UK: We lost nano lead

April 5, 2004 – Inadequate government support has cost the UK its early lead in nanotechnology development, according to the Financial Times. A report from the House of Commons’ science and technology committee claims that the US and Japan had surpassed the UK in nanotechnology development, despite a 90 million GBP ($164.6 million) investment from the Department of Trade and Investment judged to be too spread out to make a difference.

“The [investment] over six years on offer from DTI would have been better spent on the establishment of one or two nanofabrication [centers],” the report claimed. By comparison, Japan will have poured 200 billion GBP ($365.9 billion) into nanotechnology development between 1980 and 2010, and the US is spending 2 billion GBP ($3.66 billion) over the next four years, according to Julia King, CEO of the Institute of Physics. “To ensure the UK has a future in nanotechnology, it must have realistic and sustainable funding, a trained skilled workforce, and an increased role of industry in nanotechnology,” she declared.

Committee member Robert Key acknowledged that large companies are working to commercialize nanotechnology, but that smaller firms weren’t pursuing it with equal fervor, a behavior that will result in nanotechnology developments being introduced outside the country “unless we pull our socks up very quickly.”

Government isn’t the only one at fault, according to industry analyst Mike Mitchell. “The big issue is getting academics talking to industrialists talking to venture capitalists talking to the City, and finding the right people to facilitate that.”


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