I’m a little late to the party but the month isn’t over yet so, today I’m going to focus on Nano Magazine‘s April 2010 issue or more specifically their article about Canada and it’s nanotechnology scene. The magazine (available both in print and online) has selected Canada for its country focus this issue. From the April 2010, issue no. 17 editorial,
The featured country in this issue is Canada, notable for its well funded facilities and research that is aggressively focused on industrial applications. Although having no unifying national nanotechnology initiative, there are many extremely well-funded organisations with world class facilities that are undertaking important nano-related research. Ten of these centres are highlighted, along with a new network that will research into innovative plastics and manufacturing processes, and added value can be gained in this field – with the economic future benefit for Canada firmly in mind!
It’s always an eye-opening experience to see yourself as others see you. I had no idea Canadian research was “aggressively focused on industrial applications.” My view as a Canadian who can only see it from the inside reveals a scattered landscape with a few pockets of concentrated effort. It’s very difficult to obtain a national perspective as communication from the various pockets is occasional, hard to understand and/or interpret at times, and not easily accessible (some of these Canadian nanotechnology groups (in government agencies, research facilities, civil society groups, etc.) seem downright secretive.
As for the ‘aggressive focus on industrial applications’ by Canadians, I found it interesting and an observation I could not have made for two reasons. The first I’ve already noted (difficulty of obtaining the appropriate perspective from the inside) and, secondly, it seems to me that the pursuit of industrial applications is a global obsession and not confined to the field of nanotechnology, as well, I’m not able to establish a basepoint for comparison so the comment was quite a revelation. Still, it should be noted that Nano Magazine itself seems to have a very strong bias towards commercialization and business interests.
The editorial comment about “not have a unifying national nanotechnology initiative” I can heartily second, although the phrase brings the US National Nanotechnology Initiative strongly to mind where I think a plan (any kind of plan) would do just as well.
The article written by Fraser Shand and titled Innovation finds new energy in Western Canada provides a bit of word play that only a Canadian or someone who knows the province of Alberta, which has substantive oil reserves albeit in the sands, would be able to appreciate. Kudos to whoever came up with the title. Very well done!
I have to admit to being a bit puzzled here as I’m not sure if Shand’s article is the sole article about the Canadian nanotechnology scene (it profiles only the province of Alberta) or if there are other articles profiling pockets of nanotechnology research present, largely in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia with smaller pockets in other provinces. I apologize for giving short shrift to six provinces but, as I’ve noted, information is difficult to come by and most of the information I can obtain is from the four provinces mentioned.
From the article,
Steeped in a pioneering spirit and enriched by ingenuity, one of the most exciting, modern day outposts on the nanotechnology frontier is located on the prairies of Western Canada. The province of Alberta is home to some of Canada’s most significant nanotechnology assets and has quickly become a world-destination for nanotechnology research, product development and commercialization.
While Alberta is rooted in the traditional resource sectors of energy, agriculture and forestry, it is dedicated to innovation. The Government of Alberta launched its nanotechnology strategy in 2007, committing $130 million to growth and development over five years. It also created a dedicated team.
Shand goes on to note Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT), located in Edmonton, Alberta’s capital city, and its role in attracting world class researchers (see News Flash below). Other than the brief mention of a federal institution, the focus remains unrelentingly on Alberta and this is surprising since the title misled me into believing that the article would concern itself with Western Canada, which arguably includes the prairie provinces (Manitoba and Saskatchewan) and British Columbia.
Meanwhile, the editorial led me to believe that I would find a national perspective with mention of 10 research centres somewhere in the April 2010 issue. If they are hiding part of the issue, I wish they’d note that somewhere easily visible (front page?) on their website and clarify the situation.
If this is the magazine’s full profile of the Canadian nanotechnology scene, they’ve either come to the conclusion that the only worthwhile work is being done in Alberta (I’m making an inference) or they found the process of gathering information about the other nanotechnology research pockets so onerous that they simply ignored them in favour of pulling a coherent article together.
I have been viewing the site on a regular basis since I heard about the April 2010 issue and this is the only time I’ve seen an article about Canada made available. They seem to have a policy of rotating the articles they make available for free access.
One other thing, a Nanotechnology Asset Map of Alberta is going to be fully accessible sometime in May 2010. I gather some of the folks from the now defunct, Nanotech BC organization advised the folks at nanoAlberta on developing the tool after the successful BC Nanotechnology Asset Map was printed in 2008 (?). I’m pleased to see the Alberta map is online which will make updating a much easier task and it gives a very handy visual representation that is difficult to achieve with print. You can see Alberta’s beta version at nanoAlberta. Scroll down and look to the left of the screen and at the sidebar for a link to the asset map.
I have to give props to the people in the province of Alberta who have supported nanotechnology research and commercialization efforts tirelessly. They enticed the federal government into building NINT in Edmonton by offering to pay a substantive percentage of the costs and have since created several centres for commercialization and additional research as noted in Shand’s article. Bravo!
News Flash: I just (in the last five minutes, i.e., 11:05 am PT) received this notice about the University of Alberta and nanotechnology. From the Eureka Alert notice,
A University of Alberta-led research team has taken a major step forward in understanding how T cells are activated in the course of an immune response by combining nanotechnology and cell biology. T cells are the all important trigger that starts the human body’s response to infection.
Christopher Cairo and his team are studying how one critical trigger for the body’s T cell response is switched on. Cairo looked at the molecule known as CD45 and its function in T cells. The activation of CD45 is part of a chain of events that allows the body to produce T cells that target an infection and, just as importantly, shut down overactive T cells that could lead to damage.
Cairo and crew are working on a national/international team that includes: “mathematician Dan Coombs (University of British Columbia), biochemist Jon Morrow (Yale University Medical School) and biophysicist David Golan (Harvard Medical School).” Their paper is being published in the April issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Now back to my regular programming: I should also mention Nano Québec which I believe was the first provincial organization founded in Canada, circa 2005, to support nanotechnology research and commercialization efforts. French language site / English language site
NaNO Ontario has recently organized itself as the Nanotechnology Network of Ontario.
Unfortunately, Nanotech BC no longer exists.
If you know of any other provincial nanotechnology organizations, please do let me know.