There's no question about it. The future is nanotechnology. Just this year, worldwide expenditures in nano-technology R&D will reach $8.6B.
According to data from luxresearch's (New York, N.Y.), The Nanotech Report 2004, "the US government alone has spent $3.16B since 2000 on advancing nanotechnology, with proposed expenditures just short of another $1B for 2005." And, in terms of corporate investment, North American companies will spend an additional $1.7B on nanotechnolgy R&D in 2004.
In addition to semiconductors, (bio)pharmaceuticals and medical devices, an ever-growing list of applications will play host to some implementation of nanotechnology. With each new application and product will come new opportunities for the contamination control industry.
But, how much of this home-seeded research will actually end up being home-produced? The report also notes that Asian firms are close behind North American companies in nanotechnology investment ($1.4B this year). And, most importantly, that "Japanese companies will productize nanotechnology more rapidly than the U.S. ...because of their focus on product development rather than fundamental nanotech building blocks." Beyond Asia, five non-U.S. (Europe/Australia) life-science companies already have nano-enabled products on the market or in FDA clinical trials.
Today, nanotechnology dollars are being spent on R&D, but production is where the revenue, jobs and investment will be. Inevitably, along with the export of production also goes production expertise and advanced production (including contamination control) technology. Though some will say that this point is irrelevant because the U.S. will remain a center of R&D and continue to innovate and develop next-generation science, I'm not so sure. U.S. companies, or rather the amount of world capital held by some U.S.-based investors, will no doubt continue to grow, but I'm not convinced that universities, research facilities and licensing fees can support the U.S. economy alone.
The advent of nanotechnology is not just another data point in the steady progression of science, it's comparable to the arrival of the machine and electronic ages—events which both clearly reshaped the world in just a few decades. The time is now to ensure that our Government and corporations invest not only in developing next-generation science and technology but also in the tools, facilities and people needed to turn them into U.S.-made products.
Editor in Chief