Universities devoting significant resources to nanotechnology

Universities are smartly banking on the fact that nanotechnology will be both an economic driver and a topic of interest for future students, and are therefore devoting funds to building new facilities and conducting research in the field.

Yesterday, University of Michigan announced it plans to spend around $46 million on a new facility dubbed the “Center of Excellence in Nano Mechanical Science and Engineering.” The new facility will explore research and development of several nanoscale technologies, including “nanomanufacturing, DNA molecules, energy conversion and microelectromechanical systems for use in medical technologies.”

While the project will be partially funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the grant only covers $9.48 million of the total cost. The university’s willingness to spend their own resources on the project is telling in that it demonstrates their commitment to and optimism for the future of nanotechnology.

While the University of Michigan may be on the forefront of nanotechnology investment with this endeavor, many other universities are vying for grant money to help kick-off or continue their own research.

Yesterday the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, announced it is awarding $65 million in funding to continue its “Programs in Nanotechnology Research,” which began in 2005. The program is designed to “help researchers develop tools based on materials designed at the molecular level to detect and deliver treatments for heart, lung, and blood diseases.”

The funding for this grant will be divided among both hospitals and large universities, including Harvard, MIT, Texas A&M and University of California, among others.

While many have argued that nanotechnology (and molecular nanotech in particular) is underfunded, developments such as these show there is a real, growing interest in this area. Hopefully this latest round of investment only represents the vanguard of what is to come.

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