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Take the NCMS survey, but first figure out your nano position

I recommend taking the new survey out by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) – — but you may first want to give some thought as to what is and what isn’t “nanotechnology.” That’s been something of a puzzle for the semiconductor and related industries over the last 10+ years. Some put semiconductor manufacturing, where matter is regularly manipulated on an atomic scale, squarely in the nanotechnology camp. Judging by Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) definitions, this is surely the case: “Nanotechnology is the creation, characterization and application of novel materials, devices and systems by control or restructuring of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 – 100 nanometers,” read the NNI definition, which includes nanomanufacturing as “the repeatable building of materials, structures, components, devices and systems designed with nanoscale features.”

Others say no, that’s just really small, it’s only nanotechnology when it takes advantage of the very unique properties of carbon nanotubes, silicon nanowires, quantum dots and other materials and structures which operate on the nanoscale.

Of course, compounding the confusion is the chase for nanotechnology-earmarked funding. Seven or eight years ago, it seems as if overnight everything that was branded semiconductor technology was relabeled as nanotechology. Although it seems to be the fervor has died down a bit, there’s clearly been been increased interest in materials such as CNTs and silicon nanowires in the semiconductor industry lately, particularly as the search for next generation “gate-all-around” transistors and post-CMOS switching technology heats up.

Perhaps there are ways for the U.S. government to help fund such efforts? Figuring that out is one of the goals of the survey.

Themed “Achieving Sustainable Nanotechnology Products,” the goal of the 2014 study is to document best practices in nano-product development and integration, and identify the common challenges organizations (academia, government labs, start-ups or established corporations) face in transitioning nano-scale advances from the laboratory into sustainable commercial applications. Due to the importance of the subject and massive public-private investments made in nanotechnology, NCMS is polling a broad cross-section of U.S. industry.

For this survey, “sustainable nanotechnology products” are defined as market-oriented products engineered by leveraging nano-scale features using materials and processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and resources, are safe for employees, end-users and consumers, and are economically sound.

You are urged to the brief survey if your organization’s activities in nanotechnology meet one of the following National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) definitions:

Nanotechnology is the creation, characterization and application of novel materials, devices and systems by control or restructuring of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 – 100 nanometers.

Nanomanufacturing is the repeatable building of materials, structures, components, devices and systems designed with nanoscale features.

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) has partnered with the National Science Foundation under the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) to launch this latest study of commercialization trends in nanotechnology and nanofabrication– previous studies were performed in 2003, 2006 and 2009.

In the 2009 study, aggregate results indicated that nearly 25% respondents’ organizations were already marketing products and instruments incorporating nanotechnology, and about 85% expected to commercialize products by 2013. Current applications were dominated by nanomaterials (e.g. nano-structured catalysts, carbon nanotubes, quantum dots, nanowires and dopants), complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS)-based electronics/semiconductor manufacturing processes, as well as other silicon-based energy conversion process industries that leverage similar large-scale fabrication equipment, thin-film coating processes, and closed-environment handling systems. Diverse nanotechnology-enabled, miniaturized biomedical and diagnostic devices, designer drugs and targeted therapies were also progressing, with early products such as nanoemulsions and viricides in advanced clinical trials.

Senior executives and researchers in stakeholder organizations are encouraged to share their experience and opinions about nanotechnology development in the U.S. Individual responses are kept confidential and the data will only be used in the aggregate. NCMS’ insightful reports are widely distributed to federal and state agencies, and elected representatives. All survey respondents will receive the insightful study results in advance of public release this summer. The 15-minute interactive survey may be accessed at until March 15, 2014.

Questions cover the stage of your commercial entity, the top 3 goals, the urgency of your commercialization efforts, overall capacity, infrastructure, prioritization challenges and what you view as the government’s role in the development of nanotechnologies.

Although the survey is directed at U.S.-based companies, all are welcome to participate.

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