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In the online version of People’s Daily, China’s Xinhua news agency reports (“China’s Bid to Establish Nanotech Research Center”, 29 June 2001) that China’s Ministry of Science and Technology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have unveiled the Shenyang National Laboratory for Materials Science (SYNL), in an effort to push forward advanced research on nano technology.
In April, Jiangsu Province announced that research and industrialization of nanometer technology will be one of the main priorities in the province’s new century drive to develop its science sector, according to an official from the provincial Development Planning Commission. And the coastal province of Shandong announced its blueprint for developing nanometer industry.
A leading Chinese nanotechnology researcher has called for a more realistic attitude toward nanotechnology in the face of increasing hype and misdirection about the field, according to a report in the Business Weekly (“Nanotech shrouded in doubt”, by Liang Yu, 17 July 2001). Despite being a promising prospect, nanotechnology still has a long way to go in China before it can bring about any fundamental changes to people’s lives, cautioned Li Minqian, senior researcher at the Shanghai Institute of Nuclear Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Li is also director of the Shanghai Joint Centre for Nanotechnology. “What the sector really needs now is a cool-headed attitude,” Li noted.
You might be able to glean some useful kernels of information about nanotech-related research in China from the website of the Nano Science and Technology Network of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CASNANO). Most of the site is in English.
An article in the Taipei Times (“Nanotechnology’s promise hailed”, by Chiu Yu-Tzu, 16 November 2001) in Taiwan reports on comments made by Liu Jong-min, general director of the Industrial Technology Research Institute’s (ITRI) material research laboratories, at an international conference on nanotechnology held in Taipei. Liu said that Taiwan’s manufacturing industry was one of the nation’s great strengths, but that the shortage of highly-trained professionals in the nanotechnology field was worrisome. ITRI is the lead agency for Taiwan’s program to establish a Center for Applied Nanotechnology Institute.
Meanwhile, on the mainland, at a conclave of Hong Kong-based academics and researchers, concern was expressed over the lack of government funding for nanotechnology-related research efforts. This according to a report from the South China Morning Post (20 November 2001).
South Korea needs to encourage investment in new fields of technology to avert a collapse of the country’s manufacturing sector, according to comments by Park Sung-rok, a researcher of the Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI) in a discussion of a government development program for the next 10 years. Referring to the government’s efforts to foster the four future technologies — information technology, biotechnology, environmental technology and nanotechnology — Park said that of the four, nanotechnology would be the core technology. Pointing out that Korea’s investment in these future technologies is less than one tenth that of the United States or Japan, he expressed concerns about Korea’s future status in these technological fields. His comments were reported in the Korea Herald (“Expert warns of manufacturing sector collapse”, 24 July 2001).
However, another KH report (“Sukgyung AT Co. zooms in on nanotechnology application market”, 27 July 2001) shows that private sector firms in South Korean are beginning to move into the field: “Although the government and some companies have just begun to realize the importance of nanotechnology, few Korean firms have jumped into this next-generation technology,” said Lim Hyung-sup, CEO of Sukgyung AT Co., a venture startup that produces basic materials used in electronic parts.
Concern over Japan’s ability to maintain a position in the first rank of nations pursuing nanotechnology research and development was raised in an article in the Japan Times (“Nanotechnology is seen having a massive future”, by Yosuke Naito, 8 August 2001). According to the article, “nanotechnology is expected to become a fiercely contested area of global industrial competition in the 21st century.”
The piece provides a brief survey of nanotech-related activity in the private, academic and government sectors in Japan, and compares those efforts to those in the U.S. and Europe. The report says, “Amid intensifying global competition, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has designated nanotechnology as a key strategic area of focus for strengthening the fundamentals of the industrial sector.”
“Although the framework of cooperation among businesses, academics and the government is being formulated in the nanotechnology field, Japan should quickly see visible results from such cooperation,” said Susumu Takahashi, chief economist at Japan Research Institute. “In terms of transforming new technology into business opportunities, Japan is lagging far behind the U.S.”
Similar concerns expressed over the last year or so (see Foresight Update #44) have helped prompt greater support for nanotech research in both the public and private sector in Japan.
According to a press release from the Canadian National Research Council (NRC) (14 November 2001), the national government of Canada and the provincial government of Alberta, as well as the University of Alberta (U of A) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to build the new NRC National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. This agreement formalizes the plan for the NINT announced in August 2001 (see Foresight Update #46). “Canada has the opportunity to be a world leader in this emerging high technology field,” said Anne McLellan, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada at the signing ceremony. “This national institute will be a centrepiece of Canada’s emerging nanotechnology sector by successfully integrating and leveraging the strengths of the NRC, U of A and the Province of Alberta in this field.”
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A paper presented by M.C. Roco at the symposium on Global Nanotechnology Networking, at the International Union of Materials Meeting, 28 August 2001, gives a high-level view for the potential for international cooperation and coordination of nanotechnology research and development efforts. The paper, “International Strategy for Nanotechnology Research and Development”, appeared in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research (Vol. 3, No. 5-6, pp. 353-360).
Roco is Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and Chair of the U.S. National Science and Technology Council’s subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET), the coordinating body of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative.
Roco notes that more than 30 countries have activities and plans at the national level in nanotechnology in 2001. Government investments in nanoscale science and technology more than tripled between 1997 ($432 million) and 2001 ($1.577 billion). The increase in 2001 alone exceeds the aggregate increases in the previous three years. He then goes on to say that “Industry has gained confidence that nanotechnology will bring competitive advantages. The worldwide annual industrial production is estimated to exceed $1 trillion in 10–15 years from now, which would require about 2 million nanotechnology workers.” Roco claims that in the United States, the NNI has “unified the vision of nanotechnology and brought its broad acceptance.”
“A transforming strategy for nanotechnology R&D has forged the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, and better understanding of the close connection between technology and society has been formulated (Roco and Bainbridge, 2001). U.S. President Clinton announced the first coherent national nanotechnology program with participation from key federal agencies, private sector and academe . . . This program has stimulated activities in other countries. In 2001, virtually all developed countries have initiated or have national programs in advanced planning. Several countries have adopted coordinating offices at the national level similar to the National Science and Technology Council in U.S.
“Perception of nanotechnology has changed since 1998 . . . The implementation of NNI starting in October 2000 and following expansion of the R&D research worldwide has caused a . . . shift in perception: nanoscale science and technology has the potential to become the most efficient manufacturing length scale, industry and business groups have become convinced that nanotechnology will produce a paradigm shift in economy.”
Roco concludes that nanotechnology is growing in an environment where international interactions accelerate in science, education and industrial research and development. A global strategy of mutual interest is envisioned by connecting individual programs of contributing countries, professional communities, and international organizations.
“Nanoscale science and engineering R&D is mostly in a precompetitive phase. International collaboration in fundamental research, long-term technical challenges, metrology, education and studies on societal implications will play an important role in the affirmation and growth of the field. The vision setting and collaborative model of [the] National Nanotechnology Initiative has received international acceptance. Most industrialized countries are establishing or are planning to establish their national programs. Enhancing communication, networking for exchanges of peoples and ideas, and developing of R&D partnerships are sought for added value in research and leveraging [sic]”.
The paper is available online as a MS Word (.doc) file.
As if to underscore this vision of the expanding internationalization of nanotechnology-related research and development, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the European Commission (EC) announced on 3 December 2001 an expanded program of workshops and funding of mutual research goals in materials science, to include nanotechnology. Under the cooperative program, research goals will be determined jointly by U.S. and European researchers. NSF grants will support the U.S. side of research teams in areas such as surface structure and thin films, carbon nanotubes and the role of defects in materials. The EC will fund the Europeans’ participation. The new program expands on a previous agreement that began in 1998.
“The creation and modification of materials at the nanoscale, once the stuff of science fiction, will be a critical factor in shaping future technologies,” Lance Haworth, executive officer of NSF’s Materials Research Division, said in announcing the collaboration. “Because of the emerging nature of the field, the benefits from international collaboration could be significant.”
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This well-developed site provides an unusually comprehensive source of information on nanotechnology and related topics. In addition to news items, basic introductions, a glossary, and long lists of well-organized links to relevant organizations, there are resources that are hard to find elsewhere, such as a list of white papers on nanotechnology and its links to life extension, space colonization, super-intelligence, ethics, social policy, etc. The “General Information Sites” contains an especially rich collection of links to web pages on utility fog.
The current web site for the sci.nanotech discussion group. This web site has been thoroughly updated and replaces the old sci.nanotech site hosted for many years at Rutgers University. The expanded FAQ is particularly useful for newcomers, and the site explains how to search the two different sci.nanotech archives that between them cover from 1988 to the present.
Editor’s Note: With this issue, we are“retiring” the WebWatch as a separate, stand-alone column. We will continue to point out new and interesting websites as they come to our attention, as well as updates to sites we’ve covered in the past, but in many cases these notices will be incorporated into our other coverage. Jim Lewis will be taking on the “Recent Progress” column reviewing technical advances, beginning in our next issue.
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There is simply no longer enough space in the print version of the Foresight Update to provide even capsule summaries of the hundreds of articles dealing with some aspect of nanotechnology that have appeared in the last few months. Only a few highlights are presented here. And of course, we try to post notices about as many other items as we possibly can on Nanodot.
A brief interview with Dr. James R. Baker, Jr., who heads the University of Michigan’s Center for Biologic Nanotechnology, appeared in the June 2001 issue of American Demographics (“FutureSpeak: Nanotechnology”). While short on substance, the interview does introduce some interesting aspects of nanotechnology to a different audience (demographers and sociologists, presumably).
A pair of guest editorials in major San Francisco and Seattle newspapers called for increased focus and greater funding for U.S. nanotechnology programs:
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Hal Plotkin, who is also the Silicon Valley Correspondent for CNBC.com, writes in his piece (“The Tech Sector Needs A Nanotechnology Target”, 21 June 2001): “As a field, nanotechnology is about where rocket science was at the dawn of the Space Age. Huge early investments in the space race yielded technological dividends that are only now beginning to dwindle. A similar race toward inner space will probably lead to even more lasting rewards.” Plotkin also notes, “Concerns over safety have already led to the creation of a voluntary set of ethical guidelines for nanotechnologists. The proposed rules say a lot about what could happen if something goes wrong”, and points to the Foresight Guidelines.
And in the Seattle Times, Thomas Kalil, a former deputy assistant to the president for technology and economic policy in the Clinton administration, criticizes the Bush Administration’s proposed FY2002 budget (“Cutting-edge small technology deserves big U.S. investment”, 28 June 2001). Even though nanotech-oriented programs in the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative saw a 23% increase in the proposed budget, overall funding for many of the agencies involved was cut. Kalil writes: “Unfortunately, the budget the Bush administration has submitted to Congress will make it difficult to significantly expand the NNI. The Bush plan would cut the research budgets of the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Energy, agencies that all play a key role in the NNI . . . For a number of reasons, however, a failure to significantly expand U.S. government funding for nanotechnology would be a serious blow to America’s future.”
Kalil concludes, “At a minimum, the Bush administration and Congress should work together to double federal spending on nanotechnology research over the next five years. America’s economic and technology leadership in the 21st century will depend on these kinds of farsighted investments.”
Los Angeles Times science writer Charles Pillar offered a commentary that put advances in molectronics in context (“Tiny Transistors a Big Leap for Technology”, 6 July 2001):
“Nanotechnology is being researched by scientists in many parts of the world. The most optimistic researchers project the creation of super-intelligent, microscopic devices that will push computing into futuristic realms. A multitude of micro devices might solve the toxic waste problem by disassembling poisonous molecules, such as dioxin, into the innocuous atoms that compose them, for example. . . . Other scientists remain skeptical, saying that the absence of enabling technologies—such as wireless communications and power supplies—make such advances unfeasible any time soon.”
Piller concludes: “Skeptics contend that practical applications of nanotechnology are still a long way off. But a rush of incremental nanotech advances—such as the Delft University team’s transistor—make it clear that nanotechnology is moving out of the realm of science fiction.”
An interesting and wide-ranging article on the legal and ethical implications of molecular nanotechnology (“At nanoscale, the laws of humans may not apply”, by Michael Becker, 30 July 2001) appears on the Small Times website. The article includes extensive quotes from Robert A. Freitas Jr., author of Nanomedicine and a research scientist at Zyvex Corp., and Glenn Reynolds, a Foresight Institute Director and professor of law at the University of Tennessee. The piece raises some of the thorny issues on regulating new technologies, intellectual property, open source development models, and others.
A strongly worded editorial by science and science-fiction writer Spider Robinson (“We can rewrite Genesis”, 7 August 2001) on the potential for advanced nanotechnology to provide a high standard of living while reducing and even reversing human damage to the global ecosystem appeared in the Toronto, Canada Globe and Mail. Not surprisingly (if you are familiar with Robinson), the piece reads as if it might have been written by Robert A. Heinlein:
“The human race must pursue that glorious vision — if necessary, die trying. We dare not throttle back the machine at this point. It’s a cranky old machine, jerry-built, run by committee, and very low on fuel. If we permit it to so much as stall, we’ll never get it running again: there just aren’t enough metals and fossil fuels left in the ground to start over. . . . All we can do is pray it will run on fumes long enough to get us to nanotech, the Ultimate Gas Station.”
Pondering the question of whether one can have too much Joy, a set of commentaries on the issues raised by Bill Joy in his (in)famous article in Wired Magazine (April 2000) have been posted on the KurzweilAI website. The first is a lengthy article (“Stop everything...IT’S TECHNO-HORROR!”) by George Gilder and Richard Vigilante that originally appeared in the March 2001 issue of The American Spectator. (The article blurb reads, “From Silicon Valley via Aspen, Bill Joy wants to call the police. On science. On technology. On the industry that made him rich. The Left is OverJoyed”.)
In a lengthy response, Ray Kurzweil discusses points of agreement and disagreement with Gilder and Vigilante, as well as Joy. As KurzweilAI summarizes it: “Although George Gilder and Richard Vigilante share Ray Kurzweil’s grave concerns about Bill Joy’s apparently neo-Luddite calls for relinquishing broad areas of technology, Kurzweil is critical of Gilder and Vigilante’s skepticism regarding the feasibility of the dangers.”
For a skeptical view of the potential benefits of nanotechnology, try this editorial (“Itty bitty miracles”, by Jared Kendall, 12 September 2001) from The Advocate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana:
“Every decade or so, a new scientific field is hailed as the answer to all our problems. Usually, such claims turn out to be slightly exaggerated. Such is surely to be the case with nanotechnology, a large field of study being built around the really, really small. That isn’t to say that nanotechnology won’t change our lives. Heck, it already has. It’s just that nanotech won’t solve all our problems. Technology is never as powerful as its potential.”
In the 25 September 2001 New York Times, Gina Kolata has an article titled “When Science Inadvertently Aids an Enemy” in which she looks at both encryption and nanotechnology. Foresight Director Glenn Reynolds and Advisor Ralph Merkle are quoted.
“It is a technology whose consequences could be so terrifying that one scientist, Dr. K. Eric Drexler, who saw what it could do, at first thought that he should never tell anyone what he was imagining, for fear that those dreadful abuses might come to pass...With the Asilomar discussions as a model, a group of scientists and others who worried about nanotechnology formed a nonprofit institute, the Foresight Institute based in Los Altos, Calif. Its goal is to prepare society for the transforming powers of new technologies, and, in particular, of nanotechnology...The institute’s chairman, Dr. Drexler, originally thought that the best thing to do would be never to disclose nanotechnology’s darker possibilities for fear it might give terrorists ideas. But he soon realized that if he could think of these abuses, others could too. So he decided to try to help society prepare for the good uses of the technology and to protect itself against its evil use. Dr. Drexler, Dr. Merkle and others at the Foresight Institute argue that openness is critical toward developing nanotechnology safely.”
A rather morbid but informative article about the potential dangers of advanced nanotechnology and the abuse of information technology appeared in the Montreal Gazette (“Cyber-doomsayers offer chilling vision”, by Alex Roslin, 14 October 2001). The article leads off with a fictional “grey-goo” meltdown, then recaps the arguments made by Bill Joy over the past year and a half. The article then more usefully focuses on current interest in military applications of micro- and nano-technologies, as well as information systems.
The article quotes retired U.S. Army Colonel Thomas Adams, who has criticized the U.S. military for its failure to envision the potential consequences of technologies it is helping to develop: “We are rapidly approaching an event horizon in human development, a point at which the mutually reinforcing trends described here will combine to produce an aggregate result so different from what we now know that it is impossible to guess what it will be.”
An extensive article on the potential dangers and misuse of nanotechnology appears on the Small Times website (“Nanotech’s dark side debated in the aftershock of Sept. 11", by John Carroll, 2 November 2001). The article quotes Foresight President Chris Peterson, as well as Foresight advisors Glenn Reynolds and Ralph Merkle. Foresight’s voluntary guidelines for the safe development of molecular nanotechnology were mentioned as part of the article’s discussion of possible regulation or restriction of nanotech research and development.
An article from the Dallas Business Journal offers an interesting commentary by Rocky Angelucci, technical liaison for Zyvex (“Science fact or science fiction ...”, 7 September 2001) on both the promise and the hype surrounding nanotechnology: “Some futurists promise nanotechnology will cure all ills and transform our lives. But how much of this is true and how much is hype? What is nanotechnology really going to bring us? And when?”
After making some short term predictions regarding enhanced materials, molecular electronics, and other possibilities, Angelucci offers a few predictions. Within 10 to 20 years, he says, “It seems likely by this time someone will build the first prototype molecular assembler. Capable of rudimentary picking and placing of individual atoms and molecules, it will accomplish what today’s scanning tunneling microscopes can do, only faster and with greater precision. The ability to move atoms and molecules will give rise to very simple molecular machines, most likely for use in the medical field.” And within 50 years, “Few doubt we’ll have sophisticated, molecular-sized medical machines capable of traveling in the body in order to detect and repair damage at the cellular level” that could lead to (very) smart materials, artificial intelligence and, possibly, the revival of patients in cryonic suspension.
The October 2001 issue of Chemical Engineering Progress, a publication of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChE), has a brief article on nanotechnology, but it’s rather limited in scope. Not surprisingly, the emphasis is on nano-structured materials and process chemistry involving nano-scale catalysis, with some attention given to carbon nanotubes; the timeline is rather near-term and little is said about the possibility of nano-scale devices.
The November issue of Today’s Chemist At Work, a publication of the American Chemical Society, trumpets a pair of feature articles on nanotechnology. One article (“Manipulating molecules”, by Hank Simon) provides an extensive overview of the development of the system that combined virtual reality and an atomic force microscope to create a nanoManipulator. The system was developed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) and is being marketed as a commercial product by a spinoff firm, 3rdTech. A second feature article discusses organic conductive polymers in really flat panel displays (which you might roll up in your pocket), but the nanotech connection is tenuous at best. There is also a very short item on private investment in nano-materials and nanotech firms.
In a keynote address to the International Conference on Computer Aided Design (ICCAD) in San Jose, California on 5 November 2001, Thomas N. Theis, director of physical sciences at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, predicted that self-assembled nanoscale devices will eventually replace silicon transistor devices. Theis predicted that in 10 years chemically synthesized nano-building blocks will begin to replace semiconductor logic and memory devices, and within 20 to 50 years we should see pervasive use of self-assembly. The address was covered in EE Times (“IBM scientist sees nanotechnology supplanting transistors”, by M. Santarini, 6 November 2001).
The EE Times coverage of the ICCAD program also included a panel discussion, in which the panelists were asked to speculate on which applications will make the first use of nanotechnology, how soon nanotechnology will be widely introduced, and how the technology will affect design tools and methodologies. The panelists included Theis, Philip Keukes from HP Labs and Eric Parker from Zyvex.
An article on the Small Times website (“HP Official: ‘Ignorance and greed’ could spoil nanotech’s credibility”, by Jeff Karoub) reports an address to the Nanotech Planet’s Fall 2001 Conference and Expo in Boston on 29 November 2001, by R. Stanley Williams, a leading nanotechnology researcher and director of Hewlett-Packard’s Quantum Science Research. According to the article, Williams said a major challenge facing the immature nanotechnology field is not the science, but the combination of misleading media reports and venture capitalists looking for the next big thing in the wake of the dot-com collapse. “Ignorance and greed meeting in the marketplace is a recipe for disaster,” Williams told attendees from business, government and academia. “As a consequence, the field will lose credibility and momentum.”
Williams also noted that even though most nanotech-related research in the United States is funded by the federal government, that funding represents only a tiny fraction of the federal research and development budget, and is unlikely to see any large increases. He said most nanotech research concepts currently go unfounded.
For an upbeat but credulous look how the approaching advent of widespread nanotechnology is being viewed outside the scientific community, read the article in the December 2001 issue of Employment Review online (“Miniaturization fosters revolutionary future”).
Venture capitalist and Foresight Senior Associate Steve Jurvetson has an article in Red Herring Magazine (“From the ground floor: The business paths to nanotech”, 15 June 2001) that points out the importance of manipulating information in the development of practical nanotechnology applications, whether they occur via biological or microtechnology pathways. Jurvetson concludes, “With replicating molecular machines, physical production itself migrates to the rapid innovation cycle of information technology. Matter becomes code.”
The views of Jurvetson and associate Warren Packard on nanotechnology are profiled in the San Francisco Business Times (“Jurvetson pins big hopes on tiny nanomachines”, by M. Calvey, 13 July 2001). The article quotes Jurvetson: “We are entering an era of exponential growth in our capabilities in biotech, molecular engineering and computing . . . The cross-fertilization of these formerly discrete domains compounds our rate of learning and our engineering capabilities.”
In a feature cover story for its 23 July 2001 issue, Forbes Magazine highlighted nanotechnology, and profiled six research efforts working in various parts of the field (“The Next Small Thing”, by E. Corcoran, 23 July 2001). Those profiled include Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM, inventors of the scanning transmission microscope (STM) who are now working to apply that technology to very high-density data storage; Harvard chemist George M. Whitesides; Angela Belcher of the University of Texas; Harold Craighead of Cornell’s Nanobiotechnology Center; and Stanley Williams of HP Labs, James Heath at UCLA, and Mark Reed of Yale. The research covered ranges from nanobiotech to self-assembly to molecular electronics.
An article in the UK-based magazine The Economist (“The smaller the better”, 21 June 2001) tries to answer a few questions for potential investors: “After the dotcom bust and the fibre-optics glut, nanotechnology has suddenly become the refuge of choice for technologically obsessed investors. But why “nano”—and what is it, anyway?” The article covers a broad range of ideas, but focuses on short-term nanoscale bulk items like nanoparticles, but also mentions micro- and nano-electronics. The piece concludes: “The danger is that the investment firms’ expectations could run too far ahead of nanotechnology’s ability to deliver. Whether investors have the patience to hang around for the pay-off is the big question.”
A profile of Zyvex Corp. appeared in Darwin Magazine (“Small is Beautiful”, by Emelie Rutherford, 27 July 2001), focusing on the company’s efforts to develop replicating systems. “It would take forever to produce something that can be seen with the naked eye one molecule at a time,” explains Rocky Angelucci, a technical representative at Zyvex, “so these mechanisms will duplicate themselves until there’s a big enough array of them to produce building blocks for products.” (And, once again, we see another example of the endless inability of the media to verify the correct spelling of the name of Zyvex President and CEO, Jim Von Ehr.)
Advances in nanoscience research and development are spurring intense interest among investors and corporations, but many are also wary of “nano-hype” in the wake of the dot-com meltdown.
An article describing these mixed views appeared in Red Herring magazine (“Nano a nano“, S. Herrera, 31 August 2001). The article also describes the efforts of Mark Modzelewski in creating the NanoBusiness Alliance, an international nanotechnology trade association to lobby congress, commission white papers, and conduct symposia.
Similar coverage appeared in The Boston Globe (“Nanotechnology emerges as the next new frontier“, by Beth Healy, 3 September 2001).
According to a press release issued on 10 September 2001, Lux Capital, a venture capital firm based in New York with a strong emphasis on nanotechnology, and McGovern Capital LLC have partnered to form Angstrom Partners LLC, a merchant bank providing intellectual property, corporate advisory and investment banking services to clients in the emerging nanotechnology industry. Angstrom Partners was formed as a Joint Venture between Lux Capital and McGovern Capital, a Greenwich and New York-based investment firm focused on capital formation, strategic transactions and alliances, and intellectual property.
Two high-technology market research firms, Multimedia Research Group (MRG), Inc., based in Sunnyvale, California, and Fuji-Keizai USA, a Japanese firm with an office in New York, released a 150-page report titled U.S. Nanotechnology R&D and Commercial Implications Technologies, Opportunities and Market Forecasts 2001-2005.
According to a press release (12 November 2001), the “study reveals what the important areas of research are, provides numerous tables and figures that show who the thought leaders are, what the key patents are, and identifies the planned budgets of government agencies. Also revealed are the intermediate technologies such as MEMS, which may help the computer industry.” The report is available for $US 1495.00.
The NanoBusiness Alliance, an industry association founded to advance the emerging business of nanotechnology, MEMS, microsystems and other small technologies, has posted the results of a its 2001 Business of Nanotechnology Survey.
The survey, the first in a projected annual series, surveyed over 150 companies involved in nano- and small technologies, from recent start-ups to public companies to divisions of large corporations, in order to understand the current trends in the business of nanotechnology.
The survey report is freely available on the NBA website as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file (about 275 KB), but you must first fill out a brief form.
A commentary in the Washington Post (“Netting Bin Laden” by David Ignatius, 11 November 2001) proposes the use of a number of technologies familiar to the Foresight community to counter the threat of dispersed, pervasive, networked enemies — such as international terrorist organizations. The pieces suggests the use of pervasive, highly networked but decentralized surveillance and maneuver units that include a “swarming” counter-attack may be key to effective responses to such threats.
In his article, Ignatius writes:
“The essential technologies already exist, in projects for pervasive computing and wireless communications that were developed in the late 1990s by companies such as IBM and Sun Microsystems. I’ve attended conferences where technologists described arrays of sensors that would be attached to every appliance in your house, and to every vending machine on every street corner. As you moved through the world, these wireless technologies would keep you constantly in touch with the environment around you — registering your presence to every restaurant and department store.”
Ignatius also foresees networks of pervasive sensors:
“Sensors can be tuned to search for almost anything — from radioactive material to anthrax spores. If people decided they were willing to pay the price in loss of privacy, a pervasive network of sensors could detect every human being present in a defined environment, and instantly signal an intrusion by someone lacking appropriate identification.”
“By embracing pervasive computing as part of its defensive strategy in this war, the United States would be using networks to fight networks. That is precisely the recommendation made by David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla of the Rand Corp.
“The Rand analysts stress that bin Laden is not a traditional adversary who carries a flag, has a national base of operations and can be tracked and targeted by the technologies of the 20th century. Instead, al Qaeda’s cells are pervasive and decentralized. And although al Qaeda has a diffuse structure, it is robust — and hard to defeat with conventional strategies.
“The right strategy in a netwar is ‘swarming’ the enemy, according to a book-length study called ‘Networks and Netwars’ . . . by the Rand authors. ‘Swarming will work best,’ they explain, ‘if it is designed mainly around the deployment of myriad, small, dispersed, networked maneuver units.’ ”
[Editor’s Note: The Rand Corporation study referred to, Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy (2001), is available in its entirety as a set of Adobe Acrobat PDF files on the Rand website.]
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From Foresight Update 47, originally published 31 December 2001.
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