NEW YORK Nanotechnology investors are narrowing their focus in search of the technology's "sweet spot."
"We know that getting from idea to commercialization of actual nanometer-sized circuits takes about ten years, so we are picking our targets judiciously," Vida Ilderem, vice president of technology at Motorola Laboratories, told the NanoBusiness 2006 conference here Wednesday (May 17). "Our nanotechnology portfolio is focusing on applications, specifically on applying nanotechnology advantages to communications devices such as cellphones."
Ilderem said companies can't afford to go it alone on nanotechnology R&D and commercialization. A carbon nanotube emissive display (NED) project at Motorola Labs will take up to 30 months to complete. "We are negotiating with some 20 display customers to partner with on the technology," said Ilderem. Emissive displays can be viewed in daylight.
The NED project could take up to three years to complete. Motorola expects to develop nano sensors and passive RF components in three to five years, RF active components in five to ten years and entire communications circuits in no less than ten years.
Another speaker, Nabil Sakkab, senior vice president at Proctor & Gamble, agreed that cooperation is key. The company’s foray into nanotechnologies is being driven by a "connect and develop" business model "instead of the failing internal [R&D] model that permeates so many industries."
The "R&D business model is broken, and we do not outsource creativity, but in-source creativity from outside our company," said Sakkab.
The C&D model allowed innovators like Burt Rutan to develop new designs like Spaceship 1 "with much less money than NASA has spent on its programs," Sakkab said.
Sakkab cited a March 2006 Harvard Business Review article which called for exploring innovation by “making the world your laboratory.” This is already being applied in the electronics research world, as more talent is being tapped in various global regions by leading hi-tech Western firms. More companies are opening design centers in Asia and Eastern Europe to bring creativity and innovation in-house, countering the manufacturing outsource trends of the last few years.