Back in 2006, the respective Spanish and Portuguese Ministries of Technologies announced their plans to each contribute 15 million Euros into building a facility in Braga Portugal, now known as the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory.
At the time of the announcement, I was a bit incredulous since just two years before in a report from the European Commission ''Towards a European strategy for nanotechnology'' it was revealed that Spain (along with Portugal) were right at the bottom of per capita spending on Nanotech. With its 4 cents per person spent on Nanotech, Spain invested 1.6 million Euros in nanotech in 2004.
Essentially, it seemed to me that the Spanish and Portuguese governments after starving researchers and research labs for the most rudimentary tools for conducting research were now going to multiply their nanotech investment by a factor of 10 to give more money to the construction industry.
In the Iberian building boom of the early 2000s, this just seemed like the only way that the government knew how to spend money: new construction.
I may be a bit more hopeful now than I was a few years ago, but I have little to base this optimism on except maybe the projects willingness to present itself in English, to have its own blog, and a general aim of directing the research to ''the creation of societal value and wealth''. But the truth is that the new lab will not be operational until 2010, so a fair degree of faith informs my optimism.
The current state of nanotechnology, at least in Spain, is perfectly crystallized in the news that the Spanish pavilion at the recent nano tech 2009 International Nanotechnology Exhibition & Conference in Tokyo would consist of 22 booths.
While it is encouraging news that such a large number would be represented at the event, it simultaneously gives one pause to examine the makeup of the group. Some companies were represented in the contingent, but it was predominantly made up of not-for-profits, government organizations, and academic research.
But to be fair, when one considers that just five years ago Spain spent only 1.6 million Euros on nanotech, it''s a wonder that there were any businesses represented there at all.