Forbes has an interview with Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, who has given massive green to fund nanotechnolgy at Georgia Tech (let's hope the Rambling Wreck's fortunes at manipulating molecules at the atomic level is more successful than their football program). Marcus forked over $15 million and was named "Forbes/Wolfe 2006 Nanotech Person of the Year" for his largess.
Is it the government or the private sector that drives it forward?
Government has the advantage of enormous amounts of money. When used intelligently, great things can happen. NIH does tremendous work in helping with medical research. Putting a man on the moon had a great positive effect on science and product development. The military has made great inroads in medicine. They are creative, entrepreneurial and wonderful when it comes to medical research. They are motivated by a basic need: to learn how to take care of our soldiers. The research has yielded treatments that have saved lives of soldiers who'd have died 10 years ago.
But I think the free enterprise system of investors, entrepreneurs and great ideas is what really drives nearly all of this forward. I'm not too old to not be amazed by the young entrepreneurs of today and what they have done. It took me 27 years with the Home Depot to create the value it did for the U.S., it put more than 350,000 people to work, created wealth for shareholders and owners. Some of these young entrepreneurs are doing it in three years, and it's all about creating value and embracing technologies. The next Bill Gates will come from nanotechnology. There is no doubt in my mind.
Back in 1995, Ed Regis did a great profile of nanotech visionary K. Eric Drexler for Reason. Check out the small print on the big idea here.
Reason's Ron Bailey on nanotech here.