About Nanobank

The following is from the abstract of National Science Foundation Grant SES-0304727

This project uses econometric methods to estimate the impact of nanoscale science and technology (nano S&T) research, and associated interdisciplinary research, directly on firms' entry and success and hence on U.S. economic growth, standard of living, and competitiveness. The research team also performs scientometric and institutional analyses of diffusion and networks in nano S&T and converging fields, and the reciprocal effects of institutions on nano S&T and of academic scientists' involvement in commercialization on their scientific productivity and teaching. These substantive studies address issues that are particularly important to sustaining long-term support of nano and associated S&T. Undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students will be engaged in this research continuously, through hands-on participation and summer and academic-year internships. Results of the research will be translated into courses for MBAs and practicing entrepreneurs, including scientists.

Accurate and convincing analysis of these impacts requires building an integrated database, which will be made available as a public, web-deployed digital library (DL) called Nanobank.org. The database will be useful to other researchers pursuing different social-science analyses, as well as investors and firms seeking to allocate investment to promising new technologies, policymakers attempting to assess the effects of alternative policy proposals, and nano scientists and engineers, who will be able to trace relevant research, for instance, whether a key scientist is author of an article, inventor on a patent, or collaborator or officer of a firm. A Nanobank user might also seek all publications, patents, collaborations, alliances, and stock-price returns of firms working, say, on a particular use of carbon nanotubes and trace all academic publications and research grants in nano S&T tied to each firm involved in that use.

The project DL experts will solve challenging technical DL problems to enable Nanobank users to search multiple and quality-weighted (e.g., by patent or article citations or employment growth) fields across a variety of databases, with sophisticated matching of variant names of frequently appearing organizations and individuals. The team is rich in expertise in carrying out matches using combined computer and judgment methods that will accelerate the construction of more fully automated matching/search systems. Nanoscience and technology experts affiliated with the project are also interested in the substantive economic, business, and policy questions for which Nanobank can be the key and are willing to provide the expert input necessary to build a methodology for tracking and including patents, articles, firms, grants, and products that should fall within nano S&T and to assess proposed measures of business activity. They provide access to important knowledge that is often tacit and transferred by working at the bench level and in industry.

Preliminary empirical results show that where and when firms enter nanotechnology correlates with regional measures of highly cited academic articles, federal research funding to universities, and labor force quality. Nanobank will enable us to provide more definitive estimates of the factors affecting firm entry and furthermore trace the effects of university-to-firm knowledge flows on firm success, and of commercial participation on scientists and engineers. Scientometric analysis can identify emerging fields and explain trends in cross-discipline research in nano S&T.

This project will begin to answer questions about the economic retum to public investment in nano S&T research, the channels that knowledge of valuable new discoveries travels, how discoveries alter these channels, and what institutions contribute to returns on this investment. The project will directly involve future and young social, physical, and life scientists in research on the processes which convert knowledge into valuable goods and services. Nanobank's availability will attract ambitious social scientists to study of societal impacts, like high-energy physicists with a new detector, while it also facilitates discovery by scientists working in other research areas of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

This Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team (NIRT) proposal was submitted in response to the solicitation "Nanoscale Science and Engineering" (NSF 02-148). It is being supported by the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE), the Directorate for Computer Science and Engineering (CISE), the Directorate for Engineering (ENG), and the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS). Three divisions in MPS are co-sponsoring this effort: Mathematical Sciences, Physics, and Materials Research.