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News & Events

Nanotechnology business conference encourages big approach to ‘small’ subject


5/1/2004 - Though not yet a word on everyone’s lips, nanotechnology looms large in our future and is expected to change the business landscape in every industry.

That was the message of the “Exploring Opportunities in NanoBusiness” conference held Friday, April 30, at the James L. Allen Center. Presented jointly by the Kellogg School and the student-driven Nanoalliance at Northwestern University, the event featured presentations by researchers, nanotechnology companies, venture capitalists and others.

The potential applications of nanotechnology--precisely controlling the structure of matter at the molecular level—are as large as the unit on which it is based is minuscule: a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, or 10 to the minus-ninth power.

Nanotechnology can do everything from develop stain-free pants to detect counterfeit pharmaceuticals. It is being used to manufacture self-cleaning glass, restore teeth, cool computers and enhance brightness in multilayer optical film. Nanotechnology is present in national security, cell phones, laptops, flat-screen TVs, microscopes and watches.

Although not everyone at the conference agreed that it qualifies as an industry, nanotechnology is having a “significant commercial impact,” said Larry Wendling, staff vice president of 3M Corporate Research Laboratory. Steve Crosby, president and publisher of Small Times Media, noted that there are 775 active nanotechnology companies and organizations, but cautioned against “nanohype.”

Despite their differences, conference participants concur that “NanoBusiness” is a reality—hence the conference.

The federal government is pouring billions of dollars into nanotechnology research and development to “jump-start U.S. efforts to rival global competition, especially that from China,” said U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Illinois).

Cedric Loiret-Bernal, M.D., president and CEO of NanoInk, and Kellogg School MBA alumnus (1992), said nanotechnology has “increased seven-fold since 1997 and was a $3 billion industry in 2003.”