has resulted in a reduction of the number of companies in just about every sector of the economy. High streets where a third of the shops have closed are now common outside London, and everyone from estate agents to Starbucks have been rationalising, downsizing or going bust.
- As I mentioned back in 2001, most nanomaterials companies will go bust, some sooner, some later, but there is almost no way that anyone apart from large diversified chemical and materials companies can create a sustainable business in that sector. Of course if you told your VCs that nanotubes were the new gold you probably got closed down five years ago.
- Nanotech has been subject to a large amount of M&A activity, Singular ID being snapped up by Bilicare for example, thereby disappearing from the Singapore register of nanotech companies and joining the Indian pharmaceutical industry.
- Most nanotech companies were start ups, and most start ups don’t survive too long, whatever the sector.
- I can think of plenty of companies making use of nanotechnologies that no one would consider being nanotech companies, so how a nanotech company is defined is also part of the problem.
Of course I’m pre judging the report, and there may be more granularity and methodology than in this brief report. However what isn’t in doubt is the stupid and irresponsible nanotech market numbers that Lux Research keep repeating and which keeps finding its way into business plans and foresight documents. Any business plan that starts waffling on about the ‘nanotech market’ gets binned straight away. In our investment business we interested in tangible and quantifiable numbers not abstract, artificial and absurd concepts.
Now if I was working in a government agency which was being judged on the number of nanotechnology companies created/attracted/sustained I’d be looking trying to figure out how far and how fast I could move the goalposts.