It was announced this morning that the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the lead government agency for funding nanotechnology in the UK, has appointed a new Senior Strategic Advisor for Nanotechnology. This forms part of a new strategy, published (in a distinctly low key way) earlier this year. The strategy announces some relatively modest increases in funding from the current level, which amounts to around £92 million per year, much of which will be focused on some large-scale “Grand Challenge” projects addressing areas of major societal need.
An editorial (subscription required) in February’s issue of Nature Nanotechnology lays out the challenges that will face the new appointee. By a number of measures, the UK is underperforming in nanotechnology relative to its position in world science as a whole. Given the relatively small sums on offer, focusing on areas of existing UK strength – both academically and in existing industry – is going to be essential, and it’s clear that the pharmaceutical and health-care sectors are strong candidates. Nature Nanotechnology’s advice is clear: “Indeed, getting the biomedical community— including companies — to buy into a national strategy for nanotechnology and health care should be a top priority for the nano champion.”