The State of Nanotechnology

The importance of nanotechnology to future industry and national economic well-being is no longer a matter of debate. The number of first-generation (material) nanotechnology-dependent and nanotechnology-enabled products is exploding.

Not surprisingly, early products are seen in markets with high profit margins, such as sports equipment, apparel and cosmetics where consumers are willing to spend a premium amount for new capability. As the price of material nanotechnologies continues to decline, broad expansion into other sectors will be seen. The vastly superior properties of some nanomaterials are already producing business solutions in typical low-margin, late-adopting industries, such as automobiles and food.

As nanotechnology development begins to move toward second-generation (component) and third-generation (device) technologies, the value-add that will be incorporated in industrial products will transform the competitive landscape in multiple industrial sectors:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Specialty chemicals
  • Sensors
  • Aerospace
  • Medical devices
  • Biotechnology
  • Food processing
  • Cosmeceuticals
  • National defense
  • Homeland security

The high information-content-to-size ratio of nanotechnology-based devices—sensors, identification and security tags, integrated computers in flexible packaging, and so on—will deliver efficiencies and control throughout the industrial pipeline for supply chain management, inventory control, intellectual property protection, security, point-of-sale efficiencies and post-sale service and customer management.

A 2006 study by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice commissioned by the Mid-Atlantic Nanotechnology Alliance (MANA®) showed nanotechnology will potentially affect 7,500 companies in 11 industries, and directly impact over 100,000 jobs in the Mid-Atlantic region alone.

“By 2015, industry analysts estimate that consumer spending on nanotech-enabled products could reach $12.5 trillion annually on upgraded, everyday products, super-electronic communications, and life-saving medical devices,” said Mitch Horowitz, Director of Strategy at the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.

The Promise of Nanotechnology

“The use of nanotechnology in consumer products and industrial applications is growing rapidly, with the products listed in the inventory showing just the tip of the iceberg.  How consumers respond to these early products — in food, electronics, health care, clothing and cars — will be a litmus test for broader market acceptance of nanotechnologies in the future.”

–Andrew D. Maynard
Chief Science Advisor, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars