Efforts to develop and commercialise nanotechnology face a variety of challenges: technical hurdles, availability of capital, environmental, health and safety concerns, and immature manufacturing technology and infrastructure. Nanotechnology is heavily science-based, requiring theoretical understanding and specialist equipment.
Several areas of concern for Europe have been identified by previous studies including a low proportion of global nanotechnology venture capital invested in Europe; lagging behind in the number of nanotechnology patents granted, despite public funding which is on a par with the US; and overall lower industrial investment, despite the presence of global nanotechnology leaders among the European industry.
The EU FP7 funded NanoCom project is a coordinated support action which aims to introduce a new open innovation approach and support environment for overcoming the barriers to commercialisation of nanotechnology results and promoting and spreading best practices (see Figure 1). The target is to increase the uptake of nanotechnologies and facilitate the development of a strong and thriving European nano-manufacturing sector providing global innovation leadership in the field.
Figure 1. The NanoCom approach - an overview
The approach adopted by NanoCom is based on analysing four key types of barriers to commercialising nanotechnology: technology maturity, capability of the available manufacturing processes, organisational maturity, and the readiness of the investment environment. The approach adopted by the NanoCom project will facilitate benchmarking and matching of these four aspects of commercialisation by adapting existing technology readiness (NASA) and capability maturity models (CMMI) to the domain of nanotechnology. The results are used in the development of a novel commercialisation readiness assessment approach based on mapping of technology readiness level (TRL), manufacturing capability readiness level (MCRL), organisational capability maturity level (CML) and investment readiness level (IRL) (see Figure 2).
World best practices for successful commercialisation of nanotechnology research have been studied and the results are being used in the development of a customised open innovation model. Some of the key trends that have been examined include: availability of state of the art nanofabrication facilities, the shift of funding emphasis from infrastructure to applications across the value chain, the role of Government organisations as commercial intermediaries, the effectiveness of structural interventions on introducing long-term cultural changes in nanotechnology commercialisation, the dynamics and partnering parameters between start-ups and large corporations.
To address the gap between the significant public research investment and the overall lack of high impact industrial applications there is a need for a new radical approach based on combining best practices within a common open innovation model and environment that will encourage the influx of private investment and allow the creation of a new style of partnerships focused on industrially driven applied multidisciplinary research and development of technologies at pre-production level.
The NanoCom approach focuses on delivering solutions using common principles at a variety of stages and levels of decision-making. The methodology and tool will be implemented and disseminated through a portfolio of support measures and technology and knowledge transfer actions. These include: integrated programme of events for bringing the gap between laboratory and industrial applications, investors forums and specific partnering events, web portal with support, brokerage and advisory services based on the NanoCom open innovation approach.
References and Further Reading
1. Commercialisation of Nanotechnology – Key Challenges, Tom Crawley, Spinverse,