hottest emerging technology by far right now is nanotechnology, which
isn't actually an industry but rather a multidisciplinary
specialization that overlaps many industries, including most if not all
of the 49 North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes
that AeA uses to define "high tech," plus many others not included in
AeA's list. Nanomaterials (such as nanospheres, nanofibers, and
nanotubes) are already being used in a growing number of consumer
products as well as industrial applications. Development and initial
commercialization of nanotools, which allow measurement and
manipulation of matter at the nanoscale (one billionth of a meter), and
nanodevices, which perform specific functions at the nanoscale, are
already well under way.
A recent study by Lux Research, a New
York-based market research and consulting firm specializing in
nanotechnology and the physical sciences, found that U.S. corporations
directly employed about 5,300 "white-coat" nanotech developers at the
end of 2006, predicting that this number will grow to 30,000 in the
next two years. In addition, the National Science Foundation (NSF)
forecasts that nanotech will indirectly affect at least two million
blue-collar jobs within a decade.
Lux Research also found that
$12.4 billion was invested in nanotech R&D worldwide in 2006, and
more than $50 billion worth of nano-enabled products were sold. The
U.S., Japan, Germany, and South Korea were the leaders in nanotech, but
China, India, and Russia are beginning to close the gap.
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, a nonprofit group funded by
various foundations and private donors, recently produced a mashup
Google map of the United States showing the cities with the highest
concentrations of companies, organizations, universities, and
government agencies involved in nanotech. The top-two "NanoMetros"
identified by the group were San Jose and Boston. Three other
California cities - San Francisco, Oakland, and San Diego - and one
other Massachusetts city - Middlesex-Essex - also made the list, along
with Denver, Austin, Houston, and Chicago.
Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a U.S. government program that
coordinates the nanotech-related work of 26 federal agencies, has seen
its R&D budget increase every year since it began in 2001, now up
to $1.4 billion for FY2008. NSF is the lead federal agency for NNI,
overseeing operations of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure
Network, which includes more than a dozen partner universities
throughout the country that provide access to nanotech R&D
facilities for both academic and industry users.
Also part of
NNI are five nanoscale science research centers operated by the
Department of Energy at Brookhaven (NY), Sandia/Los Alamos (NM), Oak
Ridge (TN), Argonne (IL), and Lawrence Berkeley (CA) national
laboratories; plus intense nanotech research being conducted by the
Department of Defense primarily through its Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency (DARPA) and through the research offices of the service
branches. All military branches are undergoing technology modernization
programs, investing in advanced communication technologies and weapons
systems in which nanotech will inevitably play a major role.
Joint Economic Committee report on nanotech predicts that as early as
2010, there will be "nanosystems" - assemblies of nanotools or
nanodevices that function together to perform tasks; by 2015, actual
manipulation of atoms to design molecules will be possible; and by
2020, nanotech could possibly reach what some scientists call
"singularity" and take on a life of its own, using artificial
intelligence far beyond the capabilities of its human creators.
the path from initial discovery to product application takes 10-12
years, the initial scientific foundations for these technologies are
already starting to emerge from laboratories," notes the report, which
was signed by Senior Economist Joseph Kennedy. Since "as we go forward,
an increasing proportion of investment in nanotechnology will come from
the private sector," the report recommends that nanotech "be allowed to
proceed as other transforming technologies such as chemistry, steam
power, and electricity have done."
as nanotech is expected to become integrated into almost every industry
and eventually permeate almost every aspect of daily life, so is
globalism a fact of life for all high-tech companies.
in the semiconductor industry has been taking place for decades,
initially for lower labor costs in the assembly process, but now
increasingly for complex fabrication and design work, with Taiwan and
China the major chosen locations. Offshoring of software services,
primarily to India, gained momentum about 10 years ago. A growing
number of U.S. companies are outsourcing R&D work of all kinds to
foreign countries as the quality of math, science, and engineering
education has continued to improve overseas. China, for example, now
annually awards four times as many engineering bachelor's degrees than
the United States does.
High-tech imports to the United States
exceed high-tech exports: $322 billion in imports compared to $220
billion in exports during 2006, according to AeA. Not surprisingly, the
biggest trade deficit with any single country is with China. While U.S.
high-tech exports to China more than tripled between 2000 and 2006 -
from $4.6 billion to $14.1 billion - high-tech imports from China to
the U.S. almost quadrupled - from $26 billion to $102 billion.
largest market for U.S. high-tech goods is the European Union, with
which the United States has a trade surplus ($46.1 billion in high-tech
exports versus $33.4 billion in imports in 2006). The United States
also has a trade surplus with its second-largest high-tech market,
Canada ($30.1 billion in exports versus $11.7 billion in imports); but
a deficit with its third-largest market, Mexico ($29.6 billion in
exports versus 44.7 billion in imports). The countries of Central and
South America, taken as a whole, could be considered the fourth-largest
market with which the United States also has a trade surplus in
high-tech ($17.1 billion in exports versus $3.1 billion in imports in
Globalism has blurred the boundaries between countries,
however. Most major U.S. high-tech companies have overseas facilities,
and foreign direct investment in the United States continues to
increase as well. As noted in a 2004 AeA report on outsourcing, which
still holds true, "In the global marketplace, companies need to have a
physical presence in overseas markets or they cannot compete in those
markets. Indeed, these jobs are not outsourced, but rather are
necessary for companies to gain access to their customers."