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Economic Impact of Nanomanufacturing Initiatives

Written by: 
Jeff Morse, Ph.D

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National Nanomanufacturing Network: Early projections for global market growth of nano-enabled products–which have increased by about 25% per year since 2000 and predict US $1 trillion by 2015—are still relevant in 2009.

With significant investment for nanoscience and technology initiatives being seeded at the federal and state levels, new models have emerged for sustaining critical research within academic institutions while providing the necessary industrial interactions to transition key technologies for commercialization.

A growing trend for new initiatives around the U.S. includes regional, state, and local collaboration in nanoscience research and development. Such initiatives target critical research and development partnerships for sustainable commercialization of nano-enabled products. Regional efforts are typically established around core academic research institutions providing an integral industrial partnering platform for R&D, technology transfer, and commercial scale-up. The technology focus may be based on key expertise of the institution and target specific industrial sectors.

While most states have embraced this model in order to attract and sustain a new industrial base, the economic impact is not always immediately evident, and may take years to emerge. Impact and success will ultimately depend on multiple factors including size of the industrial sector being targeted, initial funding by state and federal sources, industry matching funds, strategies for licensing, commercialization, and economic growth.

Examples of such initiatives include the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) at the University of Albany-SUNY and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnology Institute (ONAMI), which involves the University of Oregon and Oregon State University among other regional academic institutions. At the CNSE, the Albany Nanotech complex has been built providing a state-of-the-art research and development facility for semiconductor manufacturing. While the center is involved in a broad range of nanotechnology research, the focus is clearly on semiconductor manufacturing and has attracted many large companies in this industry sector to locate facilities and research groups in the up-state New York region. ONAMI is also engaged in a broad range of nanotechnology research, with key focus areas including green nanomanufacturing, advanced materials, energy, and electronics. Last year, an independent economic analysis conducted by RTI International on the Oregon initiative substantiated the creation of jobs and industrial growth in the region as a direct result of the state funded partnership.

The benefits of such initiatives will impact local and regional economic development as industries tend to locate close to research hubs, as well as long term sustainability as the necessary infrastructure for workforce, facilities, equipment, and intellectual property grows.

Examples of these types of initiatives will be the focus of the upcoming National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) nanoRegional Workshop on Regional, State, and Local Initiatives in Nanotechnology in Oklahoma City. The main focus of this workshop is regional initiatives, although discussion will include federal initiatives and programs.

While the business models associated with these types of initiatives have shown significant promise for an emerging worldwide economy, it still remains important to coordinate information, practices, and results from these initiatives, and further develop broad-based models and approaches to commercialization and economic growth sustained by nanotechnology at the national level.

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