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Championing Nanotech Innovation: Lessons Learned

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  1. Championing Nanotech Innovation: Lessons Learned Presented by Christine Peterson Vice President, Foresight Institute Accelerating Change 2004 November 2004 © Foresight Institute 2004

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. Differential gear (cutaway)

  11. 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”

  12. Fine motion controller, partial

  13. Atom contact bearing model(~2 nanometers)

  14. Convergent assembly using highly parallel systems

  15. 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)

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. Very early research stage (80’s), still 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

  19. Early research stage (early 90’s), still 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

  20. Early R&D stage (90’s to now) • “Funding gap” • Try DARPA • Good luck

  21. Early commercialization stage (now) • 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?

  22. Maximizing social benefits of innovation • 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

  23. Guidelines for Responsible Development • 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 •

  24. “Sounds like science fiction” • 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.

  25. For more information • — 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