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The Southwest Center for Microsystems Education (SCME) has just released a poster on its industry mapping project. Through this effort, the SCME’s goal is to gain an idea of the skills need by employers working in the micro and nanotechnologies in recent graduates. Knowledge gained will be used to strengthen technical and post-secondary education programs across the United States.

As explained on the poster, the commercial and industrial use of microsystems and nanotechnology is widespread throughout the United States. The data presented provides a snapshot into the micro and nanotechnology enabled industry, displaying where within the US it is clustered and a profile the diverse applications of small technologies. Because the applications are widespread, the industrial sectors impacted by their use are wide ranging, which is partially illustrated in this analysis.

However, these findings do not tell the rate at which the micro and nanotechnology enabled industry is growing nor the size or hiring and employment statistics of companies listed. Future work will examine these. Companies included in this study range from startups with less than 20 employees to large semiconductor foundries employing over 1000. No data was found for Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico.

More information on the methodology of this work is available here.

Highlights

  • Out of the 1500 companies categorized, 22% produce tools and capital equipment. These companies build and repair the machines and specialty parts used to analyze and manufacture micro and nanostructures.
  • 18% of companies categorized produce microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and Bio-MEMS. Many biotechnology and medical diagnostics companies that make use of microsensors or gene sequencing technologies are included in this category.
  • Over half of the companies categorized focus on the production of devices or instruments, as opposed to materials and components for them.
  • Only 13% of companies specialize in the manufacture of materials traditionally viewed as nanotechnology such as nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes, and nanostructured materials.
  • Out of the over 3000 companies counted, roughly 10% are located in the Silicon Valley

Implications of This Study

This study provides a snapshot of the geography of the micro and nanotechnology enabled industry within the United States and the specialties of companies within it. The density map presented illustrates where nanotechnology may have the largest impact upon regional economies within the US. Categorization of the companies working within micro and nanotechnology provides insight into their specialties and potential skill needs.

Based on the categorization, it can be concluded that the majority of companies categorized build integrated systems, as opposed to the manufacture of advanced materials. These systems include the tools for the manufacture and characterization of nanotechnology and microelectronic devices incorporating nanotechnology. Recent graduates who aim for technical employment within nanotechnology are well served understanding how to integrate it within a useful device in an economical manner. Knowledge of only the scientific phenomena behind nanotechnology and the microsystems it is incorporated into may be insufficient. Companies focusing exclusively on production of nanomaterials through the use of these scientific principles are only 18% of those categorized.

While many of the companies counted specialized in micro or nano-dimensioned products, many others focus in more established technical industries but are introducing micro and nano products as solutions to technical problems. There is no defined “nanotechnology industry” but instead many established industries turning to micro and nanotechnologies to solve their problems.

Note: This author presented this work at the COMS Conference in Salt Lake City.

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