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Nanotechnology in the Next Production Revolution

This OECD landmark publication entitled “The Next Production Revolution – Implications for Governments and Business” examines the opportunities and challenges, for business and government, associated with technologies bringing about the “next production revolution”.

Within the variety of influential technologies analysed in the report, Dr Steffi Friedrichs explores the role that nanotechnologies will play: in a Chapter entitled “Tapping nanotechnology’s potential to shape the next production revolution”, she explains that “[n]anotechnology has the potential to enable further innovations and establish new market sectors in the near future.”

“The development of exhibits repeated episodes of growth in the number of nanotechnology patents, several times larger than observed for comparable enabling technologies, such as biotechnology and information and communication technology (ICTs),” Friedrichs explains. “The figure [below] illustrates that the diverse field of nanotechnology repeatedly spurred a hype-like approach to research and technology patenting.” 

Evolution of patents in nanotechnology, biotechnology and ICT, 1990-2011 (annual growth rates, IP5 patent families)
[Source (adapted): OECD (2017), The Next Production Revolution: Implications for Governments and Business, OECD Publishing, Paris, STI Micro-data Lab: Intellectual Property database, (accessed October 2016).]

In-depth bibliometric research by the author revealed that “over the last 20 years the main focus of nanotechnology research has shifted from being a predominantly engineering-oriented discipline concerned with inorganic materials and their properties in 1996 to a more widely applied scientific discipline. In 2014, the field of nanotechnology was predominantly concerned with specific applied materials, such as nanoparticles and graphene, and the application of nanotechnology included biological tissue, such as the cell.” More details about the phenomenon and the analytical methodology employed can be found in the “Report on statistics and indicators of biotechnology and nanotechnology”.

“Research at the nanometre scale […] is subject to thematic shifts, driven by new understanding of the nanoscale as well as other scientific breakthroughs, […]”

[Dr Steffi Friedrichs, OECD (2017), The Next Production Revolution: Implications for Governments and Business, OECD Publishing, Paris.]
Changing citation of the most important keywords in nanoscience literature (1996-2014) (share of the ten most important nanotechnology keywords in scientific literature).
[Source (adapted): OECD (2017), The Next Production Revolution: Implications for Governments and Business, OECD Publishing, Paris, Elsevier (2016), Scopus Custom Data, database, Version 12.2015 (accessed October 2016). Text mining performed with VOSviewer, version 6.1.3.]

Friedrichs emphasises the important role that nanotechnology is increasingly playing in enabling the advancement and spreading of digitalisation: “one of the most important medium and long-term uses of nanotechnology is in developing high-accuracy sensors and detectors. Based on the ability to probe individual atomic and molecular material building blocks, nanotechnology-enabled sensors can be made with a variety of purposes,” she explains.

The role of nanotechnology as the link between the digital and physical worlds will become increasingly important, as the use of digital twins becomes increasingly widespread. For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to adopt the use of digital twins, however, the cost of this technique must be significantly decreased.

[Dr Steffi Friedrichs, OECD (2017), The Next Production Revolution: Implications for Governments and Business, OECD Publishing, Paris.]

Follow this link to access the full “The Next Production Revolution – Implications for Governments and Business” on the OECDiLibrary.

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