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Championing Nanotech Innovation: Lessons Learned Presented by Christine Peterson Vice President, Foresight Institute Accelerating Change 2004 November 2004 © Foresight Institute 2004 What is nanotechnology?

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Championing nanotech innovation lessons learned l.jpg

Championing Nanotech Innovation: Lessons Learned

Presented by Christine Peterson

Vice President, Foresight Institute

Accelerating Change 2004

November 2004

© Foresight Institute 2004

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What is nanotechnology?

  • Creating and using structures, devices, and systems that have useful properties and functions because of their structure at the 1 to 100 nanometer size

  • Today, same as chemistry and materials science (sexy marketing term)

  • Longer-term: combines with mechanical engineering to give molecular manufacturing

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Funding levels rising

  • U.S. Nanotech Nanotech Initiative $3.7 billion over 4 years (plus military) authorized

  • European Union and Japan gov’ts spending roughly similar to U.S.

  • Other Asian nations, Australia, Israel also competing. India wants in.

  • China has cost advantage

  • Increasing amounts being spent in private sector; figures vary widely; can rationalize almost any number

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Near-term products (< 5 yrs):Mostly materials

  • Drug delivery, medical implants, sensors (bio & chemical), solar energy (photovoltaic or direct hydrogen production), batteries, displays & e-paper, nanotube and nanoparticle composites, catalysts, coatings, alloys, insulation (thermal & electrical), filters, glues, abrasives, lubricants, paints, fuels & explosives, textiles, hard drives, computer memory, optical components, etc.

  • Not an integrated “industry” — incremental products in many industries

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Near-term: Nanoparticles

  • Just one sector of today’s nanotech

  • Positive example: gold-coated particles with biological functionality bind to tumor cells and then heated, to treat cancer

  • Concerns about unwanted side effects. Recent result: control of toxicity by design

  • Regulatory agencies need awareness and expertise: environmental protection (EPA), occupational safety (OSHA), food and drug (FDA). Process has begun, not complete.

  • Similar to regulation of new chemicals

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Tools for looking ahead to advanced nanotech

  • Laws of physics

  • Laws of economics

  • Laws of human nature

  • Result: technological advance to the limits allowed by nature

  • Process does not result in a time estimate

  • Does result in 4th generation nanotech: nanoscale productive systems

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Feynman, 1959

“The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom. It is not an attempt to violate any laws; it is something, in principle, that can be done; but in practice, it has not been done because we are too big.”

There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom

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Molecular manufacturing

  • New way of viewing matter

  • Today, can have atomic precision or large complex structures, not both

  • Want both at the same time

  • Goal: Direct control down to molecular level, not indirect control as today (e.g. drugs, surgery) for products of any size

  • Can change/repair structure of all physical things including human body

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Basis of advanced nanotech:Molecular machines

  • Found in nature (e.g. molecular motors)

  • Now learning to design and build new molecular machine systems

  • Goal: nanosystems for manufacturing complex, atomically-precise products of any size (from cubic-micron mainframes to aircraft carriers)

  • Digital-style control of matter: patterning it as today we write a CD

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Standard confusions about molecular machine images

  • Mistaken for artist’s conceptions (“pretty pictures”)

  • Mistaken for final, immutable designs, which—if not perfect now—invalidate molecular machine systems concept

  • Actually: examples of designs possible with today’s tools plus conservative engineering assumptions: “something like this should work, after iteration”

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Molecular manufacturing of nanosystems (4th gen.)

  • Extreme decrease in direct manufacturing costs (not including insurance, legal, IP licensing, etc)

  • Extreme decrease in pollution: “zero waste” of materials, minimum use of energy

  • Extreme increase in device complexity possible (e.g. medical nanorobots)

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Lessons learned (1976-2004)

  • The following are some lessons learned at each stage of the nanotech process to date

  • Should be useful for other areas of substantial innovation

  • Some things we did right and succeeded with — some we did wrong and paid the price

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Extremely early research stage (late 70’s, early 80’s), pre-competitive

  • Few will understand, no matter what you do

  • Don’t worry about someone stealing your ideas — no one is paying attention

  • Call your new field by a name that no one will want to redefine (not too sexy or generic)

  • Publish in refereed journals

  • Write technical books

  • Avoid the popular press and public

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Very early research stage (80’s), still pre-competitive pre-competitive

  • Hold invitational workshops to find the few others who “get it”

    • Invitational to keep out the flakes

  • Teach a Stanford class on your work so that a Steve Jurvetson will attend and later fund relevant work

    • Not a joke

  • Publish proceedings, refereed journals articles

  • Write technical books

  • Avoid the popular press and public

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Early research stage (early 90’s), still pre-competitive pre-competitive

  • Engage with gov’t research funding process, play the game

    • Lots of funding sources, sidestep those not interested

    • Find research allies, esp. experimentalists, get funding circle going

    • Takes time, political skills, strong stomach

  • Hold invitational conferences

  • Publish proceedings, refereed articles

  • Write technical books

  • Avoid the popular press and public

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Early R&D stage (90’s to now) pre-competitive

  • “Funding gap”

  • Try DARPA

  • Good luck

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Early commercialization stage (now) pre-competitive

  • Probably better not to put nano in your company name or product name

  • Use the term only where it will help

  • Watch out for regulatory issues (nanoparticle report from Swiss Re)

  • Try Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs?

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Maximizing social benefits of innovation pre-competitive

  • Lowering direct costs (industry, w/some government contracts): In progress

  • Lowering IP costs: Keep basic tools as open source?Nonexclusive licensing? (e.g., HTML)

  • Preventing accidents (industry/ government partnership): Doable: more control enables more responsibility

  • Reducing use in war, terrorism (mostly government, w/ industry cooperation): Very difficult challenge

  • Preserving freedom and privacy in a world capable of nanosurveillance

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Guidelines for Responsible Development pre-competitive

  • Foresight Guidelines Version 4.0: Self Assessment Scorecards for Safer Development of Nanotechnology

  • Scorecards for nanotech professionals, industry, and government policy

  • Ongoing process: your comments greatly encouraged


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“Sounds like science fiction” pre-competitive

  • If you’re trying to look far ahead, and what you see seems like science fiction, it might be wrong.

  • But if it doesn’t seem like science fiction, it’s definitely wrong.

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For more information pre-competitive

  • — main site, includes large section on Nanomedicine

  • — searchable news site

  • Abstracts for recent 1st Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology, Oct. 22-24, 2004

  • Foresight Vision Weekend 2005

  • Books: Nanomedicine Vol. I and II, Engines of Creation, Nanosystems