been hindered by a lack of metrics and lack of a comprehensive empirical framework.1 Assessing economic impact is also challenging because of the complexity of forces that drive economic growth and the inherent uncertainty surrounding outcomes observed at a particular point in time. Moreover, in general the timescales from research-based discovery to commercialization of technologies are long, often 20 years or more, and as an enabling technology, nanotechnology in particular is still in its infancy. The timescales over which the cumulative benefits of nanoscale R&D will become apparent will vary, depending on the nature of individual industries and products and the kinds of developmental research and testing required, such as clinical trials. Also, the investment needed for change and the availability of sustained investment for long-term gain will be determining factors. Although it is clear that nanotechnology will have an impact on many applications and industries, how to measure its economic impact is not now clear.
Lacking data on R&D outputs and how they contribute to the production of goods and services, and how such outputs affect comparative advantage, the committee found its ability sharply reduced to conduct a rigorous analysis of the current impact of nanotechnology on the U.S. economy. A few studies have attempted to assess the impact of nanotechnology on the economy by developing their own metrics. In discussing one such study here, the committee acknowledges that the foundation for such estimates is very modest and that other studies might generate other estimates.
According to a report by Lux Research, Inc., released in October 2004, the nanotechnology value chain cuts from nanomaterials to nanointermediates to nano-enabled products.2 Nanomaterials are nanoscale structures in unprocessed form, such as nanoparticles and nanotubes. Nanointermediates are products with nanoscale features, such as coatings and memory and logic chips. Nano-enabled products at the end of the value chain are finished goods incorporating nanotechnology, such as cars and computers. In addition, the Lux report differentiated between “established” and “emerging” nanotechnologies. It defined established nanotechnologies as coming from well-understood processes, used for decades, which happen to yield products with nanoscale features. Examples include synthetic zeolites, high-strength metallic alloys, and microchips with feature sizes of less than 100 nanometers. Emerging nanotechnologies were defined as resulting from innovations using nanomaterials and nanointermediates, such as quantum dots, fullerenes, and nano-delivered drugs.
The 2004 Lux report estimated that nanotechnology accounted for $158 billion in global product revenue in 2004, with 92 percent ($146 billion) stemming