Nanotech Trade Associations? Really?

A nanotech expert at a very large, German chemical company once commented to me, â''Nanotechnology? There is no technology. Itâ''s a Zoo of technologies and materials summarized under the umbrella â''nanotechnologyâ''â''.

I think of that quote when I see all the nanotechnology â''trade associationsâ'' that have formed now and in the past. The latest news I see is that one of them has created a "code of conduct" for organizations involved in nanotech.

I am always puzzled as to what these organizations are supposed to be â''associatingâ''. Is it individual members, who presumably would call themselves â''nanotechnologistsâ'', or is it member companies? Iâ''m not quite sure but I suspect they would accept any Tom, Dick or Harry that would sign a check to be a member.

There is of course the grand daddy of these associations the NanoBusiness Alliance . I canâ''t reproduce the history of this organization, except that I remember it appearing on the landscape in about 2002.

My memory could find no further support, as it seems that the only information about this organization on the Internet is information about their annual conference. Beyond that: nada. There is nothing about membership, their activities or services to their members, no information other than the conference.

The Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance and the European NanoBusiness Association quickly followed the NanoBusiness Alliance in their formations.

The Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance seems to still have an active website for accepting new members and appears to be conducting lobbying efforts for increasing government funding of nanotechnology in Canada.

The European NanoBusiness Association (ENA), for which I have some first-hand knowledge, after running some industry-focused conferences, securing additional EU funding in nanotech from its focused lobbying efforts, and running carbon nanotube standardization workshops, has closed its doors after completing its initial mission.

With such a diffuse group of industries involved in nanotechnology, there seemed little point to continuing the ENAâ''s mission when other industry associations, such as for the semiconductor and chemical industries, could specifically target the needs of its members whether they be companies or individuals.

But that understanding apparently is not shared as there has been a re-emergence of nanotech industry associations. One of the more recent crop is the European Nanotechnology Trade Alliance, which was formed in 2005.

But it didnâ''t stop with the ENTA. Also in 2005 another European nanotech association was formedâ''Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA).

Apparently, these two new associations afford some value to their members as they both display their list of member companies. Maybe itâ''s networking, or government lobbying, or a chance to focus specifically on the issues of nanotech for their respective industries and markets. Itâ''s hard to know for sure, short of asking the members.

My first questions on the face of it are: What is the â''nanotechnology tradeâ'' and what are â''nanotechnology industriesâ''?

My second question would be what do these organizations offer that industry-specific associations that have entire groups dedicated to nanotechnology donâ''t, like SEMI or IEEE?

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