The Sancho Panza Nanotech Lab?

Anyone doubting how hard it is is to get cash out of politicians to build a nanotech research centre only has to look at the the new Spanish/Portuguese International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory in Braga. 

First of course there is the tricky issue of making sure that if the facility is in Portugal it should be headed by a Spaniard, something that was agreed in November 2005

Then comes the process of sifting though the bids to build the centre, which has just been awarded to M+W Zander

Then comes the hard work, building, staffing and equipping. Based on timescales of other European facilities, we estimate that the INL will be open for business sometime around 2011, which begs the question, why bother? 

Other than for reasons of national pride, having a nanotech research centre which comes into operation some ten to fifteen years after the rest of the world will run the risk of always playing catch up. The image which comes to mind is the dim witted Sancho Panza riding a donkey behind Don Quixote’s horse (which may provide a metaphor within a metaphor for nanotech, at least on the business side of it).

However,the lab does have some interesting features, one being its legal status which akin to CERN or EMBL, and the other being its choice of a paper published in Nanotechnology back in 2003 answering the question “What is Nanotechnology.” 

The problem is that world has plenty of world class facilities right now, and Iberia’s politicians should start planning for the future rather than copying the past. In the meantime the INL has an attractive location that should banish any recruitment problems, but will need to distinguish itself from the dozens of other facilities already up and running.  

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