One of the biggest problems facing nanoscience is moving from pottering around in a lab doing something fascinating to translational research, i.e. taking that process or material and moving it in the direction of something that may be of use to someone for reasons other than writing publications. In the early days of nanotech, with investors fired up be the ‘new industrial revolution’ and mixing up nanoscience with the more far flung ideas about nanobots and terrforming Mars, starting up companies to cash in on the coming boom was relatively easy.
In 2010, given the current economic climate, it is much harder to raise any funding, and almost impossible to winkle scientists out of a lab job into the risky world of start up companies. As a result, much of the potential of nanotech risks either going unexploited for a while, or getting transferred only into large well funded companies, which is a shame.
There are ways around this, and Taiwan’s ITRI has just launched a Global Nano Innovation Contest to try to
- Develop nanotechnology prototyping capability for practical applications with universal appeal.
- Emphasize higher, system-level integration of prototypes, to spur the creation of a wider diversity of high-value nanotechnology applications.
- Establish an international platform promoting collaboration on nanotechnology.
The top prize is US$15,000, and full details are here.
One word of caution, I’m one of the judges!