Posted: September 24, 2007

Survey identifies nanotechnology skills gaps

(Nanowerk News) The Institute of Nanotechnology in an action part funded by the European Commission has completed the Nanotechnology Skills and Training Survey. The objective of the nanotechnology skills and training survey was to identify the skills gaps and training needs of the workforce in the emerging area of nanoscience and nanotechnology. It also aimed to identify the current and prospective roles of graduates and post-graduates, along with the professional development needs. An intended outcome of the survey is to inform education and training Institutions of the gaps and latent needs.
New discoveries, inventions and innovations on a nanoscale will form the basis of sweeping technological change in the 21st century. The basis of this change will be education and training of a generation of scientists, technologists, engineers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, regulators and communicators, in the constantly evolving field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. A fundamentally different approach is required to education and training than the one which has been used for the last two centuries. In a multidisciplinary approach, a balance of knowledge competencies drawn upon from the areas of natural science, engineering, commerce, management and humanities is needed to develop the capabilities of the workforce.
This report contains the outcomes from the qualitative and quantitative analysis of 61.2% of the total 240 responses received. 57.1% respondents mentioned that they recruit graduates and post-graduates specifically for their nanotechnology know-how. 33.8% respondents identified that doctoral qualifications are the knowledge level of preference in industry, this was followed by 21% responses for single discipline masters of science programme and 18.3% responses for interdisciplinary masters. 41.9% of respondents identified that they faced human resource problems in their organization. While 57.5% of responses indicated that both generalist and specialist skill sets were valued by employers, 23.5% indicated a preference for generalist skills and 12.5% for specialists.
The survey indicated that knowledge of nano-science for engineers was relatively more important than knowledge of engineering concepts for nanoscience graduates and post-graduates. The survey indicated that the three relatively important natural science competencies were knowledge of material science (18% responses), nano-biology interface (14% responses) and nanoscale effects (12% responses). Among the fabrication and synthesis knowledge, lithography received 8.8%, sol gel 9.4% and bottom up assembly with 8.6% responses were considered relatively more important to other competencies. Among characterization tools, scanning electron microscopy (15%) responses, atomic force microscopy (14.2%), scanning tunnelling microscopy (10.6%) and Transmission electron microscopy (10.8%) responses were relatively preferred to other techniques. A comparison of commercial, management and societal knowledge competencies has also been presented. Knowledge of research and development management (10%) and project management (9.3%) were considered very desirable. Among other relatively important competencies was knowledge of new product innovation (8.6%) and technology strategy with 8.59% of responses.
A range of recommendations are made for course providers as a guideline for enhancing their programmes. Programmes are encouraged to include quality management of research at a postgraduate level. Short courses in basic toxicology, intellectual property rights, and health and safety are recommended for training. A minimum level of knowledge and hands on training for natural sciences, fabrication and synthesis, characterisation and analysis, and other technical skills is recommended. Preferential role based training for commercial, management and societal knowledge competencies are also made. Special emphasis on soft skill development is recommended.
Source: The Institute of Nanotechnology