If you ask me

This issue's double act looks at the exciting future of nanotechnology and we announce the launch of E&T Video - a regular video report on the world of engineering and technology.

Nanotech's window of opportunity

Following years of government funding into micro and nano electronics research and development by UK academia, ministers are now quite rightly asking to see commercial results. Traditionally, the UK has been strong in MEMS (micro electromechanical systems) and NEMS (nano electromechanical systems) research, but not so strong in realising the commercial exploitation. The route to market has been slow, with important links still missing in the supply chain.

High-end microprocessors will continue to be driven by Moore's Law, which states that the number of transistors on a chip will double about every two years. Now, researchers and business leaders all over the world are starting to realise that 'more than Moore' technologies are offering new business opportunities and additional complete system-on-chip solutions for global semiconductor manufacturers.

The UK can no longer afford to follow research and development in Moore's Law, so now UK nano-electronics research institutes and centres are realising the need to follow the 'more than Moore' agenda.

The Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network, one of the UK's primary knowledge-based networks for micro and nanotechnologies, was set up by the Technology Strategy Board to promote and facilitate knowledge exchange, support the growth of capabilities, raise nanotechnology awareness and provide thought-leadership and input to policy strategy.

The NanoKTN has a number of focus groups working across different areas, designed to act as a three-way communication channel between industry, academia and the funding authorities. One of its most important initiatives is to bring together everyone in the supply chain and ask them to think about the efficient and effective implementation of 'more than Moore' technologies into industry.

Nano-electronics researchers have developed processes that are being used to develop novel micro and nano devices including the recent introduction of NEMS. But integrating complex components requires a new approach and it is in this area that the NanoKTN has identified opportunities.

To support the successful exploitation of MEMS and NEMS, UK academia and industry need to collaborate to bridge the gaps in the supply chain to ensure the materials, equipment, business models and infrastructure is in place. This is one of the key aims of the NanoKTN; to help stimulate the formation of the complete supply chain across all possible vertical applications to ensure the successful implementation of nanotechnology in the UK.

A window of commercial opportunity is now open. It is crucial for industry leaders, academia and research facilities to take advantage of current research and development happening within this sector.

If the UK wants to remain a leading knowledge economy it cannot afford not to be at the forefront of developments in micro and nano electronics.

Alec Reader, director of the NanoKTN www.nanoktn.com [new window]


Introducing the new E&T Video

I trained as a print journalist and have spent the last 15 years honing this craft which, in my opinion, I have yet to master and probably never will. I can assure you that's not how my CV starts - but it's the truth. Writing can never be truly mastered by anyone, but we all have to think that we can one day.

I had considered a career in broadcast rather than print, but I decided that I would be able to get more into the nitty-gritty of an issue by writing about it rather than preaching and this remains the case; it has been said that the entire output of 'News at Ten' could easily fit on the front page of the Daily Telegraph.

Now, with an unquenchable thirst for video content by Web users, E&T has launched E&T Video - a regular video report on the world of engineering and technology. Although the appetite for video knowledge may be insatiable, what we have found in the past, when collaborating with our modish colleagues at IET.TV, is that viewers on the Web have a short attention span.

In the comfort of your living room, you will happily watch an engaging documentary that lasts for half an hour or more. But Web viewing habits are different. After about five minutes or so, most will click the pause button - whatever the length or quality of the video. You cannot really kick back and watch anything on a small screen for any length of time unless you're prevented from getting up by the illuminated seatbelt sign in economy class.

Trying to pack in all the information that we would normally include in the typical E&T magazine feature in five minutes or less would be impossible and far too taxing to watch. Therefore, we won't make you endure this. Instead, we offer a straight forward introduction to a subject presented in an upbeat and intelligent format, which will hopefully appeal to those interested in all fields of technology.

And if you want to know more, there will usually be a link to a longer more detailed feature on the same topic that you will be able to read without encountering the wrath of your network administrator.

We recently looked at how much it would cost to put together television's 'Six Million Dollar Man' if he was rebuilt today (you may have read the accompanying feature in the last issue). This allowed us to look at a range of prosthetic and bionic technologies in an engaging manner that, as it turns out, appeals to more than those working in technical fields.

It's a shame, though, that such programming is not seen as a ratings hit by the TV schedulers. I miss 'Tomorrow's World' and I disagree with the schedulers. I think many people are innately interested in technology and how the modern world works without some overexcited TV presenter getting cheap thrills by blowing stuff up.

Kris Sangani, consumer electronics editor

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