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14 November 2011

Forget the Word Nano

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Businesses in the nanotechnology field may even forget the word nano. To secure success they have to focus on solving customers’ problem and better communicate business opportunities that nanotechnologies may bring (Nov '11)

These are key insights from two EC funded initiatives, ProNano and Nanocom, which are joining their forces to tackle the issue of barriers to the commercialisation of European nanotechnologies. The two projects are different in scope, approach and methods. The former provides coaching and advise to research teams on their route to commercialisation, the latter will ultimately provide a roadmap and policy guidelines to support commercialisation of nanotechnology research. Both projects started their activity with a thorough analysis of the barriers that hinder the successful commercialisation of the research outputs in the nano-field. The results of such exercise from the two projects have been recently shared and discussed in a workshop, and a document has been issued that summarises the main findings.

A direct comparison and cross validation of the results is not possible because of the differences in the methodology applied to the analysis of barriers. It is nevertheless interesting to remark that relevant common conclusions have been drawn, which allow the nano community to identify a few key points to look at. Although many and diverse issues have deserved the attention of the ProNano and Nanocom experts, focus on business model and market vision, together with the need to properly communicate, have been put to the foreground.

But what does this actually mean for researchers in the nano field, who want to approach the market? We asked this question to Mr. Enzo Sisti from Venetonanotech, an organisation that manages the activities of the nanotechnology sector in the Veneto region in Italy.

According to Mr Sisti, the need to identify a proper business model is especially important whenever the outputs of nanotechnology research provide incremental improvement to existing products rather than create entirely new ones. If potential customers have a system or product that works, they can be reluctant to change, unless the benefits and value are clearly demonstrated. In such situations, nano businesses need to identify and propose a “window of acceptability”, based on technical parameters as well as on price competitiveness. Still too often, Sisti says, the focus of researchers is on technology only and not on problem solving in a customer’s perspective. It is, instead, important to provide sound and proved benchmarks on the cost/benefits that may incur form the adoption of innovation. Communication, coherently, should emphasize the added value rather than innovation per se.

(14 November 2011)

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