China ‘soaring ahead’ in nanotechnology research

China has become a nanotechnology powerhouse Copyright: Flickr/Novartis AG

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[NEW DELHI] China has emerged as a major nanotechnology player, but India is still working to catch up — and both countries have some ground to cover before they can hope to dominate the world of journals and citations, according to a paper in the February issue of Scientometrics.

The study, led by Sujit Bhattacharya at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies in New Delhi (NISTADS), measured progress made by China and India in nanotechnology research using four indicators — publications, patents, standards, and the processes and products that have emerged as a result of research.

China’s share of published nanotechnology papers soared from less than 10 per cent of the global total in 2000, to nearly a quarter by 2009 — overtaking the United States. By contrast, India was occupying seventh place.

However, neither was well-represented in the top three nanotechnology research journals, and although Chinese representation in high-quality journals was rising, its researchers were well behind the European Union and the United States in attracting citations.

In terms of patent applications received, China was second to only the US, and accounted for a fifth of international patenting activity. By contrast, India represented just four per cent of such activity.

In April 2005, China issued national standards for nanotechnology and set up material specification standards. It also created committees to oversee technical standards and health, safety and environment institutions, the paper found.

 Research in China has been more "sophisticated" than India, the study said, focusing on nano-materials and their applications. Indian research, the paper says, "shows a healthy trend towards addressing developmental problems" such as nanotechnology-based water solutions, drug delivery and the environment — although the authors noted that this is a preliminary assessment.

Bhattacharya told SciDev.Net that although India appears to be lagging, it overtook many advanced countries to achieve its 7th place global ranking.

Ved Kharbanda, a publications advisor at the Science and Technology Centre for Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries in New Delhi, said a highly inter-disciplinary field such as nanotechnology requires strong links between basic research and industry, and says more work remains to be done on this front, especially by the private sector.

"There is a an urgent need that the private sector takes the lead in major investments both in basic as well as applied research in these countries, and particularly so in India," he said.

Link to abstract


Scientometrics doi:10.1007/s11192-012-0651-7 (2012)