June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.234.1 - 13.234.13
Assessing the True Cost of Delivering Nano-hype
Engineering and technology can have a massive impact on productivity and economic growth so it is important to track the likely course of new technologies as they grow from concept to maturity. Nowhere is this more important than in the case of nano- technologies. This broad category ranges from incremental CMOS developments to highly speculative new materials with novel functionality. However, roadmaps for strategic development need to be built on more than hype and promises. This paper describes a simple tool to measure the maturity of new technologies in many economic as well as technical domains. It ascribes one of ten stages of maturity to fourteen different parameters. A review of non-volatile memory technologies is used as a benchmark. The tool has been used to demonstrate technology evolution within academic courses and it has also been applied within short industry courses.
Project rationale and scope
The appeal of nanotechnology lies in the sheer breadth and potential impact of its applications. However, these features are also its greatest weakness. Hardly a week passes without some new nano-product or material being touted as the miracle solution that will drive the next wave of high-tech development 1. The reality is that few of these claims will be realized in the form predicted. Even the developments that eventually succeed will have a tortuous and demanding evolution path. How does anyone make a balanced assessment of new technology that captures its novelty and the imagination of the innovators but at the same time acknowledges that realistic business criteria will also be applied? This paper describes a simple process to derive a measure of the maturity of new technologies in many economic as well as technical domains. It was initiated by a need to explain new technology in course work and has since been extended to research and development outcomes in several industry sectors.
Technology evolution rests on a brutally Darwinian process that is based on the interaction of engineering, economics and market opportunities. This makes any long term planning difficult yet there is every reason to believe that the scope and impact of technical change will be as profound in the next thirty years as it has been in the last thirty. However, it is difficult to find a balanced view of any emerging technology. The advocates obviously dwell on its strengths and sometimes their enthusiasm can drift into unsubstantiated hype and wishful thinking. At the other end of the spectrum, those involved with mature technologies are too busy managing products and cash flow in highly competitive global markets to be seriously concerned about a technology that may be a decade or more away.
A quantitative tool that measures the maturity of emerging technologies has a number of applications in the domain of Engineering Economics:
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