by Dr. Clive Davenport
Clive Davenport, President MANCEF; Director, CSIRO Future
Manufacturing Flagship, Melbourne Australia
Recently a half page full colour advertisement appeared in newspapers
depicting thousands of runners in red T-shirts, black shorts and running shoe's,
all lined up and ready to race, as far as the eye could see. The title of the
picture is "Win a race across the world". This is Nike connecting the global
The challenge was to get 1 million people across the world running in an
event called "The Nike Human Race 10K". Apart from the event advertising, this
global running community is connected via the web through a small electronic
monitoring module placed under the insole of a running shoe and wirelessly
connected to either an Apple iPod or Nike wristband.
At the end of a run the iPod or wrist band is plugged into a computer
connected to the web. The data from the monitoring module is uploaded onto the
"Nike Plus" website and the runner's details and distance logged. Runners can
perform independently, join teams or run in competitions with others similarly
logged into the web. School students have joined in and are running competitions
As of late August, according to the website, runners had logged a total of
124million km. The Nike site is an outstanding example of bringing people
together in a global community. The Nike/Apple product relationship is also an
outstanding example of two totally different disciplines coming together. Whilst
both are lifestyle businesses, one is in electronics whilst the other is in
apparel. Micro and nanotechnologies have the power to create great opportunities
at the convergence of disciplines. See http://nikeplus.nike.com/nikeplus/index.jhtml
MANCEF's (the global Micro
and Nanotechnology Commercialisation Education Foundations) mission is:
"To connect the global micro and nanotechnology community
focused on the challenges and opportunities facing the world"
Every year MANCEF holds an
international COMS conference in a different city of the world. On average
300-400 people attend and over the 3-4 days we have a great opportunity to meet
and greet and immerse ourselves in the latest challenges for our community. In a
world of 6 billion people, those we touch, who meet to share experiences are
such an infinitely small number. So how do we do something significant to change
this situation. How do we truly connect our all the members of our global micro
and nano community?
Micro and nanotechnologies are global activities with opportunities and
applications so vast that no one country can succeed in all. There are
opportunities for everyone, however we may never realise many of these unless we
work together in collaboration bringing expertise from different sources. 250
people talking together at a conference are hardly going to unite the world in
this task. What about the million or so others who could help us in this
So lets consider some of the ways in which we can communicate and work
- Academics are actually very good at networking around the world. Many have
collaborative research projects writing papers together, exchanging students and
visiting each other.
- Seminars and workshops are a way of reaching further numbers in a more
informal yet enriching setting.
- National and regional networks such as the New Mexico Nano network help to
draw together and retain members from year to year.
- Major conferences and expos such as COMS, NSTI Nano (US), Nano Tech, (Japan)
and Hannover Messe (Germany) draw people from around the world.
- In Europe there is connectivity across national borders via the European
Framework Program which is funding multi nation projects. The program also
provide an opportunity to link with groups in certain other countries such as
- Around the world there are business groups just like MANCEF that are looking
at the same issues. Groups such as the Asia Nano Business Forum, the Australian
Nano Business Forum, NBCI (Japan), Micro Machine Centre (Japan), ION (UK), Nano
Business Alliance (US).
- Then we have news groups, newsletters, magazines and journals such as Micro
Manufacturing, MST News and Small Times.
And yet for all that, it is still a relatively limited number who actually
get to share experiences, information and knowledge in a common forum.
On an individual basis we probably have our million participants but how do
we unite all of them?
Enter the web - the most powerful medium of the modern age. An information
powerhouse. Yet an amazing tool that unites our children, changing the way they
communicate via platforms such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube enabling them to
explore their world. And that world is no longer the local neighbourhood, that
world stretches around the globe. Our children are quite possibly better
connected that we are!
This phenomenon is known as "social media networking".
Is this the tool for the global micro, nano community? If so, how do we
harness this power?
These "new" platforms allow us to upload videos, share our personal
experiences, join discussion groups, make contacts we never thought possible
building constantly creating a rich environment.
So let's take a little tour of what is currently available. The web as we
know it is a wealth of information.
- Google shines - everything at our fingertips.
- Sites such as AZoNano
are a mine of information receiving approximately 400,000 hits a month.
- Plaxo and LinkedIn expand our reach - receiving requests from individuals to
join their network.
- YOUTUBE is a must for sharing videos - just enter "nanotechnology" and you
will see dozens of videos - it's a great education tool and a great place to see
- Likewise enter "nanotechnology" into myspace.com and you get listings of
people with shared interests in the subject.
- Enter "nanotechnology jobs" and we are directed to sites all over the net.
The web is a great source for almost everything as long as you're prepared to
go searching for what you need.
As a communication tool we can find personalised presentations via webcasts
and podcasts. Many of our international consultants and advisers place their
PowerPoint presentations on their websites, complete with voiceovers.
"Second Life" is a powerful tool for establishing virtual worlds. You can
create your own "Avatar" virtual person and explore a whole new world.
Educational institutes and universities are using "Second Life" for delivering
learning via lectures and projects. However, there are some serious concerns
about "Second Life" due to reports that it is not only a great experientiation
environment but that it also has an evil / lawless side as well.
It doesn't take long to realise that there are thousands and thousands of
people out there with their own interests all existing in their own worlds.
Several months ago a group of Facebook developers were asked if Facebook was
an environment in which a Nanotechnology Hub could be created ie. a one stop
social media network hub. After significant consultation (bounced around the
world on a video weblink) it was agreed that Facebook wasn't the best
environment for a business based activity. In the process several developers
made reference to "ning.com".
"ning.com" is certainly a hive of activity for parties interested in creating
their own nanotechnology groups (or any other group). Entering "nano technology"
in a "ning.com" search box produced a nanotechnology group in Hungary with 364
members - about the same number of attendees we see at a COMS conference! Today
"ning.com" has a broad range of nanotechnology groups in a wide variety of
application areas. Unfortunately many are of a low standard and poorly
supported, some with only one member, most likely the founder - hardly the
requirement for a credible global community hub.
Some sites are offering giveaways to lure members, others are supported by a
wonderful array of advertising offering "Beautiful Ukraine Girls seek foreign
men for marriage. Browse 1000's of photos" or "A friend is in love with you.
Find out who it is!" - hardly the place for our world nanotechnology leaders to
participate in meaningful discussion and dialog.
Many sites give a whole new meaning to Richard Feynman's well worn
nanotechnology quote "there is plenty of room at the bottom" - alas there
appears to be plenty at the bottom on the web. So lets consider what's at the
AZoNano is possibly the
most powerful nanotechnology information site on the web. AZoNano has just
created a social media networking environment at http://social.azonano.com/
and it promises to be very professionally operated. MANCEF has already established a
group for members. Everyone in the nanotechnology community are invited to join.
In order to maintain a "clean" community AZoNano have put in place a membership
screen to filter out undesirables.
Another site worth mentioning is http://www.bridge8.com.au where you can check out a blog
produced by Kristin Alford of what's happening in the micro and nano world
including keeping you up-to-date with all the activities at the recent
International COMS2008 conference in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, via running
dialog, podcasts and photos.
The question remains - is there an overpowering need for a truly independent
nanotechnology networking hub. An exciting environment that the community
members have as their browser start-up screen enabling a quick glance at the
latest issues first thing every morning. A living hub. A hub with a heart
A profession hub powered by the very professionals for which it is intended,
with a home page that is enticing to our younger generation as well. A
non-commercial hub that fosters open dialog between members yet presents vital
information of interest such as positions available, interest or application
groups and forums, researchers outcomes on offer for commercialization,
collaborative projects, funding opportunities, "help wanted" and education
One of the serious challenges for our brave new nanotechnology world is our
future workforce - how do we inspire the children of today to pursue science and
engineering? Lets consider a well designed social hub engaging with younger
people, with games and participative interactive environments featuring some of
the very clever materials being produced around the world.
It wasn't that long ago that we needed very serious video conferencing
facilities to broadcast live images around the world - now it can be done from a
mobile phone. Just watch our younger generation SMSing, blogging, sharing photos
and video chatting. Our globe trotting young backpackers have unwired the
Our children may well be showing us the way by which we connect our global
micro and nanotechnology community. Are we up for the challenge?
Presented at COMS 2008, Mexico
Copyright AZoNano.com, MANCEF.org