Survey: Nanotech Success Hinges on Manufacturing

01/23/2007
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Also Contact:  UMass Lowell Communications, 978-934-3224

LOWELL ߝ By more than a two-to-one margin, U.S. executives of nanotechnology companies say manufacturing is more important to advancement of the field than basic research, according to a UMass Lowell-Small Times Magazine survey.

Thirty-nine percent of 407 senior executives interviewed said if the U.S. were to strengthen it s R&D capability in nanotechnology, high volume manufacture of nanotech materials and products would be most important. The second place answer, basic long-term research, garnered only 15 percent. UMass Lowell, with its early leadership in nanomanufacturing, is well positioned to work with industry to meet this need.

“Nearly all the executives said nanotechnology is very important to the nation’s economy and to their companies, while 63 percent see the U.S. as leading the world in nanotech R&D,” said Barry Hock, associate director of UMass Lowell’s Center for Economic and Civic Opinion, which conducted the study.

The survey also showed that nanotech industry executives think that government has an important role in addressing potential health effects and environmental risks of the new technologyߞ;an area in which UML research is particularly strong. And, most executives said their firms plan to share facilities with universities in developing nano-based materials ߝ again a place where UMass Lowell, with funding and plans on the books for an $80-million nano- and biomanufacturing facility, is well placed to lead.

Edward March, executive in residence at UMass Lowell, has studied the survey results. “I was gratified to see that the survey validates the approach we’re using here at the university,” he says. “In my view, it’s a tremendous endorsement.” 

Significantly, company leaders were polled, rather than technical managers, so the analysis reflects the business development of nanotechnology more than technology development.

“Since nanotechnology isn’t an industry to itselfߞ;it’s a technical enabler and cuts across many industries and applications,” says March, “it’s difficult to pin down where progress can take place. The survey asks, ‘What can we do with this technology from a business perspective? What are the market opportunities and barriers? And, what are our strengths where we can benefit most rapidly?"

On the executives’ interest in shared prototyping facilities, March notes that nanotech is capital intensive, requiring sophisticated instrumentation and precision equipment. As the University develops its common-use facility of expensive, specialized equipment, sale of services can offset costs and provide real-world experiences for students.

The survey was conducted jointly by the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Small Times Magazine, which published the results on Jan. 12.  The full report and survey can be accessed from www.MassEconomy.org. Click on a top box, “Nano Survey says.”
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