Education has never been restricted to geographical or geopolitical boundaries. Today, as the merits and demerits of globalisation are vehemently debated, science and technology is silently witnessing an unprecedented increase in collaboration across the world. And, the domain of nanoscience and nanotechnology is not an exception. Kshitij Aditeya Singh provides a glimpse of education and research collaborations across developing and developed countries.
Institutions across Asia have developed leadership in research over the last two decades and nanotechnology research budgets have seen an increase over the years.
South Korea, for example, has been consistently investing in nanotechnology through its ten year plan – by 2010 an estimated total of $1.2 billion will be spent on research and development, education and training, and infrastructure development. The Korea Nanotechnology Research Society announced the nanotechnology roadmap earlier in 2008, which aims to make South Korea one of the three leading nations for nanotechnology by 2020. The strongest areas of the national programme are in nanoelectronics for consumer applications and materials for industrial applications. Korea and China have developed a joint centre for nanotechnology research unveiled in Beijing last year. Other research based collaborations exist with North America and Europe.
The Chinese Academy of Science (CAS), has made focused efforts to create collaborations and reports to have signed over 70 cooperation agreements in addition to 700 agreements signed at Institute level. The collective collaboration with over 60 countries in the developed and developing world includes joint investigations, joint ventures, laboratories, young scientist groups, workshops, training courses, bilateral and multi-lateral seminars.
According to London based think tank Demos, the availability of human resource adds to the dynamic potential of China. The Beijing district alone has more engineers than all of Western Europe. In 2008 the total science and technology human resource pool stood at 42 million with 65% under the age of 40. This has increased from 35 million in 2005, though as a fraction of the total population the figure remains lower than other countries. The increased momentum in natural sciences driven innovation has seen a rapid increase in publications and the CAS is currently fourth in the world.
According to the National Committee for development of Nano - Science and Technology in 2006, about $197 million has been spent over the last 15 years, with the publication level on a par with US and Japanese counterparts in 2006. Patent filings in the 10th five year plan period had also increased from less than a 1,000 to over 4,600. Progress is reflected in the 3,000 knowledge workers contributing through 50 universities and 20 CAS Institutes in the flagship nanoscience and technology programme. In addition, 300 nanotech enterprises are active with 15 standards for nanotechnology being issued in the recent past. While improved infrastructure, research and development outputs are recent gains, technology transfer from laboratory to industry and the patent protection are aspects that remain ongoing obstacles to be overcome by the Chinese system.
Russia has a rich tradition of scientific and technical excellence which it aims to extend to nanotechnology as part of a strategy to move the country from a fuel- based to a more knowledge-based economy. Nature News reported expected investment of $7 billion in developing capabilities over the next 5 years. According to Cordis, Russia’s Federal Agency for Science and Innovation is also extending research cooperation with European countries. For example about € 450,000 in top up funding has been committed to the EU framework 6 nanotechnologies projects covering nanomaterials, energy, and life science applications. The European Foresight monitoring networks assessment in 2005 had acknowledged the strong research and development base in Russia while identifying the weakness in technology transfer and commercialisation aspects. The government has called for greater involvement of European companies in high technology sector particularly nanotechnology.
In 2006 India announced a national nanotechnology programme with an upfront funding commitment of nearly $250 million for a period of 5 years to create an ecosystem for developing a research and development hub that will follow a similar pattern seen with information technology and biotechnology. The Nano mission aimed at capacity building and developing synergies with other agencies has funded 100 projects. A concerted effort is being made by up to 60 Institutions including the Indian Institutes of Technology and National Institute of Technology to produce the skilled workforce for delivering nanoscale innovations to the marketplace. By 2020, India is expected to have the youngest and the largest scientific talent pool building on the strength of its educational system. The national programme also aims to address regulatory and intellectual property rights issues from the very start.
Collaborations of the Indian research and development clusters exist across the world. Institutions in the US and Europe are partnering to conduct research as well as delivering educational programmes. Projects such as the Euro-India Net were specifically set up by the European Commission to bring nano-innovation communities together in Europe and India in areas such as energy, environment and health care. Bilateral collaborations particularly exist with countries such as Canada, US, Japan, Germany, UK and Finland.
Brazil launched a national nanotechnology programme with a funding of roughly $31 million in 2005. According to the NanoforumEULA (EU framework 6 project), by the end of 2006 Brazil had 106 research projects running in nanotechnology. Between 2001 – 2006 a total of € 61.5 million was invested in areas ranging from nanoelectronics, nanomaterials to nanobiotechnology. Brazil’s international cooperation with Europe has witnessed a €30.5 million investment in higher education programmes to building links between Brazilian and European academia. Among other notable collaboration in Brazil is the joint centre for Nanotechnology with Argentina that aims to share research facilities, develop projects and human resource capabilities jointly. This builds on two decades of a successful partnership between the two countries in Biotechnology.
According to the President of Brazilian Academy of Science, South-South collaborations are on the increase in education and research and are rapidly becoming a part of the government policy based on areas of scientific leadership. For example, the academy of Science for the developing world (TWAS) supports research training for the least developed countries in Brazil, China, India or Mexico through scholarships for 200-250 researchers.
One of the prominent collaborations in the developing world is between China and India on cooperation in Science and Technology. Since challenges for growing economies are similar, the agreement aims to maximise research and development benefit. Cooperation agreement has been created by joining complementary strengths in space, clinical medicine, genomics, biotechnology and nanotechnology. The research collaboration aims to set the pace on critical global problems such as environment, energy and global change according to National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies in New Delhi.
Finland has one of the highest investments in R&D as a percentage of GDP output of the OECD countries and has leveraged its capabilities extremely well. The Finnish funding agency Tekes has been very active in establishing collaborative links between researchers and organisations in Asia. The Finnish national nanotechnology programme with a budget of €70 million for nanotechnology has established a joint research and development cooperation with China International Nanotech innovation cluster and has offices in Shanghai and Beijing. The strategic mutual cooperation initiative announced last December aims to bring products into the market place by 2010. Another example of proactive collaboration development is an important agreement signed between NOF, a consortium of Finnish companies and University of Oulu early this year in Japan. The cooperation will look at ways of using new materials for enabling high speed telecommunications and wireless solutions.
Another example of the Finnish government’s leveraging approach is reflected in its recent Science and Technology cooperation with India. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) in India said earlier this year that bilateral trade had grown by 20% amounting to €645.08 million with Finnish majors Nokia, Elcoteq, Kone and Wartsila having a strong presence in India. The two-way investment in R&D will add value to the rapidly growing ICT and renewable energy sector. Underlying the successful Finnish collaborations is a supporting programme called ‘FinDiPro’ – with funding of €17.5 million, the Finland Distinguished Professor Programme launched by the Academy of Finland and Tekes, aims to attract top scientists from across the world.
Grenoble in France is a leading example of a regional cluster that has maximised the strengths of research Institutions such as CEA LETI and MINATEC. The region has a strong industrial presence from Motorola, Philips, ST Microelectronics, Hewlett Packard and Xerox. One example of regional collaboration is the Crolles agreement for advanced CMOS processing, wafer packaging and testing. According to the French ministry of research, it has invested €650 million through innovative projects to create a future pole of excellence in nanotechnology through Minalogic in Grenoble. With the involvement of 34 establishments and 13 economic partners, it is expected to play a central role in this cluster of excellence. The French foreign office encourages scientific relationships with India, China and Brazil through the Arcus programme. A typical example of collaboration between poles of excellence is the relationship between the Grenoble and Bangalore nanotechnology cluster.
German Institutions are well known for precision engineering and has developed a structured approach to competence networks comprising of regional Institutions in varied innovation areas. Germany has been able to successful apply the strength of its structured R&D infrastructure, strong basic and applied research and 600 companies operating in this domain. An example of numerous German bilateral science and technology collaborations is one announced last year between Federal Ministry of education and research in Germany, and DST in India. The cooperation covers nanotechnology areas such as intelligent materials, new productions processes, physical and chemical technologies leading to wide technical and commercial applications.
UK has been very proactive at building education and research bridges across the world. UK-India Education and Research Initiative is a prime example of a dynamic relationship, where £23 million was pledged in 2006 by over 5 UK government agencies and 4 corporate champions to build bridges. The DST in India pledged to match the funding on science projects. The initiative covers three main strands- Higher Education and Research, Schools and Professional and Technical Skills. The ambitious initiative aims to achieve completion of 50 research projects, 40 education programmes delivered in India, mobility of 500 researchers and 2000 new graduates in India by 2011. Research projects in nanotechnology range from nanomaterials production, nanoelectronics and spintronics, photovoltaics, sensors, quantum information processing, medicine, sensors and environmental applications.
A significant amount of public funding is being channel through international, national and regional programmes in nanotechnology across the world. While the funding in developed countries is much higher than those of developing world, the developing world offers lower cost advantage and availability of highly skilled manpower.
Numerous obstacles need to be overcome to ensure the success of education and research collaborations. Challenges for technology transfer and commercialisation of research include harmonising intellectual property rights between the developed and developing world. These challenges extend to standardisation and regulation measures to assist long term development of nanotechnology. Education related challenges encompass areas such as quality assurance of taught content and assessment of learning outcomes particularly for long distance programmes delivering multidisciplinary education. The supporting measures encompass balanced governmental policies that facilitate mobility of knowledge workers, ideas and capital.
At present there is no accurate measure to gauge the value of the future economic benefits and time to diffusion of nanotechnology in the main stream. It none the less remains certain that economic and social benefits resulting from nanotechnology would be reaped by both the developed and the developing world. The landscape of the knowledge based society is setting up for an unprecedented growth in technology trade across the world regions. The distribution of benefits and its pace may be determined by the quality of collaboration between clusters of excellence.
Source: NANO Magazine - Issue 7 /...
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