Category Archives: business

US Dept. of Agriculture wants to commercialize cellulose nanomaterials

Lynn Bergeson in an April 7, 2014 posting on the Nanotechnology Now website announced an upcoming ‘nano commercialization’ workshop (Note: A link has been removed),

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) will hold a May 20-21, 2014, workshop entitled “Cellulose Nanomaterial — A Path Towards Commercialization.” See http://www.nano.gov/ncworkshop The workshop is intended to bring together high level executives from government and multiple industrial sectors to identify pathways for the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials and facilitate communication across industry sectors to determine common challenges.

You can find out more about the Cellulose Nanomaterial — A Path Towards Commercialization workshop here where you can also register and find an agenda, (Note: Links have been removed),

The primary goal of the workshop is to identify the critical information gaps and technical barriers in the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials with expert input from user communities. The workshop also supports the announcement last December by USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack regarding the formation of a public-private partnership between the USDA Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities to rapidly advance the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials. In addition, the workshop supports the goals of the NNI Sustainable Nanomanufacturing Signature Initiative/

The workshop is open to the public, after registration, on a first-come, first-served basis.

There is an invitation letter dated Feb. 7, 2014, which provides some additional detail,

The primary goals of the workshop are to identify critical information gaps and technical barriers in the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials with expert input from user communities. We plan to use the outcome of the workshop to guide research planning in P3Nano and in the Federal Government.

The Cellulose Nanomaterial — A Path Towards Commercialization workshop agenda lists some interesting names. The names I’ve chosen from the list are the speakers from the corporate sectors, all eight of them with two being tentatively scheduled; there are 22 speakers listed in total at this time,

Tom Connelly – DuPont (Tentative)
Travis Earles, Technology Manager, Lockheed Martin
Beth Cormier, Vice President for R&D and Technology, SAPPI Paper
Ed Socci, Director of Beverage Packaging, PepsiCo Advanced Research
Mark Harmon, DuPont (tentative)
Kim Nelson, Vice President for Government Affairs, API
Jean Moreau, CEO, CelluForce
Yoram Shkedi, Melodea

For the most part the speakers will be academics or government bureaucrats and while the title is ‘cellulose nanomaterials’ the speaker list suggests the topic will be heavily weighted to CNC/NCC (cellulose nanocrystals, aka, nanocrystalline cellulose). Of course, I recognize the Canadian, Jean Moreau of CelluForce, a Canadian CNC production facility. I wonder if he will be discussing the stockpile, which was first mentioned here in my Oct. 3, 2013 posting,

I stumbled across an interesting little article on the Celluforce website about the current state of NCC (nanocrystalline cellulose aka CNC [cellulose nanocrystals]) production, Canada’s claim to fame in the nanocellulose world. From an August 2013 Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Spotlight series article,

The pilot plant, located at the Domtar pulp and paper mill in Windsor, Quebec, is a joint venture between Domtar and FPInnnovations called CelluForce. The plant, which began operations in January 2012, has since successfully demonstrated its capacity to produce NCC on a continuous basis, thus enabling a sufficient inventory of NCC to be collected for product development and testing. Operations at the pilot plant are temporarily on hold while CelluForce evaluates the potential markets for various NCC applications with its stockpiled material. [emphasis mine]

I also recognized Melodea which I mentioned here in an Oct. 31, 2013 posting titled: Israeli start-up Melodea and its nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) projects.

A couple of final notes here, NCC (nanocrystalline cellulose) is also known as cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) and I believe the second term is becoming the more popular one to use. As for the final of these two notes, I had an illuminating conversation earlier this year (2014) about CNC and its accessibility. According to my source, there’s been a decision that only large industry players will get access to CNC for commercialization purposes. I can’t verify the veracity of the statement but over the last few years I’ve had a few individual entrepreneurs contact me with hopes that i could help them access the materials. All of them of them had tried the sources I was to suggest and not one had been successful. As well, I note the speaker list includes someone from PepsiCo, someone from Dupont, and someone from Lockheed Martin, all of which could be described as large industry players. (I’m not familiar with either API or SAPPI Paper so cannot offer any opinions as to their size or importance.) Melodea’s access is government-mandated due to research grants from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7).

I’m not sure one can encourage innovation by restricting access to raw materials to large industry players or government-funded projects as one might be suspected from my back channel experience, the conversation as reported to me, and the speaker list for this workshop.

StoreDot scores a coup with bio-organic nanodots that recharge smartphone batteries in 30 secs.or less

Where can you get this magical battery? Unfortunately, when something is a prototype, it means we’re a long way from purchasing the device, which is from Israeli start-up, StoreDot (mentioned in my Dec. 3, 2012 posting about their bio-organic nanodots).

The prototype was well received at a Microsoft conference held in Tel Aviv according to an April 8, 2014 news item on BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) news online,

Israeli start-up StoreDot displayed the device – made of biological structures – at Microsoft’s Think Next Conference [held in Tel Aviv on April 8, 2014].

A Samsung S4 smartphone went from a dead battery to full power in 26 seconds in the demonstration.

The battery is currently only a prototype and the firm predicts it will take three years to become a commercially viable product.

In the demonstration, a battery pack the size of a cigarette packet was attached to a smartphone.

“We think we can integrate a battery into a smartphone within a year and have a commercially ready device in three years,” founder Dr Dorn Myersdorf told the BBC.

The bio-organic battery utilises tiny self-assembling nano-crystals that were first identified in research being done into Alzheimer’s disease at Tel Aviv University 10 years ago.

An April 8, 2014 news item on Azonano provides more technical details,

… StoreDot specializes in technology that is inspired by natural processes, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly. The company produces “nanodots” derived from bio-organic material that, due to their size, have both increased electrode capacitance and electrolyte performance, resulting in batteries that can be fully charged in minutes rather than hours.

For the more technically-minded, here’s how it actually works. Those multifunctional nanodots are chemically synthesized bio-organic peptide molecules that change the rules of mobile device capabilities. These nanocrystals are made from peptides, short chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Still with us? Here’s comes the really cool part.

StoreDot’s bio-organic devices such as smartphone displays, provide much more efficient power consumption, and are eco-friendly; while other nanodot and quantum-dot technologies currently in use are heavy metal based, like cadmium, and, therefore, toxic, StoreDot nanodots are biocompatible and superior to all previous discoveries in this field. StoreDot’s technology will allow them to synthesize new nanomaterials that can be used in a wide variety of applications.

Manufacturing Nanodots is also relatively inexpensive as they originate naturally, and utilize a basic biological mechanism of self-assembly. They can be made from a vast range of bio-organic raw materials that are readily available and environmentally friendly.

You can find out more about StoreDot on its website. By the way, those nanodot batteries are likely to be twice as expensive to purchase, once they come to market, as standard batteries according to the BBC news item.

UK’s Graphene NanoChem shares jump from 10p to 101p

Nick Fletcher in an April 7, 2014 posting on the Guardian’s MarketForcesLive blog provides a few tidbits about Graphene NanoChem,

The company [Graphene NanoChem] has formed a joint venture with Malaysia’s Scomi Oiltools and will licence its technology to produce a range of speciality chemicals. It has also signed an agreement with Emery advanced materials to develop chemicals for plastic additives, biolubricants and rubber.

Fletcher’s post provides more detail. You can also check out the Graphene NanoChem website and/or the Scomi Oilfield Services (aka Scomi Group) website. I think I finally tracked down the third company mentioned in the posting. Emery Advanced Materials seems to be part of Emery Oleochemicals Group based in Malyasia; I believe the parent company is based in the US. I have had problems linking to their site so found some information about Emery Oleochemicals on Bloomberg Business Week,

Emery Oleochemicals LLC produces natural-source oleochemical basestocks. It offers fatty acids, glycerin and triacetin, ozone acids, plastic additives, and ester-based oilfield chemicals. The company also provides sustainable polyol solutions for use in the manufacturing of flexible and rigid polyurethane foam that is used in transportation, construction, packaging, furniture, and bedding applications; and various coatings, adhesives, sealants, and elastomers applications. Emery Oleochemicals LLC was formerly known as Cognis Oleochemicals LLC and changed its name to Emery Oleochemicals LLC in May 2009. The company was founded in 2005 and is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Emery Oleochemicals LLC …

So there you have it.

Xerox Research Centre Canada, authentic currency, etc. and a ‘nano’ deal with Authentix

An April 1, 2014 news item on labcanada.com describes a recently signed deal which may turn up the competition in Canada’s currency authentication business sector,

The Xerox Research Centre Canada [XRCC] says it has signed a multi-year materials research services agreement with Dallas-based Authentix, a provider of anti-counterfeiting, brand protection and program integrity solutions for the oil and gas industry; currency, branded products and tax stamp markets.

“Working with companies like Authentix adds to the value our scientists bring to the research world,” said Paul Smith, vice president and director of the Xerox Research Centre Canada. “Not only do we continue to strengthen our scientific role in Canadian innovation, we are now bringing valuable research capabilities to other companies globally.”

Given that Xerox is a US company with a Canadian branch, I’m not sure how signing a deal with another US company aids Canadian innovation. On the plus side, it does give some Canadian scientists a job.

I also noted the reference to “currency authentication”, which suggests that Authentix could be in direct competition with the Canadian company, Nanotech Security Corp. (I have written about Nanotech Security Corp. previously with the two most recent being a Jan. 31, 2014 posting about the company’s presentation at an Optical Document Security Conference and a March 17, 2014 posting about the company’s first commercial client, TED.) Perhaps Xerox plans to spur Canadian innovation by providing more competition for our technology companies.

Here’s more from the March 31, 2014 Xerox news release, which originated the news item about the deal with Authentix,

Scientists at XRCC specialize in the design and development of electronic materials and specialty components; environmentally-friendly processes; coatings, applied nanotechnology; polymer science, engineering and pilot plant scale-up. [emphasis mine]

“Materials science research makes it possible to bring new levels of security, accuracy and efficiency to product authentication,” said Jeff Conroy, chief technology officer of Authentix.  “Leveraging the core competencies of Xerox’s materials lab in Canada expands and accelerates our ability to bring innovative solutions to the authentication market.”

Located near Toronto, XRCC is part of the global Xerox Innovation Group made up of researchers and engineers in five world-renowned research centers. Each center leverages XRCC’s unique, integrated, global materials research and development mandate.

You can find out more about Authentix here.

Getting back to XRCC, they had a longstanding relationship with Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT) having signed a 2007 contract with NINT and the Government of Alberta, from a Xerox Innovation Story,

In Canada’s first major public-private nanotechnology research partnership, the Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC), NRC National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) and Government of Alberta will provide approximately $4.5 million for research and development of materials-based nanotechnology over the next three years.

The three partners will invest funds, human resources, and available infrastructures to create a research program and teams focused on developing commercially successful nanotechnology-based discoveries. Personnel from NINT and XRCC will collaborate on research projects at NINT in Edmonton, Alberta, and at XRCC in Mississauga, Ontario.

The funds will contribute to the hiring of eight to 10 scientists who will investigate materials-based nanotechnologies, including document- and display-related technologies. The research program, co-managed by XRCC and NINT, will allow access to Xerox’s experience in successfully commercializing technology to facilitate the market application of resulting inventions.

“This level of public and private sector partnership helps fuel the type of innovation that will keep Alberta, and Canada as a whole, strong and competitive in an increasingly global, knowledge-based economy,” said Doug Horner, minister for Advanced Education and Technology, Government of Alberta. “The investments from the Government of Alberta, Xerox and NINT will build a world-class nanotechnology research program that embraces the spirit of innovation, but also that of commercialization.”

I find the references to Xerox and innovation and commercialization amusing since the company is famous for its innovation missteps. For example, the company owned the photocopying business from the 1960s into the 1970s due to its patent rights but once those rights ran out (there’s usually a time limit on a patent) the company was poorly equipped to compete. My guess is that they didn’t know how in an environment where they no longer held a monopoly. The other famous story concerns the mouse and the graphical user interface both of which were developed at Xerox but the company never pursued those innovations leaving Stephen Jobs and his colleagues to found Apple.

At any rate, Xerox survived those missteps so perhaps they learned something and they really do mean it when they talk about spurring innovation. Although, given the business model for most Canadian technology companies, I expect Nanotech Security Corp. to get purchased by Authentix or one of its competitors with the consequence that Canadian taxpayers have helped to pay, yet again, for innovation that will be purchased by a corporate entity with headquarters in another country and much less interest in maintaining a business presence in Canada. If you think I’m being cynical about another country’s corporate interests in Canada, take a look at this excerpt from Derrick Penner’s March 28, 2014 article for the Vancouver Sun about Vancouver’s recent Globe 2014 conference,

Globe, the biannual conference on sustainable development [March 26 - 28, 2014], is as much about doing business as it is about discussing bright ideas for reducing the impact of industry on the environment.

And a new twist for European delegates, such as Roumeas [Vincent Roumeas, a business development manager for the Paris Region Economic Development Agency], is the prospect of Canada Europe Free Trade.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, last October, signed an agreement in principal, which commits the two sides to finalizing a full agreement giving each other tariff-free access to each others’ markets.

Roumeas said it is too soon to tell how much of a draw EU free trade will be because he is working on developing immediate prospects within the next 18 months, which would be before any benefits from free trade would kick in, if the deal is concluded.

However, his colleague Jeremy Bernard Orawiec, a trade adviser for UbiFrance, does see the agreement as an attraction for French firms interested the American market.

He added that the U.S. is viewed as a tough market to crack, so Canada is looked at as an easier-accessed entry point to all of North America.

“It’s really positive to see Canada able to make an agreement before the U.S.,” Orawiec said. “It gives us a time frame so (companies) can come here [Canada] and explore the whole American market.” [emphases mine]

It’s not clear from his comments but I suspect Orawiec is unaware that Mexico is part of North America. In any event, Canada as a market place or as an innovation centre is not important in and of itself. One can criticize Orawiec for making those comments but I’d like to thank him as he has expressed an attitude that I believe is widely held.

Bayer MaterialScience divests itself of carbon nanotube and graphene patents

Last year’s announcement from Bayer MaterialScience about withdrawing from the carbon nanotube market (featured in my May 9, 2013 posting) has now been followed with news of the company’s sale of its intellectual property (patents) associated with carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene. From a March 31, 2014 news item on Nanowerk,

After concluding its research work on carbon nanotubes (CNT) and graphenes, Bayer MaterialScience is divesting itself of fundamental intellectual property in this field. The company FutureCarbon GmbH, based in Bayreuth, Germany, will acquire, as leading provider of carbon-based composites, the bulk of the corresponding patents from the past ten years. The two parties have now signed an agreement to this effect. The financial details of the transfer will not be disclosed.

The March 31, 2014 Bayer news release, which originated the news item, describes the winning bidder,

FutureCarbon GmbH is a leading innovator and provider of novel, carbon-based composites. As a specialist in the manufacture and in particular the refinement of various carbon materials, FutureCarbon enables a broad range of strategic industries, to easily utilize the extraordinary properties of carbon materials in their products.

“We enjoy a long-standing development partnership with Bayer. We are happy that we were able to acquire the Bayer patents for further market realization of the technology. They expand our applications base substantially and open up new possibilities and business segments for us,” said Dr. Walter Schütz, managing director of the Bayreuth company.

After Bayer MaterialScience announced the conclusion of its CNT projects in May 2013, various companies indicated their interest in making concrete use of intellectual property developed before the decision was made for FutureCarbon as ideal partner for taking over the accomplished knowledge.

About FutureCarbon GmbH
FutureCarbon specializes in the development and manufacture of carbon nanomaterials and their refinement to create what are called carbon supercomposites, primary products for further industrial processing. Carbon supercomposites are combinations of materials that unfold the special characteristics of carbon nano-materials in the macroscopic world of real applications. All of our materials are manufactured on an industrial scale.

You can find out more about FutureCarbon here.

Canadian nanobusiness news bitlets: NanoStruck and Lomiko Metals

The two items or ‘news bitlets’ about Canadian nano business don’t amount to much; one concerns a letter of intent and the other, an offer of warrants (like stock options) which likely expired today (March 13, 2014).

It seems NanoStruck Technologies is continuing to make headway in Mexico (as per my Feb. 19, 2014 posting about the company’s LOI and gold mine tailings in Zacatecas state) as the company has signed another letter of intent (LOI), this time, to treat wastewater in the region of Cabo Corrientes. From a March 11, 2014 news item on Azonano,

NanoStruck Technologies Inc. (the “Company” or “NanoStruck”) announces the signing of a Letter of Intent (LOI) with the town of El Tuito to use the Company’s NanoPure technology to treat wastewater from the municipality of Cabo Corrientes in Mexico.

The parties are in dialogue for the treatment of household residual water, which contains food, biodegradable matter, kitchen waste and organic materials. The Company’s NanoPure solution uses chemical-free processes and proprietary nano powders that can be customised to remove such contaminants.

The March 10, 2014 NanoStruck Technologies news release (which originated the news item) link on the company website leads to the full text here on heraldonline.com (Note: Links have been removed),

Homero Romero Amaral, President of the Municipality of Cabo Corrientes said: “NanoStruck’s NanoPure technology is a proven solution for the treatment of residual water in an environmentally friendly way. Its low energy consumption means it also maintains a low carbon footprint.”

Bundeep Singh Rangar, Interim CEO and Chairman of the Board said: “We are privileged to be given the opportunity to work with the Cabo Corrientes municipality to create a long-term residual wastewater treatment solution.”

El Tuito is the capital of Cabo Corrientes, a cape on the Pacific coast of the Mexican state of Jalisco. It marks the southernmost point of the Bahía de Banderas (Bay of Flags), where the port and resort city of Puerto Vallarta is situated.

The Municipality and NanoStruck have commenced negotiation of a definitive agreement regarding the use of the NanoPure technology and hope to complete a binding agreement within 90 days.

My next bitlet concerns, Lomiko Metals and its short form prospectus and offering. From the company’s March 7, 2014 news release (also available on MarketWired),

LOMIKO METALS INC. (TSX VENTURE:LMR) (the “Company” or “Lomiko”) is pleased to announce that it has obtained a final receipt for its short form prospectus (the “Prospectus”) in each of the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, which qualifies the distribution (the “Public Offering”) of (i) a minimum of 6,818,182 units (the “Units”) and a maximum of 27,272,727 Units of the Company at a price of $0.11 per Unit, and (ii) a maximum of 7,692,308 flow-through units (the “Flow-Through Units”) of the Company at a price of $0.13 per Flow-Through Unit, for minimum total gross proceeds of $750,000 and maximum total gross proceeds of $4,000,000.

Each Unit consists of one common share of the Company (each, a “Common Share”) and one-half of one common share purchase warrant (each whole warrant being a “Unit Warrant”). Each Flow-Through Unit consists of one Common Share to be issued on a “flow-through” basis within the meaning of the Income Tax Act (Canada) (each a “Flow-Through Share”) and one-half of one common share purchase warrant (each whole warrant being a “Flow-Through Unit Warrant”).

Each Unit Warrant will entitle the holder thereof to purchase one common share of the Company (the “Unit Warrant Shares”) at a price of $0.15 per Unit Warrant Share at at any time before the date that is 18 months following the closing date of the Public Offering. Each Flow-Through Unit Warrant will entitle the holder thereof to purchase one common share of the Company (the “Flow-Through Unit Warrant Shares”) at a price of $0.20 per Flow-Through Unit Warrant Share at at any time before the date that is 18 months following the closing date of the Public Offering. The Public Offering will be conducted on a “best effort” agency basis through Secutor Capital Management Corporation (the “Agent”), pursuant to an agency agreement dated March 6, 2014 (the “Agency Agreement”) between the Company and the Agent in respect of the Public Offering.

Pursuant to the Agency Agreement, the Company has also granted an over-allotment option to the Agent, exercisable for a period of 30 days following the closing of the Public Offering, in whole or in part, to purchase additional Units and Flow-Through Units in a maximum number equal to up to 15% of the number of Units and Flow-Through Units respectively sold pursuant to the Public Offering. In connection with the Public Offering, the Company will pay the Agent a cash commission equal to 8% of the gross proceeds of the Public Offering and grant compensation options to the Agent entitling it to purchase that number of common shares of the Company equal to 6% of the aggregate number of Units and Flow-Through Units issued and sold under the Public Offering (including the over-allotment option) for a period of 18 months following the closing date of the Public Offering, at a price of $0.11 per common share.

The Company is also pleased to announce it has received conditional approval from the TSX Venture Exchange for its previously announced concurrent non-brokered offering of up to 15,346,231 flow-through units (the “Private Placement Units”) for additional gross proceeds of $2,000,000 (the “Private Placement”). The securities underlying the Private Placement Units will be issued on the same terms as the securities underlying the Flow-Through Units to be issued under the Public Offering. The Company has agreed to pay to Secutor Capital Management Corporation a finder’s fee of 8% in cash and the issuance of a warrant to purchase the number of common shares of the Company equal to 6%, exercisable at $0.13 per share for 18 months from the date of issuance. The securities to be issued under the Private Placement will be subject to a four-month hold period from the closing date of the Private Placement.

The net proceeds from the Public Offering and the Private Placement will be used by Lomiko primarily in connection with the exploration program on the Quatre-Milles East and West mineral properties (Quebec), for business development and for working capital and general corporate purposes. In particular, the proceeds of the flow-through shares under the Public Offering and the Private Placement will be used by the Company to incur eligible Canadian Exploration Expenses as defined by the Income Tax Act (Canada).

Closing of the Public Offering and of the Private Placement is expected to occur on or about March 13, 2014, or such other date as the Agent and the Company may determine. The TSX Venture Exchange has conditionally approved the listing of the securities to be issued pursuant to the Public Offering and the Private Placement. The Public Offering and the Private Placement are subject to customary conditions and the final approval of the TSX Venture Exchange.

The Units, the Flow-Through Units and the Private Placement Units have not been, nor will they be, registered under the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “1933 Act”), and may not be offered, sold or delivered, directly or indirectly, within the United States, or to or for the account or benefit of U.S. persons unless the Units, the Flow-Through Units and the Private Placement Units are registered under the 1933 Act or pursuant to an applicable exemption from the registration requirements of the 1933 Act. This press release does not constitute an offer to sell, nor it is a solicitation of an offer of securities, nor shall there be any sale of securities in any state of the United States in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful.

You’re on your own with regard to determining how good an investment this company might be. The company’s March 10, 2014 newsletter does point to two analyses (although, again, you’re on your own as to whether or not these are reputable analysts), The first analyst is Gary Anderson (self-described as a Investor, trader, researcher, and writer- exclusively in 3D Printing Stocks.). He writes this in a Dec. 27, 2013 posting on 3DPrintingStocks.com,

I spend a great deal of time looking for what I believe are legitimate, undiscovered stocks in the 3D printing space because I believe that’s where the major gains will be over a 3-6 month period as they undergo discovery by the broader market.

The little-known penny stock [Lomiko Metals] I’m introducing today has legitimate upside potential for 3D printing investors based on four factors:

  1. The market for their product
  2. Current and potential future value of existing assets
  3. Supply and demand imbalance predicted
  4. Entrance into 3D printing materials market with an established leader

….

3D printing investors looking for a materials supplier as part of their 3D printing portfolio may want to consider Lomiko Metals.  I believe there is limited downside risk at current levels due to the intrinsic value of the company’s hard assets in their Quatre Milles graphite property, and potential for significant share price appreciation due to the four factors discussed above.

Graphene has extraordinary potential as a game-changing material for 3D printing.  Early movers like Lomiko Metals in partnership with Graphene Labs could become the beneficiaries of this amazing material’s potential as it becomes commercialized and utilized in 3D printed components and products that contain revolutionary properties.

Disclosure:    I am long shares of Lomiko Metals.  I received no compensation from Lomiko Metals or any third party for this article.

German nanotechnology industry mood lightens

A March 11, 2014 news item on Nanowerk proclaims a mood change for some sectors, including nanotechnology, of German industry,

For the German companies dealing with microtechnology, nanotechnology, advanced materials and optical technologies, business in 2013 has developed just as the industry had predicted earlier that year: at a constant level. But things are supposed to get better in 2014. The companies do not expect an enormous growth, but they are more positive than they have been ever since the outbreak of the financial and economic crisis. Orders, production and sales figures are expected to rise noticeably in 2014. Areas excluded from an optimistic outlook are staff and financing: the numbers of employees is likely to remain static in 2014 while the funding situation might even reach a new low.

The March 11, 2014 IVAN news release, which originated the news item, provides more detail about this change of mood,

The situation and mood of the micro- and nanotechnology industry, which the IVAM Microtechnology Network queried in a recent economic data survey, coincides with the overall economic development in Germany and general forecasts for 2014. According to publications of the German Federal Statistical Office, the gross domestic product in Germany has grown by only 0.4 percent in 2013 – the lowest growth since the crisis year 2009. For 2014, the Ifo Institute predicts a strong growth for the German economy. Especially exports are expected to increase.

The German micro- and nanotechnology industry is expecting increases during 2014 above all in the area of orders. Production and sales are likely to rise for more than 60 percent of companies each. But just a quarter of companies intend to hire more staff. Only one tenth of companies expect increases in the field of financing. Nevertheless, 30 percent of companies are planning to make investments, which is a higher proportion than in previous years.

The new research funding program of the European Union, Horizon 2020, has aroused certain hopes of enhancing financing opportunities for innovation projects. Compared to the 7th Framework Program, Horizon 2020 is designed in a way that means to facilitate access to EU funding for small and medium-sized enterprises. Especially small companies are still a little sceptical in this regard.

In the IVAM survey, 43 percent of micro- and nanotechnology companies say that EU funding is essential for them in order to implement their innovation projects. Three quarter of companies are planning to apply for funds from the new program. But only 23 percent of companies think that their opportunities to obtain EU funding have improved with Horizon 2020. Many small high-tech enterprises presume that the application still takes too much time and effort. However, since the program had just started at the time of survey, there are no experiences that might confirm or refute these first impressions.

The NSA surveillance scandal has caused a great insecurity among the micro- and nanotechnology companies in Germany concerning the safety of their technical knowledge. The majority of respondents (54 percent) would not even make a guess at whether their company’s know-how is safe from spying. A quarter of companies believe that they are sufficiently safe from spying. Only 21 percent are convinced that they do not have adequate protection. A little more than a third of companies have drawn consequences from the NSA scandal and taken steps to enhance the safety of their data.

Most companies agree that each company is responsible to ensure the best possible safety of its data. But still, almost 90 percent demand that authorities like national governments and the European Commission should intervene and impose stricter regulations. They feel that although each company bears a partial responsibility, the state must also fulfil its responsibilities, establish a clear legal framework for data security, make sure that regulations are complied with, and impose sanctions when they are not.

IVAM has provided this chart amongst others to illustrate their data,

Courtesy: IVAM. [downloaded from http://www.ivam.de/news/pm_ivam_survey_2014]

Courtesy: IVAM. [downloaded from http://www.ivam.de/news/pm_ivam_survey_2014]

You can access the 2014 IVAM survey from this page.

Nano in New York State: Nano Utica builds chip facility and California’s The Film House relocates

New York State has been engaged in a processi of building a ‘nano hub’ for some years now and one of the latest developments in this effort is the Nano Utica initiative which recently passed a milestone with regard to a new facility being built (from a Feb. 27, 2014 news item on Nanowerk),

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today [Feb. 27, 2014] announced a milestone in the construction of the $125 million Computer Chip Commercialization Center (Quad-C), as construction crews completed the building’s steel structure ahead of schedule. This marked a key moment in the first phase of the Governor’s $1.5 billion Nano Utica initiative, spearheaded by the SUNY [State University of New York] College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (SUNY CNSE) and the SUNY Institute of Technology (SUNYIT). Nano Utica is the public-private partnership announced by the Governor in October 2013 that will bring more than 1,500 jobs to the region and further define New York as the global leader in nanotechnology-based research and development.

The Feb. 27, 2014 SUNY CNSE news release, which originated the news item, provides some insight into the hopes and dreams of the politicians and academics involved in this ‘nano hub’ making effort,

“This is an important milestone for New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “Not only will this project create over a thousand new high-skilled, high-paying jobs, but it marks New York’s emergence as a world leader in the nanotechnology sector. Quad-C will be the catalyst for nanotechnology innovation, education, and economic development in New York. The project is ahead of schedule and exciting things lay ahead.”

Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, who presided over the Quad-C ceremony, said, “With great thanks to Governor Cuomo’s strategic vision for growth, the past three years have proven to be enormous for the nanotechnology industry in many regions of the state. The latest announcement here today in Utica, that construction on the Quad-C facility is ahead of schedule, helps to ensure the continued development and utilization of everything that the Mohawk Valley has to offer. I thank the Governor, the leadership at SUNY, and our partners in government and nanotechnology for their tireless efforts to make this industry successful in Utica.”

“With Governor Cuomo’s support and leadership, we are building more than world-class nanotechnology research and development facilities; we are building a state that is leading the way in critical scientific areas that are powering next-generation technologies,” said Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, CNSE Senior Vice President and CEO. “As we top-off Quad-C, we realize the heights New York will achieve, thanks to Governor Cuomo’s pioneering vision, are limitless.”

Quad-C will be completed by the end of 2014. The 253,000 square-foot facility will include 56,000 square-feet of Class 1 capable cleanroom space stacked on two levels. An annual operating budget of over $500 million will support 1,500 high-tech jobs and the establishment of groundbreaking academic programs and cutting-edge workforce training opportunities.

Led by the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) and SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome (SUNYIT), the Quad-C is an integral part of the Governor’s Nano Utica initiative, featuring six leading global technology companies that will invest $1.5 billion to create a regional hub for nanotechnology-based innovation, education, and economic development.

“With the final steel beam in place, we are thrilled to see Governor Cuomo’s targeted investments lay the groundwork for this nanotechnology-based boom that is poised to help uplift this region,” said Dr. Robert Geer, SUNYIT Acting President. “Quad-C will build upon the Albany-based, publicly-led, public-private partnership model by leveraging the facility’s world-class research, development, and manufacturing capabilities to benefit this upstate region that is on the upswing.”

Senator Joe Griffo said, “Governor’s Cuomo’s commitment to supporting key public-private partnerships and growing our emerging high-tech industries is proving successful here in the Mohawk Valley as it has across all of New York State. With construction at the Quad-C facility continuing ahead of schedule, we are making major strides in solidifying the region’s position as a major hub for nanotech research and development, and a premier place for global companies to do business. I look forward to the project’s completion and the economic boost this influx of jobs will provide to the community.”

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi said, “The Governor’s Nano Utica initiative is an unprecedented step forward for this region, and the fact that the first phase of construction was completed ahead of schedule shows his commitment to getting New Yorkers into jobs as quickly as possible. The sooner we finish Quad-C construction, the sooner it is that we can put professionals back to work, and feel the ripple effects of this monumental program in the area’s small business community. Governor Cuomo’s plan goes beyond simply creating jobs; it will transform Utica in a way not seen in generations, and put the Mohawk Valley on the map in the nanotechnology world. I look forward to continuing to work with this administration to keep up the pace and see the Nano Utica project through to a speedy completion.”

County Executive Anthony Picente said, “I want to thank Governor Cuomo. Under his leadership we are becoming a leader in nanotechnology. Today is a significant step towards the future. Nano Utica is the catalyst for job growth and economic progress in our state for years to come.”

Utica Mayor Rob Palmeri said, “Today’s announcement is an important first step as Utica continues its transformation into a high-tech destination for companies around the globe. Jobs of the future – 1,500 of them – will soon be coming home to Utica as part of Governor Cuomo’s Nano Utica initiative. These jobs in turn will spur economic development all across the region, which I believe is on the verge of very big things in the years ahead region thanks to this public-private partnership spearheaded by Governor Cuomo.”

Supervisor Brian Scala said, “I’m happy to celebrate in today’s announcement as we mark this major accomplishment. The Mohawk Valley’s unique assets make it an ideal location for a project of this scale and magnitude and I thank Governor Cuomo and all the partners involved who have made this long-time vision a reality. The transformation taking shape at Quad-C gives us a window into what will be a world-class facility that create more than 1,500 new jobs for our area residents and their families and dramatically reshape our economic future. I am proud that Marcy can be home to this great project.”

The Nano Utica consortium is led by Advanced Nanotechnology Solutions Incorporated (ANS Inc.), SEMATECH, Atotech, and SEMATECH and CNSE partner companies, including IBM, Lam Research, and Tokyo Electron. Headquartered at the CNSE-SUNYIT Quad-C, Nano Utica will build on the research and development programs currently being conducted by ANS Inc., SEMATECH, and their private industry partners at the SUNY CNSE campus in Albany.

Somehow New York State’s nano hub has led to a California-based film and entertainment company, The Film House, making the decision to relocate to New York state. From a March 5, 2014 news item on areadevelopment.com (Note: Links have been removed),

The Film House, a California-based film and television company, will be the first tenant in Central New York State’s Hub for Emerging Nano Industries. The firm will move its headquarters, production, post-production, and distribution operations to Syracuse, New York, as part of a relocation expected to create at least 350 new high-tech jobs in Onondaga County.

President and CEO of The Film House Ryan Johnson said, “We considered locations around the world but nothing came close to offering an opportunity like New York does. The state leadership, as embodied by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the skilled workforce, the commitment to high tech research and development, and the overall business friendly climate in this state made it pretty clear that this is where our business, our jobs, and our investments need to be. We’re thrilled to partner with CNSE on what will undoubtedly create unique academic possibilities as we explore the future of filmmaking and distribution.”

“This deal continues our efforts to revitalize upstate New York’s economy and create jobs,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “The film industry and nanotech sectors are emerging industries, and New York is going to reap the rewards of innovation and high-tech jobs. We’re bringing the industries of the future to New York, and Upstate is going to lead the way. The new innovation hub in Onondaga County will be a hotspot for research and education, bringing hundreds of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment to Central New York.” [emphasis mine]

CNSE Senior Vice President and CEO Dr. Alain Kaloyeros said, “Today’s announcement is further evidence that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s leadership and vision have established New York State as the world leader in cutting edge nanotechnology innovation and applications, including almost every nanotechnology-enabled industry, while capturing the interests and investments of more than just the computer chip industry. The New York nanotechnology sector is not only making smart phones smarter. It is now making the movies and TV shows that the public can enjoy watching on them. We welcome The Film House to New York and look forward to working with its leadership to advance discoveries in computer-generated imagery, three-dimensional high resolution graphics, and many other exciting areas.”

I’m not sure one can describe the film industry as an emerging sector since its emergence dates back to the 19th century.  In any event, I can understand the excitement about Nano Utica and about the film company’s move.

Advice on marketing nano from a process engineering perspective

Robert Ferris, PhD, is writing a series of posts about the ‘Process Engineering of Nanotechnology’ on the Emerson Process Experts blog. Before getting to his marketing post, I’m going to briefly discuss his Jan. 4, 2014 posting (the first in this business-oriented series) which offers a good primer on the topic of nanotechnology although I do have a proviso, Ferris’ posts should be read with some caution,

I contribute [sic]  the knowledge gap to the fact that most of the writing out there is written by science-brains and first-adopters. Previous authors focus on the technology and potentials of bench-top scale innovation. This is great for the fellow science-brain but useless to the general population. I can say this because I am one of those science-brains.

The unfortunate truth is that most people do not understand nanotechnology nor care about the science behind it. They only care if the new product is better than the last. Nanotechnology is not a value proposition. So, the articles written do not focus on what the general population cares about. Instead, people are confused by nanotechnology and as a result are unsure of how it can be used.

I think Ferris means ‘attribute’ rather than ‘contribute’ and I infer from the evidence provided by the error that he (in common with me) does not have a copy editor. BTW, my worst was finding three errors in one of my sentences (sigh) weeks after after I’d published. At any rate, I’m suggesting caution not due to this error but to passages such as this (Note: Links have been removed),

Nanotechnology is not new; in fact, it was used as far back as the 16th century in stain glass windows. Also, nanotechnology is already being used in products today, ranging from consumer goods to food processing. Don’t be surprised if you didn’t know, a lot of companies do not publicize the fact that they use nanotechnology.

Strictly speaking the first sentence is problematic since Ferris is describing ‘accidental’ nanotechnology. The artisans weren’t purposefully creating gold nanoparticles to get that particular shade of red in the glass as opposed to what we’re doing today and I think that’s a significant difference. (Dexter Johnson on his Nanoclast blog for the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] has been very clear that these previous forays (Damascus steel, the Lycurgus Cup) cannot be described as nanotechnology since they were unintended.) As for the rest of the excerpt, it’s all quite true.

Ferris’ Feb. 11, 2014 post tackles marketing,

… While companies and products can miss growth targets for any number of reasons, one of the more common failures for nanotechnology-enabled products is improper marketing. Most would agree that marketing is as much art as science but marketing of nanotechnology-enabled products can be particularly tricky.

True again and he’s about to focus on one aspect of marketing,

Companies that develop nanotechnology-enabled products tend to fall into two camps—those that use nanotechnology as a differentiator in their marketing materials and those that do not. In the 5 P’s of marketing (Product, Place, Price, Promotion, and People), we are contrasting how each company approaches product marketing.

Product marketing focuses on communicating how that product meets a customer need. To do this, the marketing material must differentiate from other potential solutions. The question is, does nanotechnology serves as a differentiating value proposition for the customer?

As I understand it, communicating about the product and value propositions would fall under Promotion while decisions about what features to offer, physical design elements, etc. would fall under Product. Still, Ferris goes on to make some good points with his example of selling a nano-manufactured valve,

A local salesperson calls you up to see what you think. As a customer, you ask a simple question, “Why should we buy this new valve over the one we have been using for years?” What will you think if the sales-person answers, “Because it is based on nanotechnology!”? Answering this way does not address your pain points or satisfy your concerns over the risks of purchasing a new product.

My main difficulty with Ferris’ marketing post is a lack of clarity. He never distinguishes between business-to-business (B2B) marketing and business to consumer (B2C) marketing. There are differences, for example, consumers may not have the scientific or technical training to understand the more involved aspects of the product but a business may have someone on staff who can and could respond negatively to a lack of technical/scientific information.

I agree with Ferris on many points but I do feel he might address the issue of selling technology. He uses L’Oréal as an example of a company selling nanotechnology-enabled products  which they do but their product is beauty. The company’s  nanotechnology-enabled products are simply a means of doing that. By contrast a company like IBM sells technology and a component or product that’s nanotechnology-enabled may require a little or a lot of education depending on the component/product and the customer.

For anyone who’s interested in marketing nanotechnology-enabled and products based on other emerging technologies, I recommend reading Geoffrey A. Moore’s book, Crossing the Chasm. His examples are dated as this written about the ‘computer revolution’ but I think the basis principles still hold. As for Ferris’ postings, there’s good information but you may want to check out other sources and I recommend Dexter Johnson’s Nanoclast blog and Cientifica, an emerging technologies consultancy. (Dexter works for Cientifica, in addition to writing for the IEEE, but most of the publications on that site are by Tim Harper). Oh, and you can check here too, although the business side of things is not my main focus, I still manage to write the odd piece about marketing (promotion usually).

96% of 9.1 grams per metric ton, or 0.32 ounces per ton, of gold recovered in gold tailings tests

I’ve written about Canadian company NanoStruck before (Dec. 27, 2013 posting) where I noted there wasn’t much information about their technology. If a Feb. 10, 2014 news item on Azonano is any measure, It seems Nanostruck is preparing to provide more technical information,

NanoStruck Technologies Inc. announces testing of its mine tailings treatment techniques and preliminary results showing recovery rates of gold from mine tailings to be much higher than expected by industry observers.

NanoStruck’s techniques involve nanotechnology and industrial collaboration for specific innovative milling, pryometallurgy and hydrometallurgy processes combined with proprietary organic compounds.

Tests completed over the past three months indicate that the Nanostruck techniques can recover as much as 96% of 9.1 grams per metric ton, or 0.32 ounces per ton, of gold contained in representative gold tailings samples.

I believe the technology mentioned in the news release is NanoStruck’s NanoMet solution (from my Dec. 27, 2013 posting),

Additionally, the Company’s technology can be used to recover precious and base metals from mine tailings, which are the residual material from earlier mining activities. By retrieving valuable metals from old tailing dumps, the Company’s NanoMet solutions boosts the value of existing mining assets and reduces the need for new, costly and potentially environmentally harmful exploration and mining. [emphasis mine]

The Feb. 7, 2014 NanoStruck news release, which originated the Azonano news item, notes,

The testing involved careful roasting of tailings in laboratories. When the Nanostruck techniques were applied to tailings that had been previously roasted at the source site, the recovery rate was 88%, multi-fold higher than previous attempts by other companies using alternative technologies such as cyanide leaching. From the same already roasted sample, for example, conventional Carbon In Leach (CIL) processes had resulted in less than 10 percent recovery of gold. The volume of tailings at the source site, which is owned by an unrelated third party, is estimated to be between 450,000 tons and 500,000 tons. NanoStruck is in discussions with the owners of the source site regarding potential contracts for processing the mine tailings at the source site.

The head assays and sampling were done by SGS SA and optical microscopic study performed by Petrolab Ltd to verify the representativeness of the tailing samples as well as percentage of precious metal contained in them. Recovery rates and processes used were also monitored and verified by certified third party experts and laboratory testing, including electron microscope analysis.

The value of precious metals left in mine tailings in 2012 alone by mining companies such as Anglo American Plc (LON: AAL), Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX: ABX, NYSE: ABX), Goldcorp Inc. (TSX: G, NYSE: GG) and Rio Tinto Group (ASX: RIO), was estimated to be US$20 billion at current market prices. Of that, gold represented more than 80% of the value with approximately 360 tons of gold left behind in tailings due to their micronic size, complex minerology as well as political and environmental concerns related to cyanide leaching.

NanoStruck’s environmentally conscious approach did not involve the use of cyanide leaching. All chemicals and organic substances used were recycled and reused.

More details on the refractory gold tailing samples and specifics of the results will be published in the weeks ahead along with highlights from an environmental impact study as well as a volumetrics and grade survey.

Bundeep Singh Rangar, interim CEO and Chairman of the Board said: “We are very excited to announce these tremendously high recovery rates, involving non-cyanide hydrometallurgy and nanotechnology based processes, that could be transformative for the mining industry.”

Brian Mok, Senior Mining Consultant at BG Partners Corp. said: “High value refractory ore and tailings would be very well suited for this process as well as jurisdictions where the use of toxic materials such as cyanide is undesirable or unacceptable.” [emphasis mine]

It’s good to see more detailed information about the company’s technologies and I look forward to learning more as the company releases more details. For example, NanoStruck has retained a mining consultant, Brian Mok, according to a Jan. 31, 2014 NanoStruck news release,

NanoStruck Technologies Inc. (the “Company” or “NanoStruck”) (CSE:NSK) (OTCQX:NSKTF) (Frankfurt:8NSK) announces the appointment of Mr. Brian Mok as Senior Mining Analyst as a Consultant-In-Residence.

Mr. Mok has been involved with the mining industry for the past 17 years. He is a Senior Mining Analyst at BG Partners Corp., a Canadian-based resource investment group that finances and invests in a portfolio of companies, from where he has been seconded to NanoStruck to help build the Company’s NanoMet solutions that recover precious metals from mine tailings.

Mr. Mok was previously Senior Mining Analyst, Capital Markets Group for Union Securities Ltd.; his focus was on micro and small cap names in Precious Metals, Base Metals and Bulk Commodities.

His previous roles also include Research Associate, Metals & Mining, and Gold for Scotia Capital Inc. Prior to his career in capital markets, Mr. Mok has previously served as a project engineer and a sales engineer in Canada, the USA and Europe. Mr. Mok is a Professional Engineer and a Member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario.

Bundeep Singh Rangar, Chairman of the Board, said: “We are pleased to have Mr. Mok assist us in building the NanoMet proposition, where his understanding of both our technology and the market’s commercial drivers are a real asset for our Company.”

If Mok has been seconded to work with NanoStruck, does that mean that BG Partners owns or is in some way related to NanoStruck?

About the Company

NanoStruck Technologies Inc.is a Canadian Company with a suite of technologies that remove molecular sized particles using patented absorptive organic polymers. These versatile biomaterials are derived from crustacean shells or plant fibers, depending on requirements of their usage. Acting as molecular sponges, the nanometer-sized polymers are custom programmed to absorb specific particles for remediation or retrieval purposes. These could be used to clean out acids, hydrocarbons, pathogens, oils and toxins in water via its NanoPure solutions. Or to recover precious metal particles in mine tailings, such as gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium using the Company’s NanoMet solutions.

By using patented modifications to conventional technologies and adding polymer-based nano-filtration, the Company’s offers environmentally safe NanoPure solutions for water purification. The Company uses Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines as a benchmark for water quality and safety to conform to acceptable agricultural or drinking water standards in jurisdictions where the technology is used.

Additionally, the Company’s technology can be used to recover precious and base metals from mine tailings, which are the residual material from earlier mining activities. By retrieving valuable metals from old tailing dumps, the Company’s NanoMet solutions boosts the value of existing mining assets and reduces the need for new, costly and potentially environmentally harmful exploration and mining.

The Company’s current business model is based on either selling water remediation plants or leasing out units and charging customers on a price per liter basis with a negotiated minimum payment per annum. For processing mine tailings, the value of precious metal recovered is shared with tailing site owners on a pre-agreed basis.