Nanotechnology in Scotland: Market Report


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Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom and consists of over 790 islands including the Hebrides and the Northern Isles. As of August 2012, the population of Scotland stands at a record high of 5.25 million people. The three major cities in Scotland are Edinburgh, the capital city known as one of Europe largest financial centers, Glasgow, a leading industrial city in the world, and Aberdeen, the oil capital of Europe.

Scotland has a modern open economy, with GDP in 2009 of £137.5 billion. Scotland has a strong and varied industrial base, with strengths in renewable energy, life sciences, financial and business services, food and drink, sustainable tourism, and creative industries. It is also home to many world-class universities - Scotland prides itself on having the highest number of universities in the EU and also the most nanotechnology researchers per capita in the UK.

Nanotechnology development in Scotland began in the 1980s, almost from the very inception of the discipline. Today, nanotechnology in Scotland revolves around multiple disciplines such as life sciences, electronics, food and sustainable technologies. Owing to the popularity of electronics in Edinburgh and Glasgow, most of the country’s nanoelectronic companies can be found in these regions. Dundee has also come into the spotlight due to its life science capabilities.

Research and commercial activity is strong in all the key areas of nanotechnology, from nanofabrication to nanomedicine. Scotland is a favourable environment for technology companies, as setup and running costs can be up to 30% cheaper than in other parts of the UK, and the high density of research institutions means that there are many active technology transfer programs.

Nanotechnology Organisations

A brief introduction to the key nanotechnology-related organisations in Scotland is given below:

Scotland IS – helps to promote world-class technology environment in Scotland.

Scottish Centre for Enabling Technologies (SCET)is a part of the University of the West of Scotland's Paisley campus. It helps Scottish companies to explore and exploit the latest technologies in the development of new/existing products, services, systems and knowledge.

The Institute of Nanotechnology – located in Glasgow and is a leading global educator in nanotechnology providing information to government, academia and industry.

Safety of Nano-Materials Interdisciplinary Research Centre (SnIRC) – assists in bringing together leading minds from Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Napier University in order to provide a platform for them to impart their expertise on all aspects of health and safety within the industry. SnIRC services include benchmark toxicity testing, toxicology modeling, workplace assessments of exposure, evaluation and design of exposure control, ecotoxicology assessment, and risk assessment approaches.

Nanotechnology Companies

Nanotechnology is a versatile field with vast number of applications in a multiple industries. The major nanotechnology companies in Scotland are listed below along with a brief introduction to each of them:

Kelvin Nanotechnology - Kelvin Nanotechnology Ltd (KNT) provides nanofabrication solutions to industry and academia delivered through the state of the art James Watt Nanofabrication Centre (JWNC). They specialise in high resolution, large area, multilevel electron beam lithography for applications such as transistor gate writing, imprint masks, optical elements, photonic crystals, nanotextured surfaces and many more. Kelvin Nanotechnology has over twenty years experience in electron beam lithography and nanofabrication. Kelvin Nanotechnology provides a wide range of R&D and prototyping services for the semiconductor, optoelectronic, bioelectronic and nanoelectronic market places.

Cascade Technologies Limited - Cascade Technologies was founded in 2003 in Glasgow, UK. In the same year, they filed a patent for intrapulse spectroscopy. In 2004, Cascade raised £1.1M first round funding and releases their first Quantum Cascade Laser System. The company started their first marine emission monitoring trials and demonstrated explosive detection capability in 2005.  In the year 2009, Cascade received ISO 9001 accreditation and moves to new, extended development and manufacturing facilities. Later on, the company partnered with Morpho Detection (Safran Group) to develop explosive detection portals. The Cascade/Unilever partnership received the BAMA awards for their unique aerosol leak detection system.  The development of their technology started in 1999 when an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant was awarded to University of Strathclyde Physics and Applied Physics to carry out research into the use of Quantum Cascade Lasers for gas sensing applications. They provide an inexpensive way to measure emissions in real time using their detection systems that can be applied for individual or multiple gases from multiple points within one instrument.

CelluComp Limited (Sustainable Materials) – CelluComp is a new and dynamic material science company based in Scotland that is at the forefront of developing high-tech products from sustainable sources. At CelluComp they believe there are better and more sustainable options to materials compared to some of the chemically-based or petroleum-based materials that are used today, which is why their vision is to promote Material Change for Good.

Memsstar Limited – Memsstar is a premier process and equipment supplier of etch and deposition solutions for semiconductor, MEMS and related technology manufacturing processes. Their product Memsstar™ helps to replaces wet liquid processing methods for release and surface engineering for MEMS devices with advanced process control and process sequence integration.

NiTech Solutions Limited – NiTech is a technology business delivering increased productivity through the application of improved mixing mechanisms. They produce latex products (containing nano-particles 20-200 nm in diameter) for use as surface coatings, adhesives and other additives.

Nanotechnology Education

Scotland is home to many world-class universities offering research and educational opportunities in nanotechnology. Given below is a list of universities and academic institutions in Scotland that are involved in research covering distinct applications of nanoscience in concrete, smart textiles, and biomedical fields.

University of Glasgow - promotes the following nanoscience centres:

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

Dundee University - has two departments offering nanotechnology-based programs.

  • The School of Life Sciences Biocentre specializes in metallization processing for semiconductors, sensors
  • The department of Electronic Engineering and Physics: dealing with materials research using scanning probe techniques  

University of Edinburgh - A world-class university offering a variety of programs. Some of the nanotechnology based centers promoted by the university are as follows:

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

University of Strathclyde

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

Heriot-Watt University - offers a research program in NanoOptics

University of the West of Scotland - The Thin Film Research Centre at the University of the West of Scotland has been operating for ten years. The centre collaborates with a wide range of industries and applications including ophthalmics, optics, telecoms, flexible displays, bio engineering, energy generation, decorative and barrier coatings for pharmaceutical and food products.

University of St Andrews - Promotes the St Andrews Laboratory for Microfabrication of Optical Nanostructures

Robert Gordon University -The school of Life Sciences deals with nanotechnology in Biomedical Sciences

University of Aberdeen - The Institute of Medical Sciences at the department of Chemistry synthesises molecular fluorescent sensors.

Recent Developments

In the last couple of years, there has been a steady stream of nanotech research news coming out of Scotland. There are nearly 200 scientists involved in nanotechnology research in Scotland, working in the various research centers attached to universities in the region.

Some of the research activities and accomplishments in the last few years are detailed below:

  • Researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow have formulated a revolutionary ‘smart paint’ that could ensure structural safety by detecting microscopic faults. This inexpensive and environmentally-friendly paint uses nanotechnology.
  • Nanotechnology researchers from the University of Glasgow created a Christmas card in 2010 that was so small that more than 8000 of them can be fitted on a first-class stamp. It is invisible to the naked eye, and is said to be the smallest in the world.
  • The Scottish Seed Fund offered investment of up to $200,000 to start-ups and growing companies in 2009.

Scotland is an active centre of nanotechnology research, and has excellent prospects for further research and commercial development in the years to come.

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