Friday, December 12, 2003

Nanotech's transition from idea to industry

seantwoI apologize for the blogging shortage, and it's not because of a shortage of material. I spent much of the past few days doing in-depth interviews with some of the leaders of the nanotech business community and walked away with some great insights into their perspectives on past issues and the direction in which they would like to see the nanotech industry develop. You'll see the results of some of those interviews in various ways on this blog, in stories I assign to Small Times correspondents and in future news events.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures of some good-lookin' nanogeeks from NanoCommerce 2003. The entire sprawling conference complex in Chicago was Geek Central, by the way. Simultaneously, JupiterEvents (yes, the same megacompany that does NanoElectronics Planet), sponsored Search Engine Strategies.

IT people from around the country converged down the hall to talk about how to get their businesses noticed by smallGoogle and the like. It was a reminder that while we nanopeople believe we're the "next big thing," the last big thing is actually still being developed. The difference now is that the real businesses have been separated from the bar-napkin ideas and real money is being made. That's something to remember after the so-called "nano-hype" has died down. Maybe that's when some serious business can begin.

Also, it was refreshing to me that, because these nanobusinesspeople are so new at this, they're not very media-savvy yet. I'm sure that will change as they become more experienced at dealing with the press, but for now their lack of "slickness" makes for some remarkably candid interviews. These are all very committed people who love what they're doing, are working hard at it and have an overriding sense of mission, confident that they really are setting out to change the world. I think it's very likely that they will.

At top, is Sean Murdock, co-founder and executive director of AtomWorks, a co-sponsor of NanoCommerce 2003. AtomWorks' mission is to foster the commercialization of nanotechnology in the smalltimesMidwest. I found Murdock to be an energetic and intelligent leader who possesses not only a strong, driving passion for nanotech as an engine for economic development in his region, but also a great grasp of the far-reaching economic, social, ethical and environmental consequences of nanotech's ongoing transition from idea to industry. Sean shared many of his ideas with me on a range of nanotech-related issues. We did not agree on everything, but our talks made me feel a bit more optimistic about the future of nanotech's development as an industry. For Sean, ethical, social and environmental issues are key considerations in the guidance of nanobusiness, and not merely nuisances or afterthoughts. We need to figure out a way to clone him and strategically place copies around the world.


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