The Nanotech Darling

Nanotech. It’s possible to hear words ranging from “promising” to “perilous” when the subject of nanotech is broached, depending on what side of the debate you are on.

Yet it has been said that companies that don’t embrace it “will become dinosaurs,” according to officials at Nanotechnology Victoria in Australia.

This field cuts across so many disciplines — physics, biomedical engineering, information technology, optics, and electrical engineering, to name just some — and is growing quickly as the manufacturing technology improves to inexpensively and precisely fabricate most structures.

From comprehensive online resources to cutting-edge conferences, the field is booming — and so is the need for corporate and startups to hire the best talent to create new products and services.

Approximately 5,300 “white-coat” nanotech developers were employed full time in 2006 in the United States, a figure that will jump to more than 30,000 in the next two years.

According to the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the worldwide need for nanotechnology workers is expected to reach two million by 2015.

In addition, the U.S. National Science Foundation estimates a need for an additional two million jobs in blue-collar roles like manufacturing.

So how are American companies doing to prepare for the potentially huge career needs ahead?

Lux Research asked 26 companies active in nanotechnology application development this question and found that:

  • Corporations will source 34% of new people internally, with another 26% straight from universities.
  • Start-ups will be forced to “poach” 70% of talent away from other science-based businesses.
  • Nanotech teams are poised to grow 74% by 2008. Yet data from the report shows that 60% of the companies surveyed feel a shortage of nanotech talent.
  • Scientists on development teams will shrink to 40%, as engineering grows to 25% and sales and marketing to 22% of future hires.
  • Only 36% of respondents view scientific depth as “very important.” The survey shows that respondents value creativity (60%) and problem-solving capability (50%).

Global Nanotech Stage

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Recruiters should heed these figures now, before the best talent gets recruited away from U.S. companies. For example, earlier this week it was announced that a prominent American nanotechnology researcher from The Ohio State University in Columbus was recruited to work in Alberta, Canada.

“I am excited about coming to a place that puts such a high priority on research and development,” said Richard McCreery, who is known for groundbreaking research on new microelectronic platforms.

“I was not looking to leave Ohio, but the situation and opportunities here were hard to resist,” he said in a release.

He will continue his research at the National Institute for Nanotechnology as a principal researcher and ingenuity scholar, and will also teach chemistry at the University of Alberta.

His research will be supported over the next five years with a total of C$4.5 million (C$2.5 million from the National Research Council; C$1 million from the Alberta Ingenuity Fund; and C$1 million from the University of Alberta).

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is looking to stay competitive and this week joined forces with India to establish a joint Nanotechnology Working Group to speed up the development of new technologies.

According to government officials, the group wants to be on the same level as the United States, Germany, Australia, and Japan, and will officially launch within the next two months.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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