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Nanotech meets big business


04 December 2007

Some of the UK's up and coming nanotechnology firms met industry giants in London on 27 November, as the UK government sought to marry up local innovators with international business partners.

The UK NanoForum formed part of a week-long nanotechnology matchmaking event, organised by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). The event also showcased nanotech activities and facilities in Cambridge, Oxford and the West Midlands.

Delegates from 30 international universities and companies - including Samsung Electronics of South Korea, Italy's Pirelli Labs, and Indian firm Tata Chemicals - attended the forum, which ran for the first time last year.

'The aim is to take people we think are likely to form useful collaborations with UK industry and universities, and to show them our science and nanotechnology capabilities,' said UKTI spokesman James Clements.

QinetiQ Nanomaterials Ltd (QNL), spun off from parent company QinetiQ in August 2007, used the event to present the first results of their antiviral nanoparticle project.

'We made some very interesting, senior-level contacts from companies around the world,' Paul Reip, CEO of QNL, told Chemistry World. 'This is certainly one of the best nano conferences out there for that.'

Their work stems from a collaboration with Queen Mary, University of London, where the inorganic particles were initially developed, and four other universities and companies. The group have successfully developed nanoparticles that kill the H5N1 bird flu virus. At less than 50nm in size, the particles can be applied in a transparent layer.

The team have now moved on to Mk II - particles that are also antifungal and antibacterial - said Reip. The new particles, also under 50nm, incorporate copper 

oxide as an antifungal, and silver for its antibacterial properties. 'The new particles, as a coating, kill H5N1, MRSA, E. ColiStaphylococcus aureus golden, and further tests are underway,' said Reip. 'We're aiming to develop a high performance hygienic barrier that could be applied to a whole range of products.'

Many of the UK companies exhibiting at the event were university spin-outs, like Oxford spin-out Oxonica. 'We met companies from the UK and internationally who we established we could work with in principle,' Barry Park, head of Oxonica, told Chemistry World. 'Of course, the proof of the pudding will be when we work out if we can move forward together.'

"We met companies from the UK and internationally who we established we could work with in principle. Of course, the proof of the pudding will be when we work out if we can move forward together"
- Barry Park

Oxonica already has several products on the market, including a catalyst that improves fuel consumption in diesel engines. The firm is currently developing gold nanoparticle-based detectors that could have a variety of uses, from identifying disease biomarkers to forged documents.

International visitors said they also found the meeting a valuable event. 'Collaborative opportunities are there for various areas and we will look whether that will be useful for us,' said Arup Chatterjee, CEO of Indian nano-material manufacturer I-CanNano.

The Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA) used NanoForum to announce their launch as an independent, limited company. The NIA had been funded by the Department of Trade and Industry since its launch in 2005. 'As a limited company we can now offer more independent and internationally relevant support, acting as a proactive lobbying body for the collective nanotechnology industries on a multi-national level,' said NIA director Steffi Friedrichs. NIA also announced a consultation on a 'responsible nanocode for business'.

Alan Smith represented the NIA throughout the week-long event. 'Judging by the reactions of those involved, I'd be very surprised if several collaborations didn't come out of the event,' he said. 'And everyone is looking forward to next year - it should be an even larger event, such is the growth of nano.'

James Mitchell Crow

 

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