report published recently by the French Academies of
Science and Technology has urged the French government
to set up a 'national research programme', if it wants
to avoid being 'a metro too late' for the small tech
report, called 'Nanoscience, Nanotechnology', advocates
the creation of a National Agency for Nanoscience
and Nanotechnology'(A3N), which would centralise research
initiatives and provide leadership structure to French
revolution of the nanosciences is characterised by
an extreme pluridisciplinarity and an extremely rapid
evolution,' underlined Philippe Nozières, a
physician and one of the authors of the report. 'The
present structures are completely incapable of answering
would have a 'light' and 'provisional' structure with
important financial resources capable of rapidly bringing
together teams of physicians, chemists, biologists
and engineers to work on various projects. 'Nanosciences
will one day by absorbed into the normal functioning
of science. What is needed is therefore a provisional
structure, an agency that distributes financing,'
said Mr Nozières.
report advocates the grouping of interdisciplinary
teams rather than the creation of a new research institute.
'It is preferable that the researchers remain in their
objective is to mobilise between 100 and 200 million
euro, estimates Claude Weisbuch from the Academy of
Technology, and Director of Research at the Ecole
Polytechnique, to equip public laboratories and universities
with medium-sized small-tech infrastructures, such
as 'salles blanches' (clean rooms) to be rented out
for a fee.
to the report, this field of research is in full ebullition,
while nanosciences and nanotechnologies could become
a weak point for France. Indeed, France is already
spending a fair amount of money on small tech research,
but not in the right way, says Philippe Nozières.
study published in 'Nanotechnology' in 2002 placed
France in fifth position worldwide for scientific
publications (1997-1999) and fourth in registration
of patents (1991-1999). Since then, however, France
has been overtaken by a number of countries, such
as the US, Japan, the Netherlands and the UK, where
levels of investment in this field have been accelerated.
France,' explained Mr Nozières, 'the money
is very dispersed and there is no control over the
way it is spent. There are many excellent labs, but
they are very dispersed and do not integrate very
well into a larger project.'
academies therefore recommend that the A3N act as
a central platform, managed by scientists, which would
distribute contracts to laboratories and define national
report argues that government decisions over the next
few years will have a critical long-term economic
impact. 'We have to master matter at a nanometric
scale today if we want to partake in the industry
of tomorrow,' said Mr Weisbuch, as 'tomorrow will
be about industry, but patents are being registered
French government has of yet not given any sign of
whether it will follow the scientists' recommendations.
François d'Aubert, the new Minister for Research,
has not commented on the report.
issue is not only a concern in France. Another report
recently made public in the UK, 'Too little too late?
Government Investment in Nanotechnology', has criticised
the UK's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for
failing to support small tech appropriately and for
not maintaining a 'clearly focused strategy'.