In a world where products are becoming more similar in every market sector, it is getting tougher to achieve competitive advantage.
Nanomaterials can create discernable differences. These will add value to brands, refresh products nearing the end of life and create entirely new products to meet evolving needs. For manufacturers, nanomaterials can shorten the production process, save energy and raw materials and increase efficiency.
However, the success of nanomaterials is still being hampered by lack of true commercialisation. Intense activity in the lab is not matched by the use of nanomaterials in industrial processes, consumer products or medical and environmental applications.
Quite often an initial invention has little public visibility, but as time passes expectations of huge benefits are raised. Typically, the idea fails to fulfil this over-inflated promise and the inventive process may perish in the ?trough of disillusionment?. As critical as marketing is to commercial success, it is likely that simply trying to use nanotechnology as a sales gimmick is likely to be counterproductive. Only a balance between market pull and technology push can create genuine and sustained demand. The role of NanoCentral is to match R&D ?push? with market ?pull? ? with realistic products and applications identified, and a mature commercial market position established.
Stephen Cash, NanoCentral?s Chief Executive Officer, says: ?Here in the UK we?re very good at science, but not so good at applying the technologies it creates to the marketplace. We need to highlight how nanomaterials can improve our lives to encourage market pull.? In today?s global markets it is also very important that market pull is fulfilled by as much British technology as our foreign competitors?. Cash says, ?Sadly for UK industry, huge resources are being poured into nanomaterials research and their practical applications by its competitors overseas. If we don?t take the safe, commercialisation of nanomaterials extremely seriously, we?ll suffer serious financial consequences.?
In the US there are already 700 products on the supermarket shelves that use nanomaterials. The UK is way behind and is not keeping up. The science base is there ? but the application and the user base isn?t following through fast enough. What NanoCentral is doing is helping industry bridge some of the current supply chain gaps and speed new products to market. NanoCentral is a national alliance of leading companies created to unlock the vast commercial and societal potential of nanomaterials. Based in the North East, it helps forge industry-wide collaborations across markets and supply chains, and provides access to key enabling technologies, facilities and expertise.
As a not-for-profit organisation, NanoCentral can offer significant benefits to organisations, which may currently be put off by perceived high cost, risk or lack of knowledge of using nanomaterials. NanoCentral can use money invested by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to help companies by facilitating collaborations with providers to reduce the costs of entry to the nanomaterials market, helping to bring together technology and the end user.
NanoCentral is constantly increasing its capability by signing up new key nano-enabling technology providers. They cover the whole spectrum of commercialisation, from synthesis ? dispersion, functionalisation and formulation ? to characterisation.
The alliance currently spans across the markets of materials for electronics and energy; personal and healthcare; plastics, polymers and composites; and coatings and inks, and is always looking to move into new markets. NanoCentral has been involved in assisting over 60 industrial collaborations in the last year or so and has many more in the pipeline.
Johnson Matthey offers Flame Pyrolysis for producing relatively low-cost nano-particulate metals and metal oxides, for example fumed silica and ultra-fine titanium dioxide is in the final stages of commissioning and is now available for open access. Market investigations indicate promising applications of this technology to markets, including cosmetics, coatings, and inks and plastics.
The University of Liverpool?s commissioning and validation programme is underway, providing High Pressure-High Shear Processing for micro-mixing nano-dispersed liquids and nano-particulate containing slurries, an emerging technology which will find extensive application particularly in the market sectors of personal care and food. From May 2008 they can offer open-access availability for liquid- liquid emulsion projects, with particle dispersion projects to follow later in the year.
Interek MSG gives access to an array of worldclass analytical techniques, including electron microscopy, shear rheology, particle size measurement, molecular spectroscopy, surface characterisation and novel injection moulding. They have a number of open-access facilities up and running, with many projects underway or complete, assessing the structure?property relationships of nanomaterials systems.
Other providers include MacDermid Autotype, Harman Technology, Imerys, Maelstrom APT, Ilika, IMG Resins and Smith & Nephew. A major part of NanoCentral?s mission is also to ensure the safe use of nanomaterials both in their development and for end-users. They are in partnership with the SAFENANO initiative at the Institute for Occupational Medicine to incorporate health, safety and environmental expertise. They have also set up the AssuredNano accreditation scheme. AssuredNano is designed to provide a clear signal to all stakeholders that nanomaterial SHE (Safety, Health & Environment) is taken seriously by the business holding the accreditation mark and that the business is committed to ensuring that good current practice will continue to be applied.
AssuredNano will be the first nanomaterial SHE Accreditation Scheme, which features annual Compliance Auditing. It will be marketed by NanoCentral and will draw upon the technical expertise of one of the world?s most respected authorities on nanomaterial toxicological risk and occupational medicine.
The centrepiece of the AssuredNano Accreditation Scheme is a standard which considers all SHE aspects associated with a nanomaterial or a nano-enabled product throughout its lifetime: uniquely, it takes a genuinely cradle-to-grave approach. In order to minimise bureaucracy, the standard is constructed as a ?bolt-on? addition to a business? pre-existing quality system, such as ISO9000:2000. AssuredNano?s purpose is to promote the demonstrable adoption of good current practice by those manufacturing, using or retailing nanomaterials or nanomaterialcontaining products.
For more information go to www.assurednano.com
NanoCentral can help you as a technology provider or user to explore the unique opportunities that nanomaterials can offer. Get in touch with the team via the website or the contact details below.
The Centre for Process Innovation,
Wilton Centre, Wilton
Redcar TS10 4RF
Stephen Cash, CEO
Tel: + 44 (0) 1642 442 463
Dr Dan Gooding,
Business Development Director
Tel: + 44 (0) 1223 437 067
Dr Allen Reid,
Business Development Director
Tel: + 44 (0) 1642 442 460
Dr Steve Devine, Commercial Manager
Tel: + 44 (0) 1642 442 464
Added the 11 September 2008 in category Innovation UK Vol4-1