Tag Archives: Nanotech BC

Canadian federal nanoportal is open

I finally found the Canadian federal government nanoportal. It seems to have been open since 2009 which is a bit a mystery since the Health Canada representative (Christelle Legault) that I interviewed (in my April 26, 2010 posting) seemed unaware of its existence. Here’s the nanoportal. Oddly, it mentions Nanotech BC as a provincial nanotechnology advocate,

Nanotech BC has currently suspended its operations until suitable funding of its activities and new projects for 2009 can be ascertained.

Even more oddly, the page was updated (according to the notice in the left lower corner) March 15, 2011. I guess they don’t keep up with the news.

I mentioned Nanotech BC’s demise in my May 14, 2009 posting in part one (of a three part series) of my interview with Victor Jones, the former chair of the board.

In any event, I’m glad to have finally found the nanoportal.

NANO Magazine’s April 2010 issue country focus: Canada

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.

Finland, nanotechnology and innovation

I wasn’t planning it but this has turned into a series about Finland, innovation, and the Canadian approach to innovation. Today should be the final installment (ooops, it changed again) with this one focusing on nanotechnology.

In February 2009, a study, prepared for Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, showed that nanotechnology companies had tripled in number between 2004 and 2008. From their media release on Nanowerk News,

In 2008, private investments in nanotechnology were for the first time greater than public investments. The industry received public funding worth 38 million euros, industry investments were 56.6 million euros and venture capital funding 9.5 million euros. …

“The internationalisation of nanotechnology companies requires ongoing improvement of the funding opportunities. According to the study, exporting products to international markets requires dozens of million euros within the next two years. Both public and private funding are required,” says Markku Lämsä, the FinNano Programme Manager at Tekes. The nanotechnology industry’s shift from research to commercialization is giving a boost to Finnish industry during the current economic downturn.

This whole approach contrasts somewhat strongly with what we appear to be doing here in Canada. We talk about innovation instead we fund infrastructure projects (see the Don’t leave Canada behind blog for confirmation..particularly items like the funding for Arctic research stations which I linked to  in yesterday’s posting). On the nanotechnology front, the Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance shut its doors either late last year or early this year, Nanotech BC has not been able to secure the funding it needs, and the National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT) has lost its individual brand and been swept back under the National Research Council (NRC) brand. As for a nanotechnology policy or initiative, Canada seems to be one of the few countries in the world that simply doesn’t have one.  As for the business end of things, I will write about that tomorrow.

What happened to Canada’s National Insitute of Nanotechnology?

It’s been a while since I’ve visited Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology’s (NINT) website and since it’ s pretty slow on the news front these days I figured I’d check out their news releases. It wasn’t there! It’s  been absorbed into the National Research Council’s (NRC) site.

These things usually portend some sort of political shenanigans, which can range from internal NRC politics to federal policy mandates to funding issues, or some combination of them all. In NINT’s case, you can also include the provincial government (Alberta) as they were (and possibly still are) funding a significant portion of the institute’s budget.

The NINT information now available has been ‘branded’ by the NRC. It looks slick and seems a bit better organized than it was in some respects. One exception is in the area of media information. NINT media releases are now grouped with all of the NRC releases making NINT information harder to find. As well, it’s harder to find contact details for the NINT media relations/communications folks.

Taking into account the loss of the NanoBusiness Alliance in Toronto, Nanotech BC’s imperiled future, and NINT’s loss of its ‘brand’, the nanotechnology future is not looking so bright in Canada.

And on something completely unrelated, Vancouver’s (Canada) Jazz Festival is taking place right now and tonight (July 2, 2009) local jazz songstress, Laura Werth will be at:

Capone’s restaurant
1141 Hamilton St.
Vancouver, Canada
604.684.7900

7:30 pm – 11:30 pm
Weaver & Werth Music Group
Laura Werth — Vocals
Ingrid Stitt — Sax
Rick Kilburn — Bass
Rob Weaver — Piano
Nino Di Pasquale — Drums

If you want to preview the music, Laura has a few tracks for listening here.

Be good to your nano and more money for science in Canada

The nano safety wiki project developed by the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON) is now open (beta version) and is called the Good Nano Guide.

This is a project that Nanotech BC has been involved with and was mentioned in my interview (Part 2) with Victor Jones (former Nanotech BC chair).  From the announcement in Nanowerk News,

The GoodNanoGuide is a practical tool for people who handle nanomaterials as well as an online repository of safety protocols. It has been developed by experts from the worlds of nanotechnology, occupational safety and business and is governed by an implementation committee from North America and Europe. All GoodNanoGuide content is freely available via the Internet. Visitors may add their comments by becoming “Community Members,” and experts may contribute and edit protocols by becoming “Expert Providers.”

Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) announced funds to help science graduates develop skills that will help them to transition out of the classroom. Money will be disbursed through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council CREATE programme. From the announcement on Nanowerk News,

Projects consist of initiatives led by teams of excellent Canadian university researchers who see the value in helping students acquire personal and professional skills that are not part of their normal academic training. Students will have the opportunity to enhance their ability to work productively in a research environment that has become increasingly multi-disciplinary. Important areas of training include commercialization, communication and project management. While the primary focus is on natural sciences and engineering, training may also include interdisciplinary projects across the natural sciences and engineering and the social sciences and health domains. [emphasis mine]

It sounds like a good idea but I’m not sure how an academic researcher is going to be able to teach a graduate student to commercialize projects. It takes me back to my comments about government bureaucrats making decisions about commercial applications for science research. From where will they be drawing their experience?

Nanotech BC scoop: part 3 interview with Victor Jones

Belated Happy Victoria Day! We (Canadians) just celebrated a long weekend and so I’m a day later than I planned for posting the third and final part of the Victor Jones (former chair of Nanotech BC) interview.

(5) I mistakenly guessed that Darren Frew (former executive director) was the Nanotech BC representative going to the big nanotechnology conference in Japan during February 2009 when in fact it was you. How did it go? NANOTECH 2009 – TOKYO – WAS  VERY GOOD.  THERE WERE  OVER 70  CANADIANS THERE AND BY ALL ACCOUNTS MOST FOUND IT VERY USEFUL FOR COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH OR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT.  ONLY MYSELF FROM BC.    THE EMBASSY STAFF IN TOKYO WERE VERY HELPFUL AND THE CANADIAN BOOTH WAS BUSY.    ATTENDANCE REACHES ALMOST 50,000     FOLLOW ON WORK WAS PENDING

I COULD SAY A LOT MORE…..IT IS A FULL WEEK IN MEETINGS   SEMINARS AND TRADE SHOW….

(6) Where are things going? Will Nanotech BC rise again? Or will something new rise from the ashes? I LEAVE THIS TO MICHAEL (ALLDRITT – DIRECTOR – AT NRC-IRAP) AND THE BOARD  -  THERE ARE SEVERAL POSSIBILITIES……  THE LEGAL NOT FOR PROFIT ORG EXISTS AND ITS FUTURE IS OPEN.  THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THIS ARENA CONTINUES TO GROW AS  STATED STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE FOR MANY COUNTRIES, REGIONS AND CITIES.  NANOTECH BC  WAS A LEADER IN ITS ASSET MAP WORK – NOW BEING REPLICATED IN ALBERTA; AND BC HAS SOME WORLD CLASS WORK GOING ON;       THERE ARE SIMILARITIES TO THE VERY EARLY DAYS OF BIOTECH. / GENOMICS; BUT CHALLENGES TOO …..

I wonder why the province of BC was dragging its feet about funding the organization. Given the amount of money being invested by governments and business around the world, you’d think that there would be more interest. I did look for a science policy on the provincial government website and was not able to find one.

Two researchers (Jennifer Pelley and Marc Saner) from the Regulatory Governance Initiative at Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada) have produced a report outlining the regulatory approaches toward nanotechnology from five different jurisdictions. From Nanowerk News,

Authored by Jennifer Pelley and Marc Saner, this report investigates the question: “How have Canada and other jurisdictions reacted to the recent emergence of nanotechnology-based products in the marketplace (and what is the current state of affairs)?” Our survey focuses on five key jurisdictions: the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), the European Union (EU), Australia, and Canada.

There’s more about the report here and the report is here.

One final thing, Discover Magazine has a blog called ‘Science not Fiction‘ which features the ‘Codex Futurius’, a Q & A for science/fiction questions directed to experts. They have an answer to a question about grey goo.

Nanotech BC scoop: part 2 interview with Victor Jones

The next part of the interview focuses on just how many companies in Canada could be defined as selling nanotechnology-based products and Jones’ role with Nanotech BC. He also provides more information about the organization’s projects.

(3) How big is the nanotechnology industry in BC? and in Canada? i.e. how many companies?

BC HAS ABOUT 15 CO; ALBERTA CLAIMS ABOUT 40 CO AND THEN ONTARIO AND QUEBEC HAVE A SIMILAR NUMBER EACH.   BUT BC ALSO HAS A LARGE  ~~ 120 OR SO – RESEARCHERS – RESEARCH EFFORT  COVERING A DIVERSE AREAS OF ADVANCED MATERIALS, COATINGS; LAB ON A CHIP, QUANTUM PHYSICS, DRUG DELIVERY AND NANO BIO WORK  ON-GOING.   MOST OF THIS IS STILL IN LABS AT UBC  – AMPEL;   ALSO SFU – 4D LABS AND  UVIC HAS SOME EXCELLENT WORK TOO.  E.G. ONE BC  COMPANY IS   A LEADER IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF A QUANTUM COMPUTER. ONE SPECIALIZES IN COATINGS….ETC.

NANO IS NOT AN INDUSTRY  – IT IS A BROAD ENABLING TECHNOLOGY – A GENERAL PURPOSE TECHNOLOGY ( GPT) AND THEREFORE GETS  EMBEDDED INTO A RANGE OF PRODUCTS AND PROCESSES WHERE MANIPULATION OF MATTER AT THE ATOMIC SCALE ENABLES MATERIAL CHARACTERISTICS AND PROCESSES NOT  OTHERWISE ACHIEVABLE.    SO FAR  MOST OF THE MATERIALS  ARE FINDING APPLICATION  IN COATINGS, TEXTILES;  COMPOSITE MATERIALS AND PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS  E.G. SUNCREEN/ HAIR CARE.; ADVANCED ELECTRONICS….   SEE  THE WOODROW WILSON PROJECT ON EMERGING NANOTECHNOLOGIES. (here)  ADOPTION TIMES FOR NEW MATERIALS ARE OFTEN YEARS IN THE MAKING,  BUT SOME 800 PRODUCTS USING NMATERIALS ARE IN THE MARKET NOW.

(3) Can you tell me about your role with Nanotech BC given its current situation? I’ve seen your website and am wondering if you might be able to tell me a little more about what you do professionally.

I AM NO LONGER A BOARD MEMBER  SO I HAVE NO OFFICIAL CAPACITY WITH NANOTECH BC NOR DO I SPEAK FOR THE ORGANIZATION.  OF COURSE I AM SUPPORTIVE OF THE ORGANIZATION BUT NOW REFER ENQUIRIES TO MICHAEL ALLDRITT – DIRECTOR – AT NRC-IRAP WHO HAS BEEN A GREAT SUPPORTER OF THE PROJECT GOING BACK TO 2001.

I CONTINUE TO DO CONSULTING IN THE ARENA OF CANADIAN STANDARDS  WORK ON NANOMATERIALS AND ALSO THE DEVELOPMENT OF WWW.GOODNANOGUIDE.ORG.   THIS  WEBSITE WAS A CONCEPT OF ICON ( RICE U) WHICH WAS ASSISTED THROUGH NANOTECH BC AND OTHER CANADIAN ORGANIZATIONS AS I ARRANGED THE FUNDING FOR THE BETA  STAGE.  IT IS NOW OPEN TO WORLD INVOLVEMENT IN SHARING PROTOCOLS FOR THE SAFE HANDLING OF NANOMATERIALS.   MY ROLE WITH THE ICON COMMITTEE WAS TO ROUND UP THE CANADIAN FUNDING TO REACH THIS STAGE AND AS A MEMBER OF THE IMPLEMENTATION COMMITTEE WORK THROUGH THE DETAILS OF THE FUNCTIONALITIES. THIS PROJECT CONTINUES AND IS INTERNATIONAL IN SCOPE WITH AN EXCELLENT COMMITTEE. – REPS FROM NIOSH  EPA  ETC…   AS OHS PROCESSES WILL BE KEY TO BOTH RESEARCHER/ INDUSTRIAL SAFETY AND PUBLIC ACCEPTANCE OF NANOMATERIAL ENABLED PRODUCTS   I EXPECT INTEREST IN THE SITE AS A SOURCE FOR OHS INFORMATION FOR PUBLIC AND SPECIALISTS TO GROW. (OHS = Occupational Health and Safety)

If I read Jones’ response correctly, we have almost 100 companies in Canada that are producing nano-enabled products. I’m not sure I worded that sentence  so well but point well taken about the nonexistence of a nanotechnology industry (as I referred to it in my question) per se. One of the difficulties writing about nanotechnology is its rather amorphous quality. I made some comments along with other people on Andrew Maynard’s blog (2020 Science) about these difficulties.

I did not realize that BC hosts a company which is a leader in quantum computers.  That’s pretty exciting stuff as is the work on occupational health and safety. Part 3 of the interview will be posted on Monday, May 18, 2009.

Some scoop on what happened to Nanotech BC: part 1 of an interview with Victor Jones

Victor Jones who was a board member and chair of Nanotech BC kindly agreed to answer a few question about the organization and where it stands now. For anyone who doesn’t know, they recently had to suspend operations due to funding shortfalls. This is a the first of a three part series.

1) What was Nanotech BC’s purpose? Was it meant to raise awareness of nanotechnology in the general public? Was it industry/academic liaison?

ALL OF THE ABOVE  -  SEE  MISSION ON THE WEB SITE (here) – INCLUDING ANNUAL CONFERENCE,   WORKSHOPS; OUTREACH FOR BC LOCATED COMPANIES AND MARKET INFORMATION FOR RESEARCHERS, AND REPRESENTING BC RESEARCH AND COMPANIES AT OTHER CONFERENCES   IT DID DO THESE; INCLUDING REFERENCES FOR PROJECTS.   THE 2007/08 ASSET MAP – AVAILABLE ON LINE, LISTED THE RESEARCHERS AND COMPANIES  AND THEIR AREAS OF FOCUS.

(2) What happened? I understand the funding dried up but I never did understand where it came from. Did the federal government freeze/cutback on science funding have an impact? Or was it a lack of interest from the provincial government? Did the industry fail to support it?

FUNDING CAME FROM FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL AGENCIES  -  MOST NOTABLY  NRC-IRAP,   WESTERN ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION (WED) AND THE MINISTRY OF SMALL BUSINESS TRADE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT  (SBTED).   PROVINCIAL FUNDING WAS NOT AVAILABLE TO MATCH THE NRC AND WED FUNDING OFFER FOR SEVERAL MONTHS; HENCE IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE TO MAINTAIN AS AN OPERATIONAL ENTITY – SO IT IS ON PAUSE. BUT DISCUSSIONS ARE CONTINUING. THERE HAVE CERTAINLY BEEN ENCOURAGING WORDS,  BUT FUNDING FOR ALL SUCH ORGANIZATIONS IS DIFFICULT TO SOURCE

I thought the organization might be dead but it should like there is hope so maybe I should not have phrased that first set of question in past tense. Also, I’m sure the folks at Nanotech BC wanted to raise public awareness but the other projects Jones mentions took priority and in an organization that’s strapped for money and time it’s clear that something is going to be ignored. I wish that wasn’t the case but I do understand why. That said, I think more emphasis needs to be placed on public awareness here in BC.

As for funding, it’s discouraging to find out that the provincial government is dragging its metaphorical feet. Given the worldwide focus on nanotechnology and the amount of money being invested elsewhere (as I noted here and I recently looked at NanoQuebec’s annual report for 2007/8 and saw that that provincial government invested over $2M for that year), I’m surprised there isn’t more interest provincially. Of course, I can’t find a science policy on the BC government website so maybe surprise isn’t the right word.

I got an invite from the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) to a congressional briefing. Yup, it’s in Washington, DC so I’m not likely to get there but if you are, there’s a panel discussion on May 20, 2009. You can contact [email protected] for more information.

The White House hosted a Poetry, Music, and SpokenWord event this last Tuesday (May 12, 2009). From the New York Times review,

Spoken word dominated the program, with poetry performances by Mayda del Valle (whose tribute to her abuela included the placenta reference), Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio and Joshua Bennett.

The webcast will be available on whitehouse.gov. I checked this morning and could not find it so I hope it shows up soon.

Government funding for nanotechnology and some thoughts on Nanotech BC

Cientifica has a new white paper, Nanotechnology Funding in 2009, that provides an international overview of government funding for nanotechnology. There’s more information about the white paper here and Cientifica’s white paper is here. Briefly, government spending is slowing down in response to a growing maturity, i.e. nanotechnology innovations are moving out of the laboratories and into production. $40B has been invested over the last five years. From Nanowerk News,

Cientifica’s research has also reveals [sic] that the long-time leaders of nanotechnology funding, the United States and Japan, have now fallen to third and fourth behind the EU and Russia, with the US being tied with China for third.

It’s interesting that the current economic situation, according to Cientifica, is not having a major impact at this time.

I’m sure the folks at Nanotech BC (or what remains of it) would agree with Cientifica re: the slowdown in funding since they’ve had to effectively cease operation du to their failure to secure government funding. I don’t think they’d agree that it has nothing to do with the economic downturn.

And, it seems mildly ironic that Nanotech BC folks have produced a nanotechnology asset map for BC and were in the midst of developing one for Alberta when they had to yank the plug. The  irony lies in the fact that NanoKTN has just announced something similar to an asset map, a new online directory of nanotechnology enterprises for the UK. Clearly, they’re more willing to fund these types of organizations and projects in the UK.