Dow Corning CTO: Nano can expand market opportunities

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Jan. 17, 2005 – In many markets, you have to win the technology battle first in order to win the market competition. With its ability to catalyze innovation across markets and solve a broad array of problems, nanotechnology can help a company win this first battle.

At Dow Corning, we are both technology-driven and, at the same time, focused on the customer’s needs. Our strength is seeing market opportunities and matching the appropriate technology to these emerging opportunities. Today, nanotechnology is a key component of that strategy.

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For example, we see opportunities in lithography, photonic crystal technology and sensors that are all relevant for our silicone business. These areas offer us opportunities to enhance existing products, expand existing markets, create new products and penetrate new markets.

In short, these innovations don’t just impact our existing customers. They also bring us new customers. Dow Corning does not approach nanotechnology as a market, but rather, as a capability to energize existing product lines and open up new markets for materials. That capability must be cultivated both in-house and through relationships with other organizations.

We must, by necessity, have nanotechnology capabilities within our own labs in order to respond quickly to our current customers’ needs. Step changes in material properties and advanced devices can open up new application areas that lead to innovation. It is impossible to predict the market disruptions that will occur as a result of innovation, so a company must constantly pursue cutting-edge, breakthrough technologies and be at the forefront of change.

For these reasons, companies that don’t employ networks and partnerships with other companies and universities can very well find themselves on the sidelines. There is so much going on that it is difficult for one company to do everything itself. Alliances and partnerships that find synergies between our core competencies and those of other companies can create new game-changing innovations — an opportunity that creates value for Dow Corning, our partners, and the markets that we jointly serve.

Relationships with the potential to add value to a large corporation come in many forms. For example, Dow Corning is collaborating with the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, a consortium of companies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Army, to create a nanotech-enabled uniform for soldiers.

Specific features under development include electro-chromic camouflage, a chameleon-like fabric that changes to match the surrounding environment, and smart fabrics that guard against chemicals.

Dow Corning is also working with researchers at the University of Illinois on imprint lithography. We provide the materials expertise. They provide the engineering. The result is a partnership that may lead to innovative materials for consumers while opening up a new market for our materials.

For large companies, nanotechnology will add value by expanding existing markets and opening up selective new ones. For smaller organizations their size and “skate to where the money is” mentality may create many key breakthroughs. Together these partnerships may allow for real market change.


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