Kristin: In discussing a new model for diffusion of nanotechnology at COMS2008, Tim Harper from Cientifica just made some bold assumptions. The first was that 80% (perhaps 90%) of academic research yields no economic value (and takes 7-10 years to market). The second assumption was that for technology transfer public acceptance is irrelevant. Then why are we here?
Tim qualified his statement slightly by acknowledging areas with direct application like food and cosmetics may be of greater concern to some people but stated that for the most part, in electronics, sports equipment, clothing, etc, most consumers weren’t concerned with the technology. And this feels right – anecdotally most people would be more interested in the form and function of an item that then the science used to develop it. Later in the talk, he observed that now was the most interesting time for nanotechnology as applications are just making the move across the chasm between early adaopters and the take-up by the early majority.
For me this is the key. Early adopters care about the technology vs the majority who care about the product. I think public acceptance will become irrelevant once nano bridges that chasm and the majority of people are satisfied with the solutions that nanotechnology provides. And they will be satisfied – if they feel comfortable that the benefits they receive do not pose unreasonable health, safety and ethical risks. But I do think that public engagement and education is important to help bridge this chasm.
Originally published on Blog@NanoVic for Nanotechnology Victoria.