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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Global Nano Meeting Misses the Point Entirely

The International Centre for Science and High Technology of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (ICS-UNIDO) recently called a meeting in Trieste Italy to discuss the role that international organisations - and ICS-UNIDO in particular - could play in helping developing nations tackle this emerging field of technology. A report is here. Some of the reported conclusions are:

[D]eveloping countries were doing enough in terms of nanotechnology research and education. . . a forum of gathering entrepreneurs in the South and companies in the North would be valuable.

[F]unding agencies such as UNIDO help to obtain US$2 million a year for five years to fund a capacity-building project in the South that would give equal importance to research and entrepreneurial training.

[U]nless the industrial sector is brought on board "there will be no house for the research and development that we do, no home for the inventions".

My opinion is that these folks have missed the point entirely. The problem with developing nations and nanotechnology is that they lack the financial and industrial infrastructure to take advantage of nanotechnology developments.

Just as nations with developed shipping and railroads were able to take advantage of the internal combustion engine and build mighty automotive industries; countries with developed financial and entrepreneurial systems are in position to take advantage of the coming nanotechnology revolution. Government funding and international meetings will not build this foundation.

Money and equipment are fungible and flow across national borders to where they can be put to the best use. Right now cash isn’t flowing into developing nations because the risks are high and governmental inertia is often overwhelming. The answer is not government spending, it is government getting out of the way so entrepreneurs can get rolling.

The most critical problem developing nations need to solve is the so-called “brain drain.” Over the last 15 years working in patent law I have met some genius scientists and engineers from South Asia, Africa and South America all of whom were working in the United States. I have also spoken on the phone and traded faxes with some genius scientists and engineers from European and Japanese. The difference is that the Europeans and Japanese can stay in their native land and have rewarding careers.

3 Comments:

  • I was just in the nation's capital at CPAC 2005 and had the privilege of conversing with Dr. Nigel M. de S. Cameron, president of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future.

    I have a post on my Blog about the conversation entitled Nanotechnology and the human future.

    We talked about his research into how Europe's High Level Expert Group (HLEG) is grappling with the potential and risks of converging technologies (CT) [the convergence of Nano-, Bio-, Info- and Cogno-technologies]

    By Blogger PajamaHadin, at 4:08 PM  

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