Nanotechnology to the Economic Rescue? Perhaps in the Long Run.

Let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we?The last time I checked, the Senate approved a $787 million stimulus plan in an effort to motivate companies to create new jobs nationwide. [1] Just to highlight the severity of the problem, the U.S. unemployment rate hovered at around 7.6%…and the number continues to climb. In other words, in just January, nearly 600,000 people in the US from all sectors of the working world were issued the pink slip. [2,3] We’ll be lucky enough if the economy rebounds by the end of this year, and for the sake of all those who are victims of this terrible economic downturn, let’s hope that it does to some extent. All these statistics clearly indicate that we are now experiencing the lowest unemployment rates since the end of WWII and that companies, policymakers, and the public need to make a cooperative and substantial effort if this troubled economy is to be remedied. Nanotechnology, though in its infancy, offers potential in stimulating the economy, given enough time and brain power.

Nanotech: A Long Term Investment

Considered the next technical revolution, nanotechnology is experiencing investment from governments and industries alike. As mentioned in the “Recommendations” article, if applied effectively, nanotechnology can reduce costs of consumer products, given sufficient time for development. [4] In fact, in “less than a decade, at least half of all new products will stem from nanotechnology,” according to a prediction made by the Voice of San Diego. [5]  Silicon News confirms this, predicting that nanotechnology-enabled products will be worth in excess of US$1 trillion by 2010, despite the economic recession. [6] With that said, nanotechnology really does have the ability to increase demand and thus spending, assuming that the nano-products on the market are practical and of necessity to the average consumer.

According to Voice of San Diego, nanotechnology will continue to become a booming industry, despite the economic downturn experienced recently.  By 2015, the National Science Foundation (NSF) estimates that the nanotechnology market will be worth a trillion dollars. Approximately 2 million nanotechnology workers will be needed worldwide, and it has the potential to create 5 million more related jobs in the global market by 2015. [7] Approximate distribution is as follows:

• 0.8‐0.9 million ‐ U.S.
• 0.5‐0.6 million – Japan
• 0.3‐0.4 million – E.U.
• 0.2 million – Asia‐Pacific (excluding Japan)
• 0.1 million – other regions

Nanotech & Intellectual Correspondence

As the “Mind the Gap” article makes mention, nanotechnology is dependent on effective communication of ideas and research, as this field is not only relatively new but requires an interdisciplinary grasp. Through national and even international correspondence regarding the nanotech field, the most informed decisions can be made in order for advancements and improvements to occur.  Though still too early to say, nanotechnology has been predicted to be a good investment and provides a potential avenue for economic diversification, which are both necessary for the revival of the economy. [8] However, to accomplish all these ideal goals takes time.

Why? Nanotechnology, unlike other technological developments, requires much interdisciplinary and intellectual labor. From the fields of physics and materials science to mathematics and quantum mechanics, the developments are heavily dependent on collaborative work. Thus, advancements in research in nanotechnology is extremely crucial.

How do we get there? Well, a substantial amount of funding will be required to educate these professionals. In fact, educational opportunities are being integrated starting in the high school curriculum. Furthermore, research opportunities and courses related to nanotechnology are already being offered on the university level in an effort to spread awareness and educate younger generations about the potential and risks of a newly developing field. [9] The educational and research efforts are aimed to fulfill the following objectives in most cases:

1. Opening up future markets – introducing new sectors
2. Improving general conditions
3. Behaving in a responsible manner
4. Informing the public
5. Identifying the future demand for research

All these measures may culminate in generating more interest in the field from an early age. Assuming interest persists and investments in education and research are made, the stimulation of the marketplace is very likely. With the introduction of nano-related products which are lower in cost, this may motivate consumers to use their money, but like all things, it will require a period of time and the intellectual cooperation between the of the government and its citizens.

For those who are skeptics, they may say that many national governments and authorities such as the European Union have supported the promotion of nanotechnology by providing funds from parts of budgets, local, national or federal. Reasonably enough, opponents may argue that  it is likely that some government economic resources will be channeled to solve the economic crisis. The US House of Representatives, for example, have approved $ 146 billion in tax cuts while there are actions for additional subprime rescue plans. This means likely budget cuts in other fields. And taking into account that technology and nanotechnology is risky, some of its money could be allocated in other activities. [10]

However, this analysis is rather simplistic since only few aspects are presented. The examination of economic factors and their association and impact to each other is much more complicated; but at least it has briefly highlighted the influence that the current economic crisis might have on the development of nanotechnology. Moreover, companies will eventually run down their supplies so far that they need to crank up production to replace them. This will be expected to start happening in the second half of 2009, according to economists.

Let’s see.That will be in about…4 more months. Let’s watch, ponder, and wait.

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Sources

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/02/13/stimulus/index.html

[2] http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.us.htm

[3]http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/feb2009/db2009026_650704.htm?campaign_id=rss_daily

[4] Chang, Tanwin; Freeman, Richard. Nanotechnology: Recommendations for Regional Policy Makers.

[5] http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/articles/2008/07/15/economics/894nanotech070908.txt

[6] [2] http://www.siliconrepublic.com/news/news.nv?storyid=single4709

[7] M. Roco, Nature Biotechnology. 21(10), October 2003.

[8] Mnyusiwalla, Anisa; Daar, Abdallah S.; Singer, Peter A. ‘Mind the gap’: science and ethics in
nanotechnology. Nanotechnology 14 (2003).

[9] http://www.mnf.umich.edu/SeminarDocs/265707f2-e3b0-4e83-81ea-1cf11c02ded7.pdf

[10] http://www.nanomagazine.co.uk/readComment.php?id=3

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