Actor and producer Robert Downey Jr, best known of late for his role as Tony “Iron Man” Stark, in June 2019 at Amazon’s Re:MARS conference, said that “between robotics and nanotechnology, we could clean up the planet significantly, if not totally, in 10 years.”
Two years on and his FootPrint Coalition organisation has set up two rolling venture capital funds to target the environmental and sustainability sector.
But nanotech as a whole has struggled to gain specific interest in deals, instead becoming part of wider applications in healthcare to industrial sectors.
As Tony Chao, then a senior investment director at Applied Materials’ corporate venturing unit and now a partner at Tyche Partners, at the GCVI Summit 2018 said: “Nanotech is everything and nothing at the same time. It is everywhere – in clothes, phones, manufacturing and you do not even know it is there. It is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”
It is incorporated within most industries, including commercial construction, chemical plants, oil and gas, aviation and utilities.
In December, Halliburton Labs, the open innovation centre and accelerator for US-based oil services company Halliburton, saw one of its cohort, NanoTech, a material science company focused on fire-proofing and insulation technologies, complete its $5m seed round.
At the other end of the scale, Sila Nanotechnologies last month raised $590m in its series F round to scale up manufacturing of its silicon-based battery materials to be used in lithium-ion electric cars.
As Ginger Rothrock, partner at HG Ventures, the corporate venturing unit of Heritage Group, in preparation for the 29 April roundtable said: “New and improved materials can have an outsized impact on the energy/climate/health/etc challenges we are facing today and in the near future.”
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