The Impacts of Nanotechnology on Companies

Policy Insights from Case Studies

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Nanotechnology has its origin in the converging abilities of physics, chemistry and materials science.  Its purpose is the manipulation of atoms and molecules in order to create new properties of materials and systems for a wide variety of applications in a very broad range of sectors. Nanotechnology is forecast to create large markets and many new jobs and may be the springboard for industrial renewal and long-term growth. Governments around the world have targeted this emerging technology in their R&D investments and are strategising about the best ways to promote the responsible development and use of nanotechnology given the absence of any in-depth analysis of its commercialisation.

What are the potential economic impacts of nanotechnology, how are companies using nanotechnology for innovation, and what are the key challenges in its commercialisation? These are some of the issues that this book addresses, based on a large number of company case studies in several countries.


Insights from the case studies on the impacts of nanotechnology on companies

This chapter presents the background and findings of the company case studies, including methodological issues and limitations that have to be taken into account. The case study sample is relatively well balanced in terms of nanotechnology sub-areas and fields of application when compared with patenting. Companies highlight the enabling nature of nanotechnology as a main entry driver, even though its share of R&D investments, sales and employment are hard to quantify. The case studies also highlight some variation by company size in the sources of nanotechnology competences and in challenges for commercialisation. The challenges that appear specific to nanotechnology include the complexity of R&D and its poor process scalability, human resource constraints, and concerns about EHS issues. Challenges in the funding of R&D and innovation are also highlighted, although they may be common to start-up companies in science-based technologies in general.


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