The ‘Ideas Factory’ on Software control of matter – in which a group of scientists from different backgrounds spend a week brainstorming new and innovative approaches to a difficult problem – is just over a week away. I’m directing the activity, the outcome of which, we hope, will be novel research proposals, for which £1.5 million has been set aside to fund by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
We were very gratified by the response, and from the applications we received we’ve selected a great group of scientists, from many different disciplines, including supramolecular chemistry, scanning probe microscopy, surface science and computer science, and ranging from some of the UK’s most eminent nanoscientists to young research fellows and postdocs. We’d like to open the process up to anyone interested, so we’ve set up a public blog for the Ideas Factory.
When the sandpit begins, on January 8, we’ll be writing about the process as it happens. But we’d also be very interested in any ideas any readers of the blog might have. You might have an opinion about how we might achieve this goal in practise; you might have thoughts about what kinds of materials one might hope to make in this way; or you might have thoughts about why – for what social benefit, or economic gain – you might want to make these materials and devices. All readers are invited to comment on the thoughts they might have through the comment facility on the Ideas Factory blog. Towards the end of next week, I’ll start putting up some posts asking for comments, and if we get any suggestions, we will feed the suggestions in to the participants of the Ideas Factory, using the blog to report back reactions. One of the mentors for the Ideas Factory – Jack Stilgoe, from the thinktank Demos – will collate and report the comments to the group. Jack’s a long-time observer of the nanotech scence, but he’s not a nanoscientist himself, so he won’t have any preconceptions of what might or might not work.