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UK boffins form nanotech taskforce

Says government has failed to act

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Nanotechnology will be the next industrial revolution, and if the UK wants a piece of the action, it has to move now to fund research in the subject.

So say academics from the University of Surrey, which has formed a nanotechnology taskforce, to develop a "coherent strategy for funding nanotechnology research".

The university says it was driven to act by the government's failure to do so, a failure it says is contributing to the erosion of the UK's technological leadership.

The researchers behind the taskforce argue that better communication is needed between academia and industry. This will help to identify the areas in which the UK could be a world leader, so that government funding can be focused where it will deliver the best possible results.

Chairman Dr Ian Gibson MP, said: "Nanotechnology will be the next Industrial Revolution, but if the UK wants to be a major part of it, the government needs to demonstrate its commitment to science."

The taskforce's stated goals include encouraging informed public debate about the technology, promoting its benefits, and addressing concerns about safety and ethical issues raised by the research.

Professor Ravi Silva, director of the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, commented: "The work of UK scientists and technologists has demonstrated the case for the widespread potential benefits that nanotechnology can offer to society and industry. What is now needed is a co-ordinated effort supported by strategic funding from the government, to turn this potential into real benefits."

Bootnote

Dr Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, in among his more sensible comments on the subject, suggests that the 2012 Olympics will be the ideal place to showcase our skills in nanotechnology.

We're not quite sure what he means.

Is he suggesting augmenting our athletes with muscle-building nanobots? Or perhaps referring to the very small medals haul we're likely to secure? If the current downward trend continues, we might well need nano machines to help us find and count the gold atoms Team GB brings home.

Either way, Gibson must surely be given some kind of award for least likely association of two subjects. Well done, sir. ®

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