Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Nano uber alles?

Barnaby Feder of The New York Times reported last week on one weakness inherent in the U.S. nanotech funding system: A grant here, a grant there, but there seems to be nobody really in charge of the vision thing. Feder reports:

In testimony on that (National Research Council's) report last Thursday before the House Science Committee, some experts said that the less than $40 million being spent on such (safety) research each year is not only too little but that the effort has been an incoherent reflection of the interests of the many individual researchers supported by various government agencies.

In a reflection of the challenges ahead, one leading expert told the committee that any centralized effort by the government to try to focus such research on the toughest questions could be fruitless. More here

This stands in contrast to Germany, which (surprise) has a comparatively regimented and more-efficient nanotech funding system set up. Back when I was invited to nanotech conferences, I remember speaking to a German representative who showed me a map of her country, with each region blocked off to indicate public-private partnerships devoted to particular areas of nanotechnology.

Germany has nine regional "networks of competence" (PDF, 2.53 MB). For example: nanoanalytics in Munster, nanobio in Munich, nanochem in Saarbrucken, nano-optics in Berlin, etc.

I thought then, and still do, that this system would never fly in the United States. We just hate being told what to do by the federal government. Do we need regional focus and a nano kaiser at the top? It sure would make the train of nanotech progress run on time, but ...

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