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Nanotechnology in the UK

How NanoKTN is enabling nanotechnologies to connect technology, catalyse innovation and lead the way in delivering the UK's wealth creation

The successful uptake of new technologies is vital to the wealth-creating power of the UK and nanotechnologies are leading the way in delivering the UK?s wealth creation in the next 20 years.

Nanotechnology is used in a variety of products on a daily basis. It is found in medical technology, anti-ageing products and sunscreen, all with positive affects. Over 600 products in the consumer market alone use nanomaterials and a further 1,500 have been patented.

The Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network (NanoKTN), one of the UK?s primary knowledge-based networks for micro and nanotechnologies, was set up by the Technology Strategy Board to promote and facilitate knowledge exchange, support the growth of UK capabilities, raise awareness of nanotechnology and provide thought leadership and input to UK policy and strategy.

The NanoKTN also assists the 23 UK Micro and Nanotechnology (MNT) capital facilities that were set up by the UK government to develop a critical mass of capabilities and provide access to microsystems and nanotechnology platforms, for those wishing to commercialise MNT.

With the division of its activities into four themes: Materials, Manufacturing & Processing, Metrology and Bionano & Nanomedicine, the NanoKTN aims to support the commercialisation of MNT in these areas. This is achieved through focus groups, set up under each of the four themes to act as a three-way communication channel between industry, academia and funding authorities.

They identify the gaps in the supply chain as well as identifying the UK?s potential in innovation. This information is reported back to the Technology Strategy Board as input into its UK Nanotechnology Strategy and also provides leverage for channelling government funds into specific areas of need.

The UK nanotechnology community is becoming focused on healthcare and energy systems and over the past 10 years, governments have provided significant funding, to capture the potential intellectual and economic benefits that nanotechnology has been promising.

The ?green energy? revolution is gradually gathering pace and seeking to produce energy from renewable and lowcarbon footprint resources and in many of the future clean-energy scenarios, nanomaterials are starting to deliver the critical solution to technical challenges. In 2008, the Nano4Energy focus group was launched to facilitate the development of UK research consortia supply chains, in order to achieve commercial exploitation of green technology. The Industrial Steering Committee has identified energy generation and conversion, storage and conservation as key areas of interest and delegated four groups to ensure all these areas are addressed.

One of the longest-running focus groups, HiPerNano, was launched to raise awareness, promote developments and solve extreme engineering challenges in nanomaterials and coatings. Members discuss materials challenges and developments with end-users and industry professionals in aerospace, defence, security, and power generation and more specifically, the benefits of nanomaterials in extreme environments such as high temperature, friction, corrosion, erosion and ballistic impact.

The NanoEntrepreneurs focus group aims to assist the business ambitions of companies as well as focusing on the technology and science of nanotechnology businesses. The NanoKTN identified the need for such a group at the NanoFinance08 event, as many SMEs agreed they would like a sense of community to be created where ideas can be exchanged and business networks and relationships can be established under an independent framework. The group is also linking with the UK regional development agencies to provide access to local support measures.

The NanoEntrepreneurs group is aimed at supporting the development of healthy and profitable SMEs in the nanotechnology area and encouraging partnerships between companies, especially those companies wishing to adopt these new technologies. It will also stimulate the interaction between the nanotechnology community and sources of investment and relief, such as venture capital funding, HMRC tax incentives and grant-funded research. In partnership with Leatherhead Food International, the NanoKTN has created a Nanotechnology Food focus group.

This group aims to provide a forum for development of research funding for applications of nanotechnology in food, and also to communicate the needs and interests of the food industry to government and legislation bodies. It is important that the food industry makes its views heard; otherwise new legislation might stifle the industry and prevent it from benefiting from the new science. The umbrella of this focus group will allow members to voice their views.

In December 2008, the NanoKTN created the first of its focus groups under the Bionano & Nanomedicine theme ? NanoMITE. The group will look at the advances in nano-structured materials for use in tissue engineering. Further focus groups on the horizon include BioSensors & Diagnostics, Nano Drug Discovery & Formulation, Eco- Nano and Nano-enabled Coatings.

The UK government and the NanoKTN are working together to create, promote and push forward the commercialisation of MNT.

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Added the 26 August 2009 in category Innovation UK Vol5-1

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