The UK’s funding agency for the physical sciences – the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) – has been holding a theme day to review the nanotechnology it supports. All holders of grants in the nanotechnology area were invited to present their work. A panel of academic and industrial scientists and engineers, with international representation from the USA and Korea, reviewed the work presented on the day, as well as reports on recently finished grants and other evidence in an attempt to assess the health of the subject, to judge the UK’s position in relation to the rest of the world and to make recommendations.
Unlike most other countries, the UK doesn’t have a coordinated nanotechnology program. There are two interdisciplinary research collaborations, based at Oxford and Cambridge respectively, but most funding is provided in response to individual grant applications which are made, not to a single nanotechnology program, but to panels dealing with chemistry, physics, materials or information technology. The last time that nanotechnology was reviewed in this way was in 1999, and at that time it was felt that a single nanotechnology program was not needed.
I was on the panel; the report will be made public when it is finalised, so it’s probably premature to go into details about the conclusions we reached. As they say in diplomatic communiques, the discussions were full and frank, but we finished in remarkable agreement.