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Nanotechnology and the “Valley of Death”
Volume 2, Issue 3

Thomas A. Kalil, UC Berkeley

One of the reasons that policy-makers in the Legislative and Executive branches have supported the National Nanotechnology Initiative (“NNI”) is the hope that increased research funding will trigger a wave of innovation. New nanotechnologies, such as powerful medical diagnostics, ultra-dense memory chips and low-cost solar cells, have the potential to create economic growth and high-wage jobs. Many applications could address important national needs and improve our quality of life as well. Talk to any venture capitalist or nanotechnology entrepreneur, however, and the “valley of death” is almost sure to come up. As described below—many good technical ideas languish in the stage between “proof of principle” and “reduction to practice.” In this article, Thomas A. Kalil describes a concrete policy proposal that could help accelerate the commercialization of nanotechnology: investing more of the $2 billion Small Business Innovation Research (“SBIR”) program in nanotech.

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