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Great products from tiny pieces Alan Hynes, Executive Director, CCAN.


ig things can happen when you think small. Energy efficient electronics. More effective cancer treatments. Faster broadband. Even consumer products you may use every day such as the latest waterproof smartphones, scratch-resistant car paint, antibacterial plasters, stain repellent suits, suncream and cosmetics, lighter but stronger sports equipment and the list goes on. Nanotechnology is now providing improved product performance and new product features across all major markets. This is made possible by companies’ abilities to very accurately measure and manipulate the materials within their products, right down to their smallest building blocks, atoms and molecules. The techniques, tools and expertise necessary are provided by these companies’ development partners and it is through successful collaboration that the product successes are born. Now what can Ireland offer? What approaches can we take to enable companies gain the most from this most advanced materials engineering. And how can your company benefit?

What’s all this “nano” stuff? Nanotechnology involves the ability to control, measure or manipulate materials at the scale of individual molecules – that’s less than 100nm. That’s it! The big things happen because such control allows companies to very accurately tailor their product performance to exactly meet the needs of the market. You can get more detail on the science here However, on its own nanotechnology doesn’t do a whole lot. In reality the business opportunities for companies only arise when 60 | Silicon Valley Global

Alan Hynes, CCAN Director

“I would recommend any company involved in materials development interact with CCAN to accelerate their development activities” John O’Donoghue, CTO, EnBIO this technical capability is combined with others to solve customer problems. Inevitably nanotech is only a part of the end solution and multiple disciplines are required to develop any new or improved nano-enabled product.

Essential collaboration – Ireland’s opportunity The successful delivery of new nano-enabled processes and products requires multidisciplinary and flexible project teams, involving multiple organisations with a

continuous focus on the requirements of the industrial end-users. Meeting that requirement for multiple skills and disciplines is the challenge facing innovative companies across the world. It is also Ireland’s opportunity. The Irish government, through Science Foundation Ireland and others, has invested heavily in the infrastructure and personnel necessary for advanced materials research and nanotechnology in Ireland. Centers like Tyndall and CRANN, are certainly to the fore of this activity, but other centers around the country offer equally important and complimentary expertise in particular application areas. No single institute has all the necessary expertise. Companies have many questions; What expertise is available? Where is it? How do I access it? Even if I know all that, how do I easily combine expertise from multiple centers and companies in order to quickly commercialize the outputs? Just imagine the benefits to companies, researchers and the country, if there was an easy way to pull together expertise from across the entire national resource pool to address industry-defined problems.

CCAN – joining the dots To address these challenges CCAN (pronounced “see-can”) was launched in 2010 as part of the Irish government’s Technology Centres initiative. Measured by the growth and success of its member companies’ R&D activities, CCAN’s mission is to make it easier for companies to access the best expertise from across the entire Irish nanotech and

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