Friday, December 15, 2006

ON Hullman (EC) The Economic Development of Nanotechnology - MILDLY RECOMMENDED

Angela Hullman (EC), "The economic development of nanotechnology - An indicators based analysis," November 28, 2006, - MILDLY RECOMMENDED.

Too much here is old news and some of the interpretations may be off bases. On p. 7, the author references Kondratieff, esp. wave theory, suggesting nanotechonlogy may be the next (no. 6) wave in his macroeconomic theory (long-term regularities in the behavior of the leading economies). If you assume the following definition of K-Waves, Hullman may be correct. "K-waves unfold as phased processes that imply S-shaped growth (or learning) curves, including for each particular sector, and over a period of some 50-60 years, a period of slow start-up, followed by fast growth, and ultimate leveling-off. " Unfortunately, she doesn't use this observation in the remainder of the report.

She positions today's nanotechnology "at the frontier between scientific reality and ambitious visions" (p. 7) which is very generous. She correctly observes nanotechnology actually "is a collection of different technologies and approaches" (p. 7) hampering broad and overarching conclusions. She positions her conclusions by hedging on the accuracy of her data which she admits is derivative from other works. She references a study by Fecht et al in 2003 which this blogger admits he had not seen before (I reference it below) but will vet as soon as time permits. She found this report "moral reliable because [it was] more focused on the near time horizon, i.e., 2002-2006" (p. 10).

She adds the remark: "None of the above (referring to market share data, etc.) presented projections include ranges of scenarios that are related to the public acceptance of nanotechnology" (p. 12). She points to GMOs as a metaphor and assumes public acceptance "present an important impact" and "can also have a substantial impact on the global distribution of sales and economic returns of nanotechnology products" (p. 12). This subject still fascinates me and I will try to tease this out in the next few weeks.

She observes while international public funding levels between Europe and its competitors are competitive "European industry is lagging behind" (p. 15). I discussed this briefly in my book and blames structural issues (the European paradox, p. 21) impeding industrial investment in Europe, especially the United Kingdom, when it comes to venture capital financing. She argues VCs are in "the wait and see mode" which is somewhat true, but my close reading of Wolfe's Forbe's Nanotech Report ( over the last few years suggest VCs are investing in the later stage financing of startups when a company has something to offer beyond an impressive patent portfolio.

I did enjoy her reference to Nanologue and their claim "a massive investment in nanotechnology could lead to products society does not need" (p. 16). I participated in this project as a reviewer and did not find that conclusion supportable. Nonetheless, I share some concerns that the flurry of luxury consumables may be counterproductive in terms of engendering and maintaining public support for public investment in the field. Whether luxury product lines are linked directly to a burgeoning "bubble" (p. 16) in the field is less clear.

I must admit that after taking a law course in patents I really did not plan to do much more, but I found the categorization of patents in patent families fascinating (p. 22) and find some significant inferences can be drawn from this data set (an exercise I am confident some lawyer in the field will write upon someday soon).

If there's a race, America is doing fine though others are catching up. This is true on multiple levels, from industrial growth to patent registration. The observation that an Asian research center owned by an American company helping to explain how American research companies register some many patents by inventors with registered Asian home addresses (an interesting spin of brain drain) (p. 24). Again by using patent families, Hullman argues interesting "shifts of centers of gravity" (p. 25) where a nation develops niches, such as nanomagnetics in South Korea and nano-optics in the UK.

She reviews publication data sets but there are too many independent variables for projections from this data set to mean very much.

I was particularly interested in her categorization of China, India, and Russia as "emerging nano-powers" (p. 8) though this case is weakly made and the implications unclear.

She concludes"a bright nanotechnology future" (p. 29) and warns (in a sense) that the US is attending "a great share of its public funding of nanotechnology for military research" (p. 30) though she does not take this proposition anywhere. She emphasizes the importance of "pressure groups and regulatory agencies" (p. 30) in the mix, another subject that deserve even more ink.


Fech, h.-J., Ilgewr, J., Kohler, T., Mietke, S., Werner, M., Nanotechnology Market and Company Report - Finding Hidden Pearls, WMTech Center of Excellence Micro and Nanomaterials, Ulm, 2003.

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