Last week, Lux Research, a leading nanotechnology consultancy, issued a report on the state of nanotechnology. Besides noting that the U.S.' lead in the field was eroding, it offered this rather prosaic piece of advice: "Companies active in nanotech risk missing out on key opportunities by not looking beyond their own borders."
It is hardly earth-shattering news. One of the reasons BASF (NYSE: BF ) established a large nanotechnology center in Singapore last year was to take advantage of the research that was being done in that country. The latest company to take a page out of this book is Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) , which announced on Friday that it was establishing a $60 million nanotech research center at the University of Cambridge in England.
The move is noteworthy because it is fairly well known in nanotech circles that Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) is investing heavily in nanotechnology and has already created a nano-emissive flat-panel display. It also has two other nanotech-related initiatives -- one in the area of material science and the other in electronics.
Nokia didn't offer any guidance on the type of research it would be focusing on, but this probably has less to do with being clandestine in a James Bond sort of way, and more to do with the fact that nanotechnology will play a role in virtually every aspect of next-generation cell phones, including semiconductors, optics, acoustics, batteries, sensors, actuators, and even paints and coatings.
In the race to produce ever-thinner, longer-lasting cell phones with better performance and new capabilities, nanotechnology will undoubtedly play a leading role, and this latest news suggests that Nokia intends to keep battling Motorola and Samsung for dominance in the international marketplace.
Whether the research will produce anything as cool as Q -- the fictional R&D guru in Bond movies -- could concoct remains to be seen; but if the center can refine some of Nokia's future products it will be a positive thing. After all, a modest British accent can even give the most mundane of people a slight air of sophistication.
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Because of his interest in nanotech, Fool contributor Jack Uldrich is often accused of thinking small. He does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.