The European NanoBusiness Association was launched recently in Brussels, Belgium, with the goal of providing a neutral platform upon which the business, academic, and financial communities can come together for the benefit of Europe’s nanotechnology initiative.
“In order to get nanotechnology out of the lab and into industry and have it being used,” explained association Executive Director Tim Harper, “we have to bridge the chasm between science and business.”
Harper told WaferNews that technology in Europe has often been a problem because while there is an “excellent research base on an academic level, turning that research into world-class companies has been better in the US and Japan.”
The aim of the association is to bring together all parties interested in nanotechnology and to help plug the gaps in expertise.
Specifically, the European NanoBusiness Association intends to:
- Discuss and promote the development of a dynamic nanotechnology industry;
- Build a common forum in which to rapidly share and disseminate well-researched and realistic information for its members and for public education;
- Promote the development of promising technology arenas;
- Connect its members with the local and global nanotechnology communities; and
- Monitor and benchmark Europe’s competitive position in relation to the building and commercialization of nanotechnology.
“One of the first things we’re doing,” Harper remarked, “is setting up meetings across Europe with the idea of setting up a grass roots organization.”
Harper said that the meetings would bring together local government, financial organizations, and industry in order to find out exactly what nanotechnology is, and what it means. “Once we bring these people together, hopefully they can find synergies themselves at a local level.”
The association is non-profit and completely neutral, explained Harper, a major plus because “the nanotech industry is so diverse and cuts across so many vertical markets, you really need to bring people together in a neutral forum.”
The association does not make commission on any deals created, and does not charge for published reports or studies. Members need only pay a membership fee for admission.
Aside from the informal meetings, Harper said that every six months there would be a benchmarking exercise, which would bring together businesses, science, and governments from all over Europe and compare how the region is doing compared to the rest of the world. “We want to identify what we’re doing well, identify best practices, and see what we’re not doing very well.”
For its third action point, the European NanoBusiness Association plans to host an annual conference/trade show that would bring together organizations and people. Harper said he hopes that the meetings, shows, and benchmarking exercises will identify strategies that work, and bring nanotechnology out of research and development and into reality.
Harper commented that a large obstacle facing Europe’s nanotech industry is that “one can see a huge difference in attitude in the commercialization of nanotech from wild enthusiasm to ‘couldn’t care less.'”
He noted that Europe’s major economies like Britain, France, Germany, and Switzerland, for example, have a strong technology component and have strong interest in nanotechnology. However, Harper went on to remark that some other countries with less technology aren’t “quite on the ball yet.”
The association is committed to explaining to the public that there is a strong need for nanotechnology – the public including everyone “from the man on the street to prime ministers and presidents.”
He noted that when people think of nanotechnology, they often think of mini submarines in the bloodstream or nano-robots.
“That is science fiction, and it’s important to know the difference,” he commented. “You can’t build business on nano-robots. Some of those sexy things can happen, but that’s not what nanotechnology is.”
Nanotechnology can be found today in pants, trucks, and even ski wax, Harper said. “It’s not something that is five, 10, or 50 years in the future. It’s now.”