A growing nanotechnology industry has the potential to
add ''billions'' of dollars to the New Zealand economy if we
play our cards right.
That is the message from University of Otago research and
enterprise deputy vice-chancellor Richard Blaikie, who made
the comments after a public lecture in Dunedin on ''Seeing
Small'', where he spoke about the history of nanotechnology
and optics and its current applications.
Nanotechnology, which involves the engineering of functional
systems at the molecular scale, could add billions of dollars
to the New Zealand economy, he said.
The Government was already taking positive steps to ensure
there was growth in the sector, he said. This could be seen
with the creation of Callaghan Innovation, which would aim to
get the country's most innovative ideas out of the lab and
into the marketplace more quickly once it became operational
It was also important the number of companies involved in
nanotechnology increased, which would give ''people the
belief we can do this stuff here as well'', he said.
If the sector grew, New Zealand would be more likely to
attract big players, such as computer chip manufacture Intel,
to its shores. However, attracting the big companies was also
dependent on other factors, including tax rates, he said.
At the public lecture, which was part of Otago University's
latest annual ''Hands-on-Science'' school, Prof Blaikie spoke
about the importance of nanotechnology, which had
applications in everything ''from airbags to iPhones''.
He also spoke about the related field of optics and the quest
to build microscopes that could see ''smaller and smaller''
This goal was related to the massive industry around building
smaller computer chips, with powerful lenses used to print
semiconductors on silicon.
Prof Blaikie said the rapid progress of this industry had
''I sit in awe and wonder at this technology. In 50 years, we
have gone to a scale of electronics that we can see with our
naked eye ... to one where there are now billions of
transistors on a grain of rice circuit that we need advanced
imaging techniques to print,'' he said.