Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Scotland: Market Report

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Part of the United Kingdom, Scotland comprises more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides. The country’s population stands at a record high of 5.25 million people, as of August 2012.

Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow are the three major cities in Scotland. Edinburgh is the capital city, known as one of Europe’s biggest financial centers; Aberdeen is the oil capital of Europe; and Glasgow is one of the world’s top industrial cities.

Scotland has a modern open economy and its 2009 GDP was £137.5 billion. The country has a thriving and varied industrial base, with strengths in creative industries, renewable energy, sustainable tourism, food and drink, life sciences, and business and financial services.

Scotland has several world-leading universities. It has the highest number of universities in the EU as well as the most nanotechnology researchers per capita in the United Kingdom.

Nanotechnology development in the country started in the 1980s, virtually from the very foundation of the discipline. Currently, nanotechnology in Scotland focuses around various disciplines like sustainable technologies, food, electronics, and life sciences.

Electronics are largely favored in Glasgow and Edinburgh, so these regions have the most number of nanoelectronic companies in the country. Dundee is another city that has come into the spotlight because of its life science capabilities.

Research as well as commercial activity is strong in all the major fields of nanotechnology, from nanomedicine to nanofabrication. For technology companies, Scotland serves as a favorable environment since setup and running expenditures can be cheaper up to 30% when compared to other parts of the United Kingdom. There are also many active technology transfer programs due to the high number of research institutions.

Nanotechnology Organizations

Given below is a short description of the leading nanotechnology-related organizations in Scotland.

Scotland IS

It helps in promoting a world-class technology environment in Scotland.

Scottish Centre for Enabling Technologies (SCET)

SCET is a part of the University of the West of Scotland’s Paisley campus. It assists Scottish firms to research and capitalize innovative technologies in the development of new and existing systems, services, products, and knowledge.

Safety of Nano-Materials Interdisciplinary Research Centre (SnIRC)

SnIRC helps in bringing together top experts from the University of Aberdeen, The University of Edinburgh, and the Edinburgh Napier University to provide a platform that allows them to share their know-how on all aspects of safety and health within the sector.

Benchmark toxicity testing, workplace assessments of exposure, toxicology modeling, ecotoxicology assessment, design and evaluation of exposure control, and risk assessment methods are the services provided by SnIRC.

Nanotechnology Companies

Nanotechnology is a multifaceted field with a large number of applications in numerous industries. Scotland’s leading nanotechnology companies are listed below, each with a short description.

Kelvin Nanotechnology

Kelvin Nanotechnology Ltd (KNT) specializes in providing nanofabrication solutions to academia and industry, delivered through the advanced James Watt Nanofabrication Centre (JWNC). The company deals in large-area, high-resolution, multilevel electron beam lithography for various applications like nanotextured surfaces, photonic crystals, optical elements, imprint masks, transistor gate writing, etc.

The company has more than two decades of experience in nanofabrication and electron beam lithography. It offers an array of prototyping and research and development (R&D) services for the nanoelectronic, bioelectronic, optoelectronic, and semiconductor markets.

Cascade Technologies Limited

Cascade Technologies Limited was established in 2003 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. In the same year, the company filed a patent for intrapulse spectroscopy. The company raised £1.1 million first-round funding and launched its first quantum cascade laser (QCL) system in 2004.

It began its first marine emission monitoring trials and illustrated explosive detection capability in 2005. In 2009, the company received ISO 9001 accreditation and subsequently shifted to new, extended development and production facilities. Afterward, it collaborated with Morpho Detection (Safran Group) to create explosive detection portals.

BAMA awards were given to the Cascade/Unilever partnership for its special aerosol leak detection system. The development of the companies’ technology began in 1999 when the Physics and Applied Physics streams in the University of Strathclyde received an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant, to perform studies into the use of QCLs for gas sensing applications.

The university offers a cost-effective method to determine emissions in real time using its detection systems that can be used for multiple or individual gases from various points within a single instrument.

CelluComp Limited (Sustainable Materials)

It is a new, dynamic material science firm based in Scotland that pioneers the development of advanced products from sustainable sources. The company believes that better and more sustainable options are available to materials when compared to some of the petroleum-based or chemically based materials used at present. This is the reason why it aims to support Material Change for Good.

Memsstar Limited

It is a leading process and equipment supplier of etch and deposition systems for MEMS, semiconductor, and associated technology manufacturing processes. The company’s product Memsstar™ helps to substitute wet liquid processing techniques for release and surface engineering for MEMS devices with sophisticated process control as well as process sequence integration.

NiTech Solutions Limited

It is a technology business providing improved productivity through the use of enhanced mechanisms. The company creates latex products (comprising nanoparticles that measure 20–200 nm in diameter) for use as adhesives, surface coatings, and other types of additives.

Nanotechnology Education

Scotland has several leading universities that provide educational and research opportunities in nanotechnology. The following sections give a list of academic institutions and universities in Scotland that are focused on studies spanning distinct applications of nanoscience in biomedical, smart textiles, and concrete fields.

University of Glasgow

The university supports the nanoscience centers stated below:

  • Interdisciplinary Research Centre (IRC) in Nanobiotechnology
  • Centre for Cell Engineering
  • James Watt Nanofabrication Centre
  • Nanoelectronics Research Centre
  • Kelvin Nanocharacterisation Centre

Dundee University

The university has two departments providing programs based on nanotechnology.

  • The School of Life Sciences Biocentre deals in metallization processing for sensors and semiconductors
  • The Department of Electronic Engineering and Physics: It specializes in materials research using scanning probe methods

University of Edinburgh

It is a leading university providing a range of programs. It supports the following nanotechnology-based centers:

  • Scottish Centre for Genomic Technology
  • Institute for Integrated Micro and Nano Systems
  • Micromanipulation and Imaging Centre
  • Edinburgh Protein Interaction Centre and the Collaborative Optical Spectroscopy
  • The Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions

University of Strathclyde

  • Department of Design, Manufacture, and Engineering
  • Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry
  • Centre for Molecular Nanometrology
  • Institute of Photonics and the Wolfson Centre for cell and tissue engineering

Heriot-Watt University

The university provides a research program in NanoOptics.

University of the West of Scotland

Part of the University of the West of Scotland, the Thin Film Research Centre has been operating for a decade. The center works with various industries and applications such as energy generation, bioengineering, flexible displays, telecoms, optics, ophthalmics, and barrier and decorative coatings for food and pharmaceutical products.

University of St Andrews

It supports the St Andrews Laboratory for Microfabrication of Optical Nanostructures.

Robert Gordon University

The School of Life Sciences focuses on nanotechnology in biomedical sciences.

University of Aberdeen

Part of the Department of Chemistry, the Institute of Medical Sciences develops molecular fluorescent sensors.

Recent Developments

A steady stream of nanotech research news was emerging from Scotland in the past few years. Almost 200 researchers are involved in nanotechnology research in Scotland, working in numerous research centers attached to universities in the area.

A few of the research accomplishments and activities that had occurred in the last few years are given below:

  • Scientists at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow have developed an innovative “smart paint” that could guarantee structural safety by identifying tiny flaws. The paint based on nanotechnology is cost-effective and eco-friendly.
  • At the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Anthony Seaton has reported a research paper in Nature regarding the pathogenicity of carbon nanotubes in mice.
  • In 2009, the Scottish Seed Fund provided investment of up to $200,000 to growing companies and start-ups.
  • In 2010, nanotechnology scientists at the University of Glasgow developed a Christmas card that was so tiny that over 8000 of them can be accommodated on a first-class stamp. It cannot be seen with the naked eye, and is believed to be the world’s smallest card.
  • At the University of Glasgow, Professor Lee Cronin and his research group are involved in building complex functional molecular architectures that are not based on biologically derived building blocks.

Scotland is a thriving hub of nanotechnology research and has great prospects for additional studies and commercial development in the coming years.

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