Brussels, 10 Dec 2003
Most participants at the EuroNanoForum in Trieste, Italy, on 9 December, agreed that Europe is in an enviable position on the nanotechnology stage. However, the fear that the situation may change is shared by many, and there are a number of different opinions as to where Europe's focus should be if it is to maintain its position.
'Infrastructure' was a word highlighted by many speakers on the first day of the conference. 'Whoever builds up the infrastructures first will win the nanotechnology race,' said Helmut Schmidt, Director of Germany's Institute of New Materials, who termed the lack of significant infrastructure a 'bottleneck' hindering commercialisation.
While building up infrastructures is never easy, EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, speaking in a video message to the conference, explained that the novelty and multi-disciplinary nature of nanotechnology makes the task particularly costly and complicated for public authorities and researchers alike. These difficulties mean that 'we have no choice but to do it together,' said the Commissioner, appealing for increased international cooperation.
It seems that the desire for further international cooperation is reciprocated by Europe's potential collaborators. Vice President of the Japanese Science Council, Teruo Kishi, told CORDIS News of a recent meeting with Mr Busquin in which he had outlined a desire for more contact with the EU. A scientific cooperation agreement between the EU and Japan is expected soon.
Some doubt was, however, cast on calls for increased collaboration by UK Nobel Prize winner Harry Kroto. 'I have a problem with the way collaboration is being pushed in some areas [...]. A two body collision is possible [...], but it's very difficult to get a three, four or five body collision in research.' He conceded that 'it's very useful to have groups,' but claimed that 'my most important collaborations have been one to one.'
Another ingredient for success in nanotechnology is basic research, according to a number of participants. Mr Kishi told CORDIS News that while Japan has invested significantly in nanotechnology research, the country was also carrying out basic research at the same time. This is why, he believes, Japan is so far advanced in the field of nanotechnology.
This sentiment was echoed by Professor Kroto, who claimed that 'the major discoveries are those that come by accident [...], it's from fundamental science, not just research focused on a goal, that we get exciting and unexpected results.'
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