Posted: December 13, 2006

Paper assesses nanotechnology growth predictions

(Nanowerk News) Nanotechnology has the potential to overtake biotechnology and be as profitable as information and communication technologies (ICT), according to a new staff working paper from the European Commission on the economic development of nanotechnology.
The paper brings together analyses of the economic development of nanotechnology, assesses their findings, and seeks to pinpoint those that offer the most economic potential. The paper also offers a comparison of Europe and its competitors in the nano sector.
Most market forecasts stem from the early 2000s, and looked ahead to 2015. The US National Science Foundation (NSF) estimated a world market for nanotechnological products of USD 1 trillion in 2015. Other forecasts vary between USD 150 billion (€113 billion) in 2010 (Mitsubishi Institute) and USD 2.6 trillion in 2014 (Lux Research). Predictions vary according to definitions of nanotechnology and, as well as the experts' degree of optimism.
Today, nanodevices and nanobiotechnology products have the largest markets, estimated to be between USD 415 and 420 million ((€312 and (€316 million). As author Angela Hullmann writes, 'nanotechnology is not yet on the take off point of revolutionising the world economy'.
Dr Hullmann identifies nano-enabled products as the area expected to dominate the market in the future. 'The estimates for the whole area of nanoelectronics are around [USD] 300 billion [€226 billion] for 2015, which covers semiconductors, ultra capacitors, nanostorage and nanosensors,' she writes. Significant growth is also expected for nanomaterials, and in particular nanoparticles, nanocoatings and lateral nanostructures.
The market for nano-enabled drug delivery is expected to increase annually by 50% until 2012.
However, as the paper makes clear, none of these projected scenarios account for public acceptance of nanotechnology. 'Experience shows that citizens' expectations and concerns, as well as perceptions of risks and benefits, have to be taken into account, since they present an important impact on the acceptance of new technologies on the market and can decide market success or failure,' reads the paper.
Assuming that public opinion does not hinder the development of nanotechnology, progress is expected to create a huge number of jobs in the manufacturing sector. 'Unlike biotechnology, many of these companies will work in sectors where company size is less important for research and development (R&D), production or marketing. Once technologically successful, they will not necessarily be doomed to be acquired by a large company,' writes Dr Hullmann.
On funding, Europe is behind its competitors, mainly due to low investment by the private sector. Public funding is however competitive in comparison with what is available elsewhere.
The paper concludes that Europe is doing well, but must reduce the gap between itself and the US and Japan in many fields and for many indicators. In addition, Europe should observe developments in countries such as China, India and Russia. Much will depend on Europe's scientific excellence, and on the extent to which the continent is able to attract and retain the best nanotech workers and researchers and competitive infrastructure.
Source: Cordis