The Australian Academy of Sciences in a soon-to-be-released report indicates that the number of nanotechnology companies in Australia is declining from an estimate of about 80 to around 55, and that the technology is simply not finding its way into commercial products.
According to the report, one of the key obstacles to this commercialization is “often dysfunctional” university intellectual property offices. I have covered this problem of poor tech transfer offices before when discussing a Cientifica report that came out late last year that recommended the following in order to start making money from nanotechnology: "Fire 90% of university tech transfer people and replace them with people who understand how small businesses and science based innovation actually works.”
While that draconian measure may in fact fix the problem (or not), TNTLog recently noted that once you overcome that hurdle you are faced with regional obstacles in the shape of poorly conceived government innovation frameworks. This failure of government research policy is particularly acute in Europe as a recent report from the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School details.
There have been at least two short-term results that I have noticed from this inability to get research from the lab into markets.
One is that Lux Research, which is widely referenced for its nanotechnology market numbers that finally reached an apex of $2.9 trillion by 2014 and $1.5 trillion for 2010, has reduced its estimates by 21% to $2.5 trillion in 2015.
The second result (or lack thereof) is that despite Australia’s Academy of Sciences noting the dwindling prospects of nanotechnology in its country, Australia’s Friends of the Earth will continue to portray nanotechnology as a monolithic industrial agent of heartless corporate globalization. Some things never change.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.