AUSTIN, Nov. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Nanotechnology promises to be a revolution
because of its potential to address many industrial problems, according to
speakers at the SEMI NanoForum 2004, which runs Nov. 14-17 at the Hilton Hotel
here. "We will solve our industrial problems from the bottom up," said Zvi
Yaniv, CEO of Applied Nanotech.
Before it can do that, the nanotech industry needs to receive adequate
funding. A panel discussion on financing for commercialization of nanotech
discussed reasons for the lack of venture capital interest in the technology.
Yaniv believes a key barrier is that nanotechnology is not considered a
specific science and technology. Rather, it was an approach to science and
technology. "It's about going and solving problems at the molecular level," he
The amount of U.S. venture capital funding for nanotech declined from $385
million in 2002 to an estimated $200 million this year, according to Lux
Research. "Venture capitalists just don't get it -- they don't want to invest
in materials," said Matthew Nordan, vice president of research for Lux.
While nanotech may have trouble getting venture capital funding, there's
adequate government funding available. Taiwan, for example, has budgeted $640
million over six years for its nanotechnology initiative. "There are national
efforts and international efforts in all regions of the world," noted Frank
Robertson, manager of external programs and technology for Intel Corp. "We
hope that we can coordinate to make the best use of those resources and not
duplicate too much of that effort," he said.
Robertson added that the established infrastructure of the semiconductor
industry can serve as both a technological and economic platform to accelerate
the introduction of new nanotech research. In doing so, nanotech would help to
extend the life of Moore's Law, which has tracked the miniaturization of
silicon devices for the past 40 years.
During a keynote speech on the first day of NanoForum, Richard Smalley,
director of the Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory at Rice University in
Houston, Texas, identified the shortage of fossil fuels as the most
significant problem facing human civilization. Nanotechnology has the
potential to provide an energy storage capability so that alternative energy
sources can be widely adopted. "We need new technology to solve the energy
problem," he said.
However, Smalley warned that the U.S. would experience a shortage of
future scientists to find solutions to these problems. That's because fewer
young people were pursuing science and technology as careers. "Where are the
new Edisons?" he asked.
"The era of Sputnik and the moon shot were the only time we were
successful in getting American kids into science and technology," said
Smalley, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1996 for his discovery of
"buckyballs" -- the soccer ball-shaped molecule which is the third carbon
Other speakers at the NanoForum pointed out the difference between
nanotechnology and microelectronics. "Nanotechnology is not about being
smaller, it's about being different as a result of being smaller," said Larry
Bock, executive chairman of Nanosys Inc. "We can bring together two or more
different materials into a single nanostructure, so now these nanostructures
are no longer materials, they are [active] devices," he said.
Nanotech was still in the very early stages of development, comparable to
the information technology industry before the invention of the integrated
circuit, according to Scott Mize, president of the Foresight Institute. "We
are very much at the beginning of an exponential curve of development in
nanotech that we expect will take several decades," he said.
Mize said the nanotech industry needs to focus on major challenges because
"big problems equal big markets." He urged the nanotech sector to follow the
lead of the semiconductor industry by developing a technology roadmap, which
would help the development of standards.
SEMI is a global industry association serving companies that develop and
provide manufacturing technology and materials to the global semiconductor,
flat panel display, MEMS and related microelectronics industries. SEMI
maintains offices in Austin, Beijing, Brussels, Hsinchu, Moscow, San Jose
(Calif.), Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. For more
information, visit www.semi.org.