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Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Science and Innovation
Riverbank Plaza Hotel, London, 23 October 2006
Welcome to UK Nano Forum and thank you for coming to this, our first UK Nano Forum at which we will present the best of UK nanotechnology to you. Our aim is to initiate lasting cooperation and partnerships. I hope that this will be the first in a series of annual events and that it will open up new business opportunities and advance the progress of nanotechnology worldwide.
I’d like first of all to give you some insight into the background of UK nanotechnology.
Following a strategic review of UK nanotechnology research and industry in 2002 the UK government decided that it needed to do more to provide the best possible conditions in the U.K. for the nanotechnology industry to innovate and grow. As a direct result of this review, in July 2003, I announced a cash injection of £90 million over six years to help industry harness the commercial opportunities offered by nanotechnology.
At the same time, I also announced the formation of the Micro and NanoTechnology Network which was tasked with creating a robust micro and nanotechnology infrastructure in the UK. This included formulating a nanotechnology strategy for the UK and creating a network of open access facilities to provide the essential ‘tools of the trade’.
An Applied Research Programme was also created to act as a catalyst for the commercialisation of micro and nanotechnologies in the UK, bringing the technologies out of the laboratory and into new products and services.
My good friend, Professor Hugh Clare, Director of the MNT Network commented that just a few years ago independent reports concluded UK industry was being disadvantaged due to the absence of strong Government support to encourage the commercialisation of micro and nanotechnologies. The UK’s major competitors had invested substantial sums of money for more than 25 years. The injection of funding by the Government in 2003, with significant matched funding from industry and the UK Regions, plus the creation of the MNT Network, has, however, dramatically transformed the landscape.
It is clear that micro and nanotechnology will play a pivotal role in the future of mainstream UK manufacturing. Already the UK is among the leaders in a number of key areas, most notably, bionanotechnology, healthcare and nanomedicine; nanomaterials; and metrology and standards.
The UK has also taken a lead to ensure the safe manufacture, handling, and use of Nanotechnology. In July 2004, the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering at my request published a report which investigated the ethical, safety, health and environmental issues raised by nanotechnology. They saw few problems but highlighted the immediate need for research to address uncertainties about the health and environmental effects of nanoparticles. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs is now coordinating research in these areas.
We have an enviable record in the quality of our science base. With 1% of the world’s population we undertake 5% of the world’s science, produce 9% of all scientific papers and receive 12% of all citations, including 13% of the most highly cited ones. We are also ranked first in terms of papers and citations per head in the G7.
The UK has not always converted these ideas into jobs and wealth in the past. However, this has substantially changed over the last ten years and I am pleased to say that the UK’s strong science and innovation base in nanotechnology is now working closely with industry. With initiatives such as the creation of the MNT Network we have seen a significant growth in a new industry, as well as support for industry in general across the UK.
Evidence from published company accounts indicate that the UK’s micro and nanotechnology industry has doubled in size in a year – from £11 billion in 2003-2004 to £23 billion for the financial year 2005-2006. It employs around 23,000 people supporting a further 225,000 who are employed in manufacturing sectors that depend on nanotechnology or microsystems.
The UK nanotechnology community is now in a strong position to offer opportunities for cooperation in research, innovation and product development, metrology tools and market ready products, such as bulk nano powders and quantum dots.
Nanomaterials and micro-sized components are finding their way into everyday applications.
For example, in the aerospace sector, the current nanotechnology applications of MEMS devices available on the market include; oil control for full authority digital engine control, pressure sensors inside the cabin, accelerometer for avionic and flight control, pressure sensors for air data measurements.
A founder member of the MNT Network, BAE Systems who have already seen the benefits of the technology, have developed the world’s first micro machined silicon ring gyroscope in collaboration with Sumitomo Precision Products (SPP) of Japan. The gyroscope uses closed-loop excitation to provide excellent scale factor and performance stability over wide rate ranges. Although BAE Systems originally designed the gyro for performance driven defence applications, it has applications in a wide range of more cost sensitive markets (for example automotive vehicles).
In the automotive industry micro and nanotechnologies are already being used in protective paints, accelerometers, glass treatment, car wax, wheel and interior cleaner, leak resistant fuel tanks, lubricants, tyre-pressure sensors, rollover sensors and nanocomposites for light weight materials with improved temperature resistance. These are plastics that are reinforced using clay nanoparticles that simply take the basic plastic with a finite melting point and raise the melting temperature. More fundamentally, people are interested in improving fuel efficiency, so nanoparticle catalysts are now being added to fuels used in transportation to improve burn efficiency and reduce pollutant emissions.
The U.K. is also developing a leading role in the world of medicine which includes nanotechnology applications in drug discovery and delivery, medical devices, imaging, diagnostics and regenerative medicine, as well as advanced medical sensors. An example of this can be seen in the work of another member of the MNT Network, Oxford Biosensors. They have found that by utilising micron scale fluid engineering and biosensing, they can extend the opportunities for home based personalised medicine – linking diagnostics with therapy.
While the UK Government is strongly supporting nanotechnology, success will depend on entrepreneurs and researchers such as yourselves. I hope you will enjoy the presentations, visit the UK exhibitors and take part in this new phase of internationalizing nanotechnology. The UK has a great deal to offer!