A Fresh Approach to the Business of Tech Transfer


 

Irish Times imageA new tech transfer body, KTI, will use novel ideas for exploiting research, says its head, Dr. Alison Campbell

A fresh approach to the commercialisation of research may be on the way following the recent launch of tech transfer body Knowledge Transfer Ireland.

Its head, Dr Alison Campbell, says she wants to try novel approaches to the business of exploiting research, including “easy IP”, in which a company might gain access to a licence for next to nothing with no strings attached. Impossible, you might say, and yet it makes sense here where a company might have to continue with its own research effort before managing to make a research discovery pay its way.

Irish Times image

Dr. Alison Campbell: “Engaging with the business community means you have a greater chance to see your research having a broader impact.”

Campbell has a clear view of what she wants to achieve in the coming years, and it is not all about fast bucks.

“We have to get away from looking only at the money because it is not just about that. This is about economic development and societal benefit. If we want to benefit the economy then we are not going to do the big fat licensing deals,” she says.

The new tech transfer office, KTI, is hosted by Enterprise Ireland, but is not wholly new given its previous incarnation as the Central Technology Transfer Office.

KTI is run as a joint operation by Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Universities Association and promises to open up a two-way street between business and academia. It will encourage companies to avail of higher education institution expertise, or to become purchasers of licences and technologies from their discoverers. It promises to be a one-stop shop for companies looking to buy into useful research findings, but; however, similar claims were made over the years by earlier efforts at streamlining this problematic area.

Secret ingredient Previous attempts to kick-start Ireland’s knowledge transfer have delivered only limited results, but this one promises to be different due to its secret ingredient: Campbell herself. She was hired by the IUA last July as its director of tech transfer and then took over as the head of the joint Enterprise Ireland/Irish Universities Association office. She has an extremely useful mix of experience and expertise that should serve very well as KTI gets underway.

One of the new approaches Campbell wants to try is easy IP, in which you might give a technology licence away for very little but with certain minor conditions. If the company can’t make proper use of the licence it has to return it so someone else can have a go. But if there is some success with it then the company has to let the higher education institution that made the original discovery know their original ideas worked.

There is a payback even though it won’t all be about money, she believes. “The IP becomes a tool to create relationships.” Adding in a “bonanza clause” to seek a payback if the IP becomes a blockbuster breakthrough is just another IP licence, she argues. “You have to be brave enough to go with it.”

Campbell has a PhD in biochemistry, specialising in protein engineering and conducted research within higher education but also in the biotech industry as a lab staffer, so she knows research from both camps. She enjoyed the contrast between the two and what could be achieved. “I began to get interested in commercialisation and the interaction between industry and academia,” she says.

She next joined a funder, the UK’s Medical Research Council, working in its tech transfer operation at a time in the 1990s when the whole business of commercialising the results of publicly funded research was really getting traction. “We became a wholly owned subsidiary of the MRC as MRC Technology and we began to concentrate on the transfer of applied research.”

 

Make connections The main thrust of her approach is quite simple: to get the business community and academics talking. “We want Irish companies to engage with the research community where appropriate and to make connections with experts that exist within the research organisations. There is knowledge in there that might help them.”

But there also have to be benefits for the researchers. “Engaging with the business community means you have a greater chance to see your research having a broader impact. Academics don’t do research in a vacuum – they want to see some benefit coming from it.

“Involvement with companies should also allow them to bring back insights, for example, knowledge of how a company works. The institutions that will be really successful in this are the ones where the heads see this as strategically important.”

She will not be drawn into the old argument about funding for applied versus basic research. “It is all about the knowledge so let’s get the knowledge out.” One way or the other, ultimately it will be about the researchers, she believes.

“You can build a technology transfer team but actually it is the researchers who will deliver this agenda.”

The KTI will be assessed on a number of metrics but Campbell has a clear idea of what success will look like.

“At the end of the day it will be when the business community become advocates for the KTI system,” she says.

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Tesla Battery Plant Will Need 6 New Flake Graphite Mines


2x2-logo-sm.jpg$5 Billion ‘Giga-Factory’ to Spark EV Uptake

Battery graphite demand could double in 6 years with no growth elsewhere US automotive giant, Tesla, has revealed plans to build a new $5bn lithium-ion battery (Li-ion battery) ‘gigafactory’ which could potentially increase natural graphite demand by up to 37% by 2020.

The factory, which is forecast to start production by 2017, is expecting to have an output of 35 gWh/year by as early as 2020, which would over double the size of the current market.

Its important to stress that the plant is in the planning stage and capacities depend strongly on market demand, but Tesla believes it can be the market leader by producing low cost batteries in the USA.

In IM Data‘s calculations, Tesla’s plant – which is set to be based in the south-west USA – will consume at least 28,000 tonnes of spherical graphite every year if operating at capacity. This equates to 93,000 tonnes of flake graphite if produced to today’s standards which sees raw material wastage of up to 70%.

If achieved, battery demand for natural graphite will increase 112% from today’s levels of 83,000 tpa. This is assuming no other growth in regions such as Asia which is today’s primary consuming region.

While R&D firms have been actively exploring non-graphitic carbon anode alternatives, the position of graphite anodes as the current material of choice for Li-ion battery producers means the graphite industry is likely to be the beneficiary of this growth.

Whether Tesla plans to utilise spherical graphite –  made from large natural flake graphite – or synthetic materials remains unclear.

Nonetheless, expansion of the battery market for electric vehicles (EVs) on this scale presents a valuable opportunity to graphite suppliers.

Seizing an opportunity

In 2012, consumption from the battery sector constituted 8% of global natural graphite demand.

For the natural graphite market to supply the type of market growth Tesla are forecasting, large flake graphite output will need to increase significantly over the coming years.

IM Data estimates that large flake grades (+80 mesh and larger) only made up just over 20% of total flake graphite output of 375,000 tonnes in 2013, and with competition for these grades from other traditional markets (i.e. the refractories sector), new projects are likely to be required to meet the battery market demand.

A number of junior projects are aiming to reach production over the coming 2-3 years, many boasting large flake reserves capable of supplying new hi-tech markets.

With China’s large flake reserves depleting, and the efficiency of the country’s spherodization process under question, these projects have an opportunity to play a major role in supplying emerging markets.

Tesla’s rapid EV expansion plans are, however, centered around lowering Li-ion battery costs by over 30% per kWh, which will allow the company to bring a more price competitive product to market.

Raw material costs are therefore likely to be under close scrutiny as the company gears up for production, meaning any potential graphite suppliers will have to be competitive not only with other producers but also alternative carbon anode companies.

The FOB price of Chinese uncoated spherical graphite, 99.95% C, 15 microns stands at $3,400/tonne today, while prices of coated spherical graphite – the final material used in battery anodes – is valued at around three times this level.

From Ford to Tesla?

In 1913, Henry Ford introduced the use of an assembly line in the production of the Ford Model T motor car, which revolutionised the automobile industry and brought an affordable product to market in the US.

Over a century on and Tesla’s plans to internalise its Li-ion battery production could prove just as pivotal in the emergence of the EV market, unlocking a lucrative new layer of demand for natural graphite producers.

Although the use of graphite in Li-ion battery technologies is not a new concept, the quantities used in more developed portable device markets, such as phones or tablets, are not substantial enough to be a major source of demand for flake graphite.

As much as 56kg of graphite is, however, used per EV, making the market an exciting new prospect for the graphite community which has fueled a wave of interest in recent years.

While the market has failed to expand at the rate many had forecast –both the US and China have fallen short of government growth targets – EVs present the most feasible opportunity for graphite producers to diversify from traditional industrial markets.

If Tesla manages to meet its expansion plans over the coming six years, the company is likely to further the cause of not only the EV industry, but also the graphite market in its path.

How many graphite mines will Tesla need?

Should Tesla choose to use spherical graphite sourced from natural flake as its raw material of choice, at capacity the plant will need substantial volumes.

As outlined earlier, a conservative case will see the plant demanding 93,000 tonnes of flake graphite but in a bullish case this could rise as high as 140,000 tonnes. The challenge for the graphite industry will be not only the volumes but the sufficient quantity of medium and large flake graphite.
At present, medium flake (-100 mesh) graphite from China is used to produce spherical graphite which is then coated in Japan. Should the new, more economical processing techniques take off in the next two years as expected, a large portion of this demand will be for large flake (+80 mesh) and spherical graphite production hubs will emerge in Europe and North America.
The flake footprint of each mine varies quite significantly, each with its own blend of large and medium flakes in addition to fines. Therefore a number of mines will need to be built to satisfy a Tesla plant running at full capacity.
Below, IM Data offers the following consumption scenarios for Tesla’s battery plant by 2020:
Conservative case for Tesla plant running at capacity 

Spherical graphite demand = 28,000 tpa

Flake graphite demand = 93,000 tpa
New graphite mines needed (equivalent) = 6
Bullish case for Tesla plant at running capacity
Spherical graphite demand = 42,000 tpa
Flake graphite demand = 140,000 tpa
New graphite mines needed (equivalent) = 9

 

The Secret & Dirty Cost of Obama’s Green Power Push


AP Investigation: Obama’s green energy drive comes with an unadvertised environmental cost

by Dina Cappiello & Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press
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Biofuel CornCORYDON, Iowa (AP) — The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America’s push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.

 

Even the cemetery that disappeared like an apparition into a cornfield.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country “stronger, cleaner and more secure.”

But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

” …

In the first year after the ethanol mandate, more than 2 million acres disappeared.

Since Obama took office, 5 million more acres have vanished.”

” …

When Congress passed the ethanol mandate, it required the EPA to thoroughly study the effects on water and air pollution. In his recent speech to ethanol lobbyists, Vilsack was unequivocal about those effects:

“There is no question air quality, water quality is benefiting from this industry,” he said.

But the administration never actually conducted the required air and water studies to determine whether that’s true.

In an interview with the AP after his speech, Vilsack said he didn’t mean that ethanol production was good for the air and water. He simply meant that gasoline mixed with ethanol is cleaner than gasoline alone.

In the Midwest, meanwhile, scientists and conservationists are sounding alarms.

Nitrogen fertilizer, when it seeps into the water, is toxic. Children are especially susceptible to nitrate poisoning, which causes “blue baby” syndrome and can be deadly.

Between 2005 and 2010, corn farmers increased their use of nitrogen fertilizer by more than one billion pounds. More recent data isn’t available from the Agriculture Department, but because of the huge increase in corn planting, even conservative projections by the AP suggest another billion-pound fertilizer increase on corn farms since then.

Department of Agriculture officials note that the amount of fertilizer used for all crops has remained steady for a decade, suggesting the ethanol mandate hasn’t caused a fertilizer boom across the board.

But in the Midwest, corn is the dominant crop, and officials say the increase in fertilizer use — driven by the increase in corn planting — is having an effect.

The Des Moines Water Works, for instance, has faced high nitrate levels for many years in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, which supply drinking water to 500,000 people. Typically, when pollution is too high in one river, workers draw from the other.

“This year, unfortunately the nitrate levels in both rivers were so high that it created an impossibility for us,” said Bill Stowe, the water service’s general manager.

For three months this summer, workers kept huge machines running around the clock to clean the water. Officials asked customers to use less water so the utility had a chance to keep up.

Part of the problem was that last year’s dry weather meant fertilizer sat atop the soil. This spring’s rains flushed that nitrogen into the water along with the remnants of the fertilizer from the most recent crop.

At the same time the ethanol mandate has encouraged farmers to plant more corn, Stowe said, the government hasn’t done enough to limit fertilizer use or regulate the industrial drainage systems that flush nitrates and water into rivers and streams.

With the Water Works on the brink of capacity, Stowe said he’s considering suing the government to demand a solution.

In neighboring Minnesota, a government report this year found that significantly reducing the high levels of nitrates from the state’s water would require huge changes in farming practices at a cost of roughly $1 billion a year.

“We’re doing more to address water quality, but we are being overwhelmed by the increase in production pressure to plant more crops,” said Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership.

The nitrates travel down rivers and into the Gulf of Mexico, where they boost the growth of enormous algae fields. When the algae die, the decomposition consumes oxygen, leaving behind a zone where aquatic life cannot survive.

This year, the dead zone covered 5,800 square miles of sea floor, about the size of Connecticut.

Larry McKinney, the executive director of the Harte Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, says the ethanol mandate worsened the dead zone.

“On the one hand, the government is mandating ethanol use,” he said, “and it is unfortunately coming at the expense of the Gulf of Mexico.”

The dead zone is one example among many of a peculiar ethanol side effect: As one government program encourages farmers to plant more corn, other programs pay millions to clean up the mess.”

To Read the Full Article GO Here:

http://news.yahoo.com/secret-dirty-cost-obamas-green-051200204.html

U.S. Government Accountability Office finds flaws in nation’s approach to nanotechnology manufacturing


2x2-logo-sm.jpg(Nanowerk News) In a new report on nanotechnology manufacturing (or nanomanufacturing) released yesterday (“Nanomanufacturing: Emergence and Implications for U.S. Competitiveness, the Environment, and Human Health”; pdf), the U.S. Government Accountability Office finds flaws in America’s approach to many things nano.
text At a July 2013 forum, participants from industry, government, and academia discussed the future of nanomanufacturing; investments in nanotechnology R&D and challenges to U.S. competitiveness; ways to enhance U.S. competitiveness; and EHS concerns.
The forum’s participants described nanomanufacturing as a future megatrend that will potentially match or surpass the digital revolution’s effect on society and the economy. They anticipated further scientific breakthroughs that will fuel new engineering developments; continued movement into the manufacturing sector; and more intense international competition.
Although limited data on international investments made comparisons difficult, participants viewed the U.S. as likely leading in nanotechnology research and development (R&D) today. At the same time, they identified several challenges to U.S. competitiveness in nanomanufacturing, such as inadequate U.S. participation and leadership in international standard setting; the lack of a national vision for a U.S. nanomanufacturing capability; some competitor nations’ aggressive actions and potential investments; and funding or investment gaps in the United States (illustrated in the figure, below), which may hamper U.S. innovators’ attempts to transition nanotechnology from R&:D to full-scale manufacturing.
Funding/Investment Gap in the Manufacturing-Innovation Process
Funding/Investment Gap in the Manufacturing-Innovation Process.
Participants outlined three approaches that might be viewed as alternative ways to address these challenges–or used together: (1) strengthen U.S. innovation by updating current innovation-related policies and programs, (2) promote U.S. innovation in manufacturing through public-private partnerships, and (3) design a strategy for attaining a holistic vision for U.S. nano-manufacturing.

Participants who represented a range of perspectives on environmental, health, and safety (EHS) issues also noted that significant research is needed to understand the risks associated with nanomaterials. As such, multiple participants advocated a collaborative effort, in which nanotechnology stakeholders create an EHS framework, including developing standards for measurement and nomenclature, to help assess and address these risks.

Finally, participants advocated both maintaining R&D support and considering ways to address the challenges outlined above. Justification of further steps might be based on their potential for improving (1) international data on nanotechnology investments, (2) international standard setting for nanomanufacturing and U.S. participation, (3) U.S. ability to maintain or enhance competitiveness, and (4) U.S. and international efforts to address EHS issues.
Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office

 

The world’s largest graphene production plant is now operational in China


nanotechnology-solar-cells-1In July we reported that China’s Ningbo Morsh Technology is establishing a new graphene production line that will have an annual capacity of 300 tons (or tens of millions of graphene films). The line was supposed to be operational by August 2013, and now there are reports from china that finally production began.

 

The report further says that China plans to build a state-level graphene industrialization base in China’s Chongqing Municipality. Within 5 years, they hope to reach revenues of 100 billion yuan ($16.35 billion). If the capacity is indeed 300 tons per year, than China is now the world’s leading graphene producer by far.

Investment in Ningo Morsh’s production line exceeded 100 million yuan ($16 million). Ningbo Morsh Technology are supplying graphene to Chongqing Morsh Technology, who’s building a production line in Chongqing that will be used to produce 15″ single-layer graphene films that will be used to produce graphene transparent touch panel conductive films. Chongqing Morsh original plan was to start production by March 2014 and they already signed an agreement with Guangdong Zhengyang, an OGS maker to produce 10 million graphene based transparent conducting films (TCFs) in a year for the next five years.

Source: EastDay.com

The impact of nanotechnologies on the global divide


carbon-nanotube(Nanowerk News) Nanotechnologies are capable of introducing promising applications that could impact upon our daily lives; it is through the visualisation and control of matter at the scale of a billionth of a metre that allows nanotechnologies to modify and enhance the properties of products across all industry sectors. Even though nanotechnologies have immense potential, they are only in their infancy and have yet to reach full maturity. When considering the changes they could bring, it must be asked: are nanotechnologies going to reduce the rich-poor divide, or will they have the opposite effect?
Closing the Gap: The Impact of Nanotechnologies on the Global Divide

 

In light of debates that make nanotechnologies responsible for a further widening of the aforementioned divide, the Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA) has published a report analysing this Nano-Gap, or Nano-Divide, by examining the pros and cons of nanotechnologies and their impact global development and the on-going fight against poverty.
Entitled “Closing the Gap: The Impact of Nanotechnologies on the Global Divide” (pdf), this report looks at how nanotechnology-based inventions and their potential applications could be implemented in developing counties, and whether they could benefit the most underprivileged populations. Obstacles and problematic issues that could arise are also scrutinised, with the following more fully addressed:

  • – Will nanotechnologies reach the populations they wish to assist?
  • – What impact could they have on world trade and already weak economies?
  • – What of the unprecedented nature and uncertainties surrounding the risks of nanotechnology?
  • – Will inventors from the developing world have to circumvent challenging intellectual property rules in order to make full use of the technology?
This subsequently leads the report into looking at the possible ways forward for the fair development of nanotechnologies. Finally, the report looks at the possibilities for scientists and entrepreneurs from low- and middle-income countries to scale-up the benefits for their countries with the help of international cooperation and global dialogue.
Source: Nanotechnology Industries Association

Read more: http://www.nanowerk.com/nanotechnology_news/newsid=33539.php#ixzz2nlWmimXv

Eric Drexler lecture & debate (Video): “Radical Abundance” – Nanotechnology


Published on Oct 11, 2013

mix-id328072.jpgK. Eric Drexler is the founding father of nanotechnology—the science of engineering on a molecular level. In Radical Abundance, he shows how rapid scientific progress is about to change our world.

 

 

Thanks to atomically precise manufacturing, we will soon have the power to produce radically more of what people want, and at a lower cost. The result will shake the very foundations of our economy and environment.
Already, scientists have constructed prototypes for circuit boards built of millions of precisely arranged atoms. The advent of this kind of atomic precision promises to change the way we make things—cleanly, inexpensively, and on a global scale. It allows us to imagine a world where solar arrays cost no more than cardboard and aluminum foil, and laptops cost about the same.
A provocative tour of cutting edge science and its implications by the field’s founder and master, Radical Abundance offers a mind-expanding vision of a world hurtling toward an unexpected future.

Watch the Video Presentation Here:

 

 

AngelList Tells SEC New Fundraising Rules Will Kill Startups


imagesCAMR5BLR Einstein Judging a FishStartups could face a “death sentence” one year ban from fundraising if they violate awkward new general solicitation fundraising rules, AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant wrote in a letter to the SEC this week. Ravikant says the Regulation D and Form D changes that go into effect soon are designed for Wall Street, not Silicon Valley, and must change or they’ll harm rather than help startups.

Last month the SEC voted to implement some parts of the JOBS Act, including lifting the ban on General Solicitation. This allows startups and funds to openly advertise that they’re looking for investors, rather than quietly using private communication to solicit money. The theory is that this will make it easier for startups to raise money, build companies, and create jobs.

The problem is that the SEC also decided to add a bunch of red tape to the fundraising process too. This includes notifying the SEC 15 days prior to fundraising, filing all changes to written investor materials to the SEC, and providing verbose disclosures whenever soliciting funding. As TechCrunch contributor and Seattle lawyer William Carleton wrote, ”the SEC’s proposed new Reg D rules and filing requirements, if adopted, will make general solicitation more of a burden than an efficiency.”

Ravikant shares Carleton’s opinion, and delivered to it to the SEC in more forceful terms, hoping the rules can changed.

“We are concerned that the newly proposed Form D filing rules could create disastrous unintended consequences for the startup community…Rules that may be easy for Wall Street are a death sentence for startups…Since young companies are responsible for most of the job growth in the US, we believe this is against the spirit of the JOBS Act” Ravikant writes.

He explains that while Wall Street actors are used to this level of formality and have lawyers to navigate it, they would cause big problems for budding companies. Startups likely can’t afford expensive legal counsel to help them avoid breaking the rules, yet “the very severe penalty for non-compliance (not fundraising for a year) is a death penalty for a not-yet-profitable business.”

sec-sealStartups are often in a constant state of fundraising as they test the waters of investor interest. That makes it tough to know when to file the start-of-fundraising notice, and could force them to turn away spontaneous opportunities. As startups often iterate quickly and evolve the messaging to investors by updating their websites, filing each of these changes with the SEC would be a huge hassle. And it would nearly impossible to fit a proper disclosure into a tweet soliciting investment.

Some of these rules are designed to protect inexperienced investors that would be allowed to fund companies if the equity crowdfunding portion of the JOBS Act is finally implemented. Right now only accredited investors, people with over $1 million in personal wealth, are allowed to invest. They’re generally tougher to dupe into sham investments. But if average Joes can invest, they may need greater protections afforded by tighter regulations.

The hope is that more focused rules that actually guard amateur investors could be put in place alongside true crowdfunding so the frictions described here wouldn’t be necessary.

After breaking down the threats to startups in his letter, Ravikant provided the SEC with a list of remedies:

  1. “Allow third parties to do the filing on issuer’s behalf via API” provided by sites like AngelList
  2. “Allow the company (or a third party like AngelList) to hold the financing materials so the SEC can access them” via a permalink URL to an updated set of materials
  3. “Only require legends and disclosures when terms are communicated” instead of in tweets, public statements, or other time fundraising is more casually mentioned
  4. “Drop the 15-day-in-advance before financing rule entirely” and use the existing file-after-the-fact system
  5. “Don’t impose death penalties for noncompliance. Instead, reduce the costs of compliance” and keep more Form D information confidential so startups don’t have to reveal sensitive information too early
  6. “Don’t be overly broad in the penalty application” by only punishing the violator, not surrounding businesses and funding platforms that support them.

The question now is whether the historically slow-moving SEC will budge on these rules, despite the sound logic behind Naval’s suggestions.

Scottish Enterprise Programme


Proof of Concept Programme

European Regional Development FundOur Proof of Concept (PoCP) programme supports the pre-commercialisation of leading-edge technologies emerging from Scotland‘s universities, research institutes and NHS Boards. It helps researchers to export their ideas and inventions from the lab to the global marketplace.

Projects can be typically defined as occurring at the stage after advances have been made during curiosity-driven or strategic research.

The programme finances projects with strong commercialisation potential. Naturally, many of these projects contain a high element of risk. In funding the projects, we are committing a significant amount of resource (both in financial and personnel terms) to enable the projects to realise their potential.

The purpose of PoCP is to create new high-growth companies based in Scotland with the potential and capability to achieve significant growth (defined for this purpose as the achievement of at least £5 million turnover within 5 years of trading or the attraction of at least £10 million commercial investment within the same period, and which can continue growth thereafter).

Find out if your project is eligible for the Proof of Concept Programme

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–>

Are you a start-up?

Early-stage companies could win up to £50,000 with the Scottish EDGE competition

The Scottish EDGE

 

http://www.scottish-enterprise.com/start-your-business/proof-of-concept-programme.aspx?goback=%2Enmp_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1

Nanotechnology for green innovation – a new OECD paper


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8(Nanowerk News) A new paper by the OECD Working Party  on Nanotechnology (“Nanotechnology for Green Innovation”; pdf)  brings together information collected through discussions and projects  undertaken relevant to the development and use of nanotechnology for green  innovation.

It relies in particular on preliminary results from the WPN project  on the Responsible Development of Nanotechnology and on conclusions from a  symposium, organised by the OECD WPN together with the United States National  Nanotechnology Initiative, which took place in March 2012 in Washington DC,  United States, on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology. It also draws  on material from the four background papers that were developed for the  symposium. The background papers were:

  • “Challenges  for Governments in Evaluating the Return on Investment from Nanotechnology and  its Broader Economic Impact” by Eleanor O’Rourke and Mark Morrison of the  Institute of Nanotechnology, United Kingdom;
  • “Finance  and Investor Models in Nanotechnology” by Tom Crawley, Pekka Koponen, Lauri  Tolvas and Terhi Marttila of Spinverse, Finland;
  • “The  Economic Contributions of Nanotechnology to Green and Sustainable Growth” by  Philip Shapira and Jan Youtie, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, United  States; and
  • “Models,  Tool and Metrics Available to Assess the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology” by  Katherine Bojczuk and Ben Walsh of Oakdene Hollins, United Kingdom.
The purpose of the paper is to provide background information  for future work by the WPN on the application of nanotechnology to green  innovation. Here is the Executive Summary:
The need for development of affordable and safe ways of  addressing global challenges, in areas such as energy, environment and health,  has never been more pressing. The global demand for energy is expected to  increase by more than 30% between 2010 and 2035 (International Energy Agency,  2011). More than 800 million people worldwide are currently without access to  safe drinking water (WHO, 2010). Such challenges have resulted in increasing  attention being paid by policymakers, researchers, and corporations to new  technologies, and the application of technologies in new ways. Green innovation  is one such new way of addressing global challenges.
Green innovation is innovation which reduces environmental  impacts: by increasing energy efficiency, by reducing waste or greenhouse gas  emissions and/or by minimising the consumption of nonrenewable raw materials,  for example. OECD countries and emerging economies alike are seeking new ways to  use green innovation for increased competitiveness through a transition to a  so-called “green growth” scenario based on the application of technology (OECD,  2012a). Within the group of technologies which are expected to help to  contribute to that transition, nanotechnology is attracting particular  attention.
Since it began its work in 2007, the OECD Working Party on  Nanotechnology (WPN) has developed a number of projects addressing emerging  policy issues of science, technology and innovation related to the responsible  development of nanotechnology. During that time, discussions within the WPN have increasingly highlighted the potential of nanotechnology to support green  growth, focusing on two particular aspects: i) the potential for nanotechnology  to contribute to green innovation; and ii) the potential and perceived risks and  environmental costs of using the technology. The second of these may reduce the  ability of nanotechnology to achieve its green goals, i.e. to meet its “green  vocation”.
Green nanotechnology in the context of a green  innovation transition
Nanotechnology for green innovation – green nanotechnology –  aims for products and processes that are safe, energy efficient, reduce waste  and lessen greenhouse gas emissions. Such products and processes are based on  renewable materials and/or have a low net impact on the environment. Green  nanotechnology is also about manufacturing processes that are economically and  environmentally sustainable.
Green nanotechnology is increasingly being referred to in  connection with other concepts such as green chemistry and sustainable and green  engineering and manufacturing. The principles of green chemistry can be applied  to produce safer and more sustainable nanomaterials and more efficient and sustainable nano manufacturing processes. Conversely, the principles of  nanoscience can be used to foster green chemistry by using nanotechnology to  make manufacturing more environmentally friendly. Green nanotechnology can have  multiple roles and impacts across the whole value chain of a product and can be  of an enabling nature, being used as a tool to further support technology or  product development, for example:
  • Nanotechnology  can play a fundamental role in bringing a key functionality to a product (e.g.  nanotechnology-enabled batteries);
  • Nanotechnology  may constitute a small percentage of a final product whose key functions hinge  on exploiting the size-dependent phenomena of nanotechnology (e.g. electric cars  using nanotechnology-enabled batteries);
  • Nanotechnology  can improve or enable sustainable and green processes that lead to the  development and production of a nanotechnology-enabled product without that  final product containing any nanomaterials.
Significant advances have been made in the field of  nanotechnology in the past decade and more, helping it to move closer to  achieving its green potential. However, the economic and environmental sustainability of green solutions involving nanotechnology is in many cases as  yet unclear and some novel solutions bring with them environmental, health and  safety (EHS) risks (e.g. high energy manufacturing processes and processes which  may rely on toxic materials). These risks must be mitigated in advancing green  nanotechnology solutions.
Green nanotechnology is expected to increasingly impact on a  large range of economic sectors, ranging from food packaging to automotives,  from the tyre industry to electronics. Nanotechnology is also increasingly being  applied in conjunction with other technologies, such as biotechnology and energy technologies, leading to products incorporating multiple green technological  innovations.
The policy environment for green nanotechnology
When reviewing government strategies for science, technology and  innovation, the presence of nanotechnology for green innovation is apparent.  Recurrent priorities in governmental programmes include nanotechnology for  energy production and storage; nanotechnology for water treatment; and nanotechnology for the environment (in particular, in reducing pressure on raw  materials and in fostering sustainable manufacturing and sustainably  manufactured products).
In many countries, supports for green nanotechnology have been  mainstreamed within more general efforts to ‘green’ the trajectory of the  economy. Green nanotechnology operates in a complex landscape of fiscal and  legislative policies and allied measures for green growth and science,  technology and innovation. Framing conditions – such as regulation, standards  and research, environmental and enterprise policy – are strongly influencing the  development of green nanotechnology for processes or products.
If the reasons behind investment in nanotechnology vary to some  extent at national levels (depending on national scientific and economic  specialisations, competitiveness goals and societal objectives), there still  remains a common trend, visible in both OECD and emerging economies, in  governments seeing nanotechnology as having the potential to address social and  environmental challenges while supporting industrial competitiveness and  economic growth. Policies for green nanotechnology broadly aim to facilitate its  development and its potential to be used for efficient, affordable and safe  applications. Technology policies mainly take the form of R&D investments –  increasingly directed towards more applied research although basic research is  often retained as an important area for investment – and support for small and  medium size enterprises (SMEs). Efforts are also being made to reduce  uncertainty around the use of nanotechnology (especially regulatory uncertainty)  and to ensure responsible development. These are evidenced in the investment in  a growing number of initiatives (at national and international levels) which are  looking at environmental health and safety (EHS) risks and ethical and social  issues.
Diminishing and sharing the costs of the development and  commercialisation of green nanotechnology (i.e. risk reduction and sharing) is  also a focus for policy intervention. Although green nanotechnology is  increasingly demonstrating its potential to move out of the laboratory and into  concrete solutions for products and processes, there is still a great hesitancy  from companies to lead the way. This reluctance derives from a number of factors  including the risks associated with the technology (e.g. consumer acceptance,  EHS, ethical and social risks); regulatory uncertainty; the lack of maturity of  the technology; market uncertainty; the low number of successful demonstrators  of the benefits of using nanotechnology (in the form of green nanotechnology  products already on the market); and a strong competition with traditional  technologies and production techniques.
For nanotechnology to address major environmental and societal  challenges, products using nanotechnology need to be manufactured and used in  large volumes. Funding is needed to support prototyping and pilot manufacturing,  as this is a point at which costs and risk are at their highest, discouraging  corporations and institutional investors from funding these activities. Policies  are increasingly being developed which are directed at funding proof of concept,  pilot and demonstration projects.
In addition, efforts are being made to strengthen the links  between public and private entities. Industrial consortia are being developed  with the support of, and sometimes initiated by, public bodies, for example, the  NanoBusiness Alliance in the United States and the Nanotechnology Industries  Association in Europe. At the research, development and early commercialization  stages, more innovative approaches to sharing risk and knowledge are also being  developed based on large consortia comprising companies, public laboratories and  institutions (e.g. Genesis, InnoCNT, NanoNextNL). Such consortia allow for risk sharing between public and private entities, but also risk sharing among  companies themselves. Consortia may also help to manage the uncertainty of  bringing a product to market when no similar technologies have previously been  commercialised or when the demand for the technology/application is not yet  clear.
There is also a general trend to reinforce the links between  public entities themselves. Within the OECD and emerging economies,  co-ordination between different ministries, agencies and departments to support  nanotechnology and nanotechnology for green applications was commonly seen in  WPN projects.
There may also be a role for demand-side policies supporting the  development and commercialisation of nanotechnology for global challenges,  including the use of green nanotechnology. Scenarios are often seen in  nanotechnology product development in which producers are reluctant to invest in  options for which customers and users are not yet articulating a clear demand or  where no clear products options are identified as yet. This uncertainty about  market perspectives and customer/user demand and requirements is being addressed  through new alliances and consortia, as mentioned above, but there may also be a  need for interventions to further reduce the uncertainty, including demand-side  policies.
The potential impact of nanotechnology on green  innovation
Increasingly, as the technology is being developed, efforts are  being made to try to find ways of assessing or tracking the impact of  nanotechnology on specific policy objectives such as green growth. This is a  very challenging task due to the sheer number of applications of nanotechnology  across all economic sectors and its broad enabling nature, as well as the  potential for it to impact across value chains and to create a complex setting  for any robust impact analysis. The potential risks of new green nanotechnologies might need to be compared with those of current technologies  (which may, for example, also be energy intensive and present various risks) and  against the human and environmental costs of not effectively addressing key  global challenges (such as reducing carbon emissions or providing potable water). The policy landscape in which nanotechnology operates is complex,  evolving and responsive to economic and social challenges. A wide range of  potential economic, environmental and societal implications of the technology  needs to be included in methodologies for assessing the impact of green innovation through nanotechnology.
Source: OECD

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