Bay State stakes claim as nanotechnology leader
By Jon Chesto
Saturday, March 6, 2004 Massachusetts ranks second only to California as a magnet for nanotechnology venture investments - one of many signs that the Bay State is a leading player in the emerging field, a report set for release Monday shows.
The report provides a comprehensive look at the state's strengths in the emerging field of molecular technology. And it shows how nanotechnology - the science of engineering products and devices as small as molecules - could be a major driver for local economic growth.
``It's going to take a while to develop into something that's a true force in the state's economy,'' said Thomas Hubbard, a vice president at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. ``(But) this is still a small area that's got big promise.''
The report, from Hubbard's quasi-state agency and the Nano Science and Technology Institute in Cambridge, shows that local nanotech ventures pulled in $114 million in venture funds last year.
But Massachusetts lost ground from the $140 million invested locally in 2002, and it's well behind California, where nearly $500 million went to nanotech start-ups. But Massachusetts remained well ahead of its nearest rivals, Texas and New York.
Massachusetts' strength comes from its strong research universities and its variety of research hospitals, biotech labs and high-tech manufacturers.
``Massachusetts is pefectly poised to produce a huge amount of intellectual property in nanotechnology,'' said Matt Louden, executive director at the Cambridge nanotech institute.
Louden, whose group is bringing the Nanotech 2004 conference to Boston next week, said he's not worried about Massachusetts losing its leadership. He cited the state's strong venture investing community, as well as its universities and leading-edge companies.
While small so far, nanotech has had an impact here. For example, Taunton-based Kopin Corp., which uses nanotechnology to make small display screens, collected nearly $80 million in sales last year, said Kopin chief John Fan. Among its products, Kopin makes camcorder displays.
Chelmsford's Triton Systems Inc. expects its affiliates will reap $500 million a year in revenue by 2007 from nanotech-based products, said Ross Haghighat, Triton's chief executive. A Triton affiliate recently launched a series of trials to study using tiny particles to zap cancer cells.
``I think (Massachusetts) is just a natural hotbed to attract (nanotech) investments as well as the research dollars,'' Haghighat said.