In the current global climate, political tensions can often dominate discussions in the media, whether they are about sport, culture or science. While it could be argued whether political considerations should leak into these areas or not, there is no doubt that long-term, productive scientific collaboration is a positive force for international relations which can help build international communities and positively affect quality of life in societies all over the globe.
The RUSNANOPRIZE international nanotechnology award aims to build transnational, transcontinental and global cooperative bonds between scientists and businesses working in various nanotechnology-related fields. Supporting outstanding scientists and entrepreneurs, RUSNANOPRIZE helps to create a better environment for future technology development.
The RUSNANOPRIZE trophy.
The rules of the game
The RUSNANOPRIZE Award is focused on bringing recognition to scientists with a proven record of scientific achievements, whose developments were successfully commercialized. The RUSNANOPRIZE is awarded for scientific and technological developments introduced into mass production with an annual turnover over 10 million USD. Candidates can be self-nominated, or nominated by others.
The monetary part of the Prize (about $84k) goes to the awarded technology developer, and the partner company gets a RUSNANOPRIZE trophy together with lots of media attention to stimulate its business.
Each year, the Award is based around a different thematic area, chosen from RUSNANO’s main investment activity areas. This year the Prize is awarded for nanotechnology developments in optics and electronics.
Just another prize?
Each major award in science and technology indicates burgeoning trends and prospects in a particular area. For example, the Nobel Prize integrates thousands of opinions about the long-term aims in the relevant scientific disciplines. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is interesting, because it indicates trends in the development of young talent in the field. RUSNANOPRIZE’s contribution is to point out nanotechnologies that may be implemented into everyday life on relatively short time scales.
Let’s analyze the driving forces behind the Award, using the example of last year’s Laureates: MIT Professor Robert Langer and Harvard Medical School Professor Omid Farokhzad (“for the development and industrialization of nanoparticle technologies for medical applications”).
Their technology involves encapsulation of pharmaceutically active substances, and their targeted delivery to particular tissues in human body. Langer and Farokhzad used self-assembly at the molecular level to enable a high effectiveness to price ratio.
Omid Farokzhad, 2013 RUSNANOPRIZE Laureate, receives the award from RUSNANO CEO Anatoly Chubais.
The US-based company BIND Therapeutics Inc. was awarded for the implementation of the Laureates’ developments into commercial medical services. An important part in the evaluation process for the award is determining the technologies which are ready for rapid, large-scale industrial implementation – this is an indicator of the technologies that we will see in stores the near future.
The large panel of international experts judging the Award consists mainly of scientists from academia and R&D. These people have a good understanding of the current trends in science and technology, and are able to select the technologies that resonate with these trends.
For example, self-assembling nanoscale containers is a very promising way to construct highly complex artificial systems using 3D printing. Living cells are very compact, and yet have very efficient molecular machinery, because different processes can occur simultaneously, separated by effective molecular boundaries.
Using molecular containers, it could be possible to develop 3D printing inks which separate different compounds within a very small volume, in a similar way. Self-assembling nanocapsules could provide a relatively low-cost route to this sort of applications.
RUSNANOPRIZE 2013 Laureates presentation
Cooperation, competition and other effects in technological revolutions
Another interesting case closely related to the RUSNANOPRIZE is the story of nanodiamonds. In last year’s competition, three different teams applied for the RUSNANOPRIZE with nanodiamond technologies, and one of them was included into the final short-list. AZoNano published a short review on these applications and technologies.
There are two key considerations worth mentioning – firstly, each of the three applications was based on strong international scientific collaboration. This fact reflects serious potential for further major advancement in this area.
Secondly, the candidate teams had different business groups behind them. Pre-existing commercial competition in the marketplace is the best guarantee for fast growth of net production, return on investment, and further implementation of the novel technology into mass-market products.
In this case, there is a clearly discernable difference between the new carbon materials supported by Nobel Prizes – nanotubes and graphene – and nanodiamonds. CNTs as well as graphene have shown a surge in the numbers of articles published and patents applied for, but pure scientific research is still dominating. On the other hand, nanodiamond-based technologies were initially focused on industrial applications, and now the main driver for their commercialization is in business-focused awards – of which the RUSNANOPRIZE is a good example.
Applications submission is open through July 31st, 2014. Applications are accepted and registered by the Prize Directorate at [email protected] in strict compliance with the nomination form (click for direct access, .doc format). Nomination criteria, composition of the Prize Committee and other information about the Prize can be found on the official website, www.rusnanoprize.org.