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The Dynamics of Regional Clusters of Nanotechnologies:

Evidences from German länder and two Spanish Autonomous

Authors: Mikel Gómez-Uranga, Goio Etxebarria* and Jon Barrutia

University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)

*Corresponding author:


In the present article, we use a dynamic approach to analyse the topography of regional/local
nanotechnologies clusters through the agents that make them up. These agents include firms
of different sizes and characteristics, universities, research centers and intermediary
organizations supporting the creation of firms. Our study examines scientific publications as
well as the gaps observed in some clusters and how the weakest clusters could be
strengthened. Our spatial scope of analysis is region-based. We begin with the study of
German länder which serve as references to aid understanding the cases of the two Spanish
autonomous communities: the Basque Country and Catalonia.


In the last decade, extensive literature (reports, initiatives and papers) on nanotechnology has
been published in national and international journals. There has recently been greater interest
in studying nanotechnologies in both the regional and local spheres. In the following pages we
will focus mainly on the regional level.

A Regional Innovation System (RIS) can be seen as integrating two perspectives: the
exploration subsystem which includes all the agents related to research without their activity
requiring economic validation of results and the exploitation subsystem that joins all the
business agents and intermediaries whose aim is commercialization (Cooke et al., 2004). The
approach does not entail separating the concept of RIS from the role that Government and
institutions play in innovation but reorienting their mission towards innovation in the
economic sense put forth by Schumpeter (Cooke et al., 1997) or, in other words, towards
improved competitiveness through commercialization.

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RIS must be understood as models that evolve “in themselves” as well as “for themselves”,
both internally in their geography of clusters and in their external relationships. They may
move on to more outward-focused realities. The industrial structure of a region may be
specialized in different clusters that change over time as some disappear, re-adapt or new
ones appear. These changes go hand in hand with improvements and changes in institutions
that support clusters, in addition to proper re-orientation of the innovation policies clusters
are based on. For the purposes of this paper, we understand cluster in the broad, dynamic and
evolutionary sense in contrast to Porter’s (2007) methodological approach.

It is important to know the history of the industry and industrial and technological tradition in
each region. For instance, the industrial tradition in North Rhine Westphalia is very different
from that of Bavaria; and in the Basque Country is very different from that of Catalonia.
Porter’s concept of cluster is not dynamic along these lines as it does not analyse the historic
development (Motoyama, 2008).

We believe the RIS perspective would also have a functional nature. The most appropriate
methodological approach would consist of exploring the resources found in the corresponding
local sphere which enrich and confer meaning on the region where they are found. The local
space is not the only space for relationships although it is the only one that acts “for itself”.
The spatial-regional vision looks to show what maintains, sustains and dynamizes the local
space. The sectorial or technological vision shows the entire scope of relationships between
agents and also the evolution and life cycle of technologies.

Our article focuses on examining how a nanotechnology cluster works, grows, reproduces and
basically how it evolves in a certain region. The cluster in itself is the synthesis of a group of
diverse but interrelated scientific and technological fields based on a group of diverse
competences and has a considerably broad scope of application which covers multiple
manufacturing and service sectors.

As Asheim et al. (2007) or Cooke et al. (2007) maintain, a RIS may contain one or several
clusters which extend throughout the region or are limited to certain areas. The
nanotechnology clusters we are studying in this paper clearly show a base of analytical
knowledge and the RIS would be a prerequisite for the cluster to evolve. According to Cooke et
al. (2007), this would be an integrated RIS.

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Nanotechnology clusters respond to the demands of evolution in the field of technologies. This
can be exemplified by the concept of technology system which responds to global spheres due
to its features. However, as Oinas and Malecki (2002) point out, the perspective of technology
system need not be incompatible with that of the regional innovation system. In our opinion, a
RIS cannot be restricted to a regional or local scope. New approaches propose going beyond
the dichotomy between accepting the spatial nature (regional innovation system) and
accepting the cognitive nature (technology system) (Meyer et al., 2010).

Many authors use the concept of cluster to refer to the scope of the city or metropolitan area
as well as the scope of the region or State (Baptista and Swan, 1998; Porter, 1998). However,
the scale of an economic region varies according to the location and the type of industry as
well as the limitations imposed by its historic and geographic development (Motoyama, 2008).
When using “cluster”, it is often necessary to be resigned to dealing with non homogeneous

In this article, our analysis centers on administrative regions which have their own local
governments and the agents needed to consider the dynamics of analytical knowledge
(universities, own funds, networks, and other organizations that often depend on regional
governments). For this reason, we have taken the German länder and autonomous
communities such as Catalonia or the Basque Country as the base for our analysis. In the two
latter cases, the areas have their own culture and language. It is also important to note that
each of the regions integrates different metropolitan areas with their own peculiarities. For
the purposes of this paper, we have opted to focus on a mixed variety of region/ metropolitan
agglomeration, according to the case. Berlin and Hamburg are included in the administrative
länder and we have cited the Grenoble agglomeration due to its prominent nanotechnology
clusters. Therefore, we will not try to approach our local or regional objects of study as if they
were homogeneous. In this aspect, we share the criteria of Muscio (2006), Sharpe and
Martínez-Fernández (2006), Uyarra and Flanagan (2010), and Navarro and Larrea (2007).

Our study focuses on characterisation of the regional scope as the object of analysis of clusters
such as nanotechnologies. We also study some examples from national scopes, such as the
cases of China, Brazil, the USA and Japan. In any case, it is common to find innovation
geography made up of local modes and global networks in analytical knowledge-based cases.

Since these are nanotechnology clusters, we do not consider it sufficient to use the
conventional system (Motoyama, 2008) of only taking into account industry, skilled labour
resources, firms, users and consumers, local governments, universities and research units,
intermediary organizations that support the creation of nanotechnology firms, and financing,
above all, from venture capital.

The following analysis that we make in terms of inventories is similar to that of technological
systems because it highlights the interdependence between micro units (firms, universities,
research organizations). The article by Meyer et al. (2010) on regional nanotechnology clusters
in the UK studies a group of diverse agents such as: university spin outs, multinational
corporations, new technology-based firms, corporate spin outs, and non university public
sector research organizations.


Conventional theories on clusters do not offer convincing answers to some interesting

problems. In our article, we try to explain why certain cluster matrixes are empty and how
government or other institutions could intervene to fill them. Counting the agents that exist in
the space is not enough to accurately measure the innovative capacity of regional clusters. It is
necessary to know the relationship capacity between the different agents, so that part of the
knowledge generated in research centers can be exploited commercially (Oinas and Malecki,
2002; Meyer et al., 2010).

As Mikel Navarro maintains “from a pragmatic view of the system, we can consider that it
exists when there are supporting firms and institutions that interact generating and
commercially exploiting knowledge; it is reasonable to state that there may be local innovation
systems. The question of whether local innovation systems exist would be raised in an
empirical plane; checking to see if there are a significant number of innovating firms and
institutions supporting innovation and with a degree of interrelationships between them that
can be considered sufficient” (Navarro, 2009: 41).

Analysis in terms of clusters allows us to know why a certain nanotechnology cluster is

successful in one region and not necessarily in another (Motoyama, 2008). For instance, the
competitiveness of a successful location like Silicon Valley can be explained by the wealth of
network interconnections and collaboration between the different agents (Saxenian, 1994).

Most of the work now being published on nanotechnologies is based on analysis of
publications and patents (Huang et al., 2010). This practice is common in science-based
sectors, in which any progress or even any potential application comes directly from scientific
research. Being almost the sole output of research work, publications become the main
indicator for analysis of the situation of nanotechnologies. Our ideas on this subject coincide
with those of Saphira and Youtie (2008).

In this paper, we do not examine the variable of nanotechnology patents for two reasons we
consider to be important:

a) Firstly, regional or local assignation of patents is a difficult task. Subjects concerning

intellectual property clearly go beyond the local or regional framework and minor
entities never have competence in this field. However, the largest amounts of
nanotechnology patents are concentrated in large firms, above all in Europe where
universities do not patent as much as their American counterparts (Aghion et al.,
2009). In the opinion of Jaffe et al. (1993), patents may affect metropolitan areas and
several scholars analyse locations shown in the patent applications by the first author
(Huang et al., 2010). If most patents are taken out by large companies, we might think
that the place where the group has its company address will benefit when patents are
counted spatially.
b) On the other hand, although progress has been made in identifying nanotechnology
patents in data furnished by patents offices, it is harder to detect that some patents
belong to that field. For example, we must take into account that most of the current
chemical research belongs to the field of nanotechnology.

Saphira and Youtie (2008) base their analysis of spatial location of nanotechnology clusters in
the US on path dependency theories and cumulative advantage leads. Their first hypothesis
maintains that nanotechnologies mainly develop in those regions where there are conditions
and capacities demonstrated during a history of high level development, having been leaders
in application and even commercialization of the highest technology at each given moment.
The factors that help to sustain path dependency are, above all, knowledge, specialized human
resources (especially scientists), capacity, a powerful business network, investments in science
technology infrastructure, institutional and local government strategies, etc. In summary, the
high level of scientific and technological development in these areas may attract research and

investment linked to nanotechnologies at a given time. An emblematic location which has a
comparative edge would be the Silicon Valley, for instance (Zucker and Darby, 2005).

Nevertheless, Saphira and Youtie (2008) also demonstrate that there are other districts and
regions which are not located in leading areas in advanced technology or have not had as
many available resources but may become advanced nanotechnology poles. Our article cites
two cases, länder such as Bavaria and North Rhine Westphalia, which would be included in the
path dependency framework mentioned, and other länder like Saxony that has increased its
capacity to attract and becomes leader as development of nanoelectronics reaches its

In certain areas or regions, endogeneous dynamics may be generated which make the area or
region as a target for development of nanotechnologies. This process is sometimes
implemented through the drive from a sole institution such as a university or local
government (that, for example, invests in “facilities” such as an internationally renowned
research laboratory) (Shapira and Youtie, 2008).

Development of small firms in the field of nanotechnology (many of which are start ups) is
based on capacities they already possess, such as a good level of specific resources devoted to
nanosciences. In contrast, large firms expand in the field of nanotechnology by creating new
capacities (Huang et al., 2010; Avenel et al., 2007). The large firms groups with the highest
number of nanotechnology patents at present are solid companies that usually have a long
history in classical industry, for instance: chemicals, electronics, optics, computers, cosmetics,
etc. In order to appreciate the transversal potential of nanotechnologies in its full scope, we
find it interesting to briefly refer to their nature as well as their applications. This is the
purpose of the Figure 1, which includes some of the relevant applications of nanotechnologies,
now being introduced in sectors or clusters that have the greatest impact on today’s

FIGURE 1. Examples of application opportunities and degree of maturity
of nanotechnological developments in different sectors

Source: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (2009: 16)



In the next few lines we discussed configurations of elements that make up the clusters of
nanotechnology. First, it would be to know which and how many are the agents that form
clusters in a given regional system. Secondly, try to know which actors are involved and what
are their specializations in the field of nanotechnology. Lastly, focus on defining what actors

and institutions cohere and strengthen elements in the cluster.

The producers of materials often investigate and prepare products for specific applications.
Part of nanotechnology companies that prepare products incorporating nanotechnology
specialize in a particular area (e.g. health, environment), and others however can cover many
areas (medicine and electronics for example). There are also companies that are directed only
to end-products that can be combined with other intermediate products.
The scheme in figure 2 is useful when analysing the cases we discuss in the following sections:
the German länder, the Basque Country and Catalonia.

3.1. Criteria when examining nanotechnology firms

The objective is to analyse what firms in the region are part of the world of nanotechnology
and are able to influence the dynamics of the different agents in the regional innovation

We believe that the criteria should extend beyond the simple classification by size (SMEs and
big firms). The Federal Ministry of Education and Research uses this criterion to set the
nanomap in Germany. The basic criterion that determines whether a firm is in a
nanotechnological field is research carried out on these technologies in any of its R+D centers
within the region being studied. Products, patents or even publications may result from this

This gives rise to the following typology:


Category Description
Firms specifically devoted to producing and
marketing nanotechnology products. This would
Specific category range from those that produce nanomaterials to
the large firms that have divisions that produce
and/or commercialise nanotechnology products.

Firms that investigate nanos in their research

centers, for direct application in their products or
processes in the short term or to seek strategic
First Category
projects that could yield results in the medium
term. They normally collaborate with other agents
in the regional system.

Firms joining in research projects with different

partners and often outside the region, aiming
their activities at penetrating nanotechnology
fields. These may also be firms that reach
collaboration agreements with agents in the
Second category
system, or become part of nano collaboration
platforms and are already working at the time the
data are collected. It is therefore necessary that
the project or collaboration has been functioning
or in effect for a reasonable period.

Those which do not research nanos in centers

belonging to the region, although they
commercialise products that include nanos.

Those that enter into projects on nanos or

collaborate with agents from the field, but which
are not yet functioning.

In this paper, the following nano firms are Those parts or divisions of a company working in
not considered to belong to regional the field of nanos but which, due to the division of
intragroup work, do not research or allocate
resources to nanos in the region.

Although considered to be nano firms because

they commercialise products typical of nanos,
those firms that do not do considerable
nanotechnology research in the region will be

In this sense, we must take into account the perspective of change over time. Some firms
which either have not worked with nanotechnologies or did not meet the required conditions
to do so may, over time, be considered to belong to the regional cluster. On the other hand,
firms from the second category may move up to the first category and new arrivals may
increase the number in the specific category.

It is necessary to add aspects related to transfer capacity from the academic world (university,
research centers and institutes) resulting from the creation of university or academic spin offs.
Finally, core groups of researchers who are prominent on the international scene could also
indicate the nanotechnology potential of the region or cluster being studied.

3.2. Inventories of agents in nanotechnology clusters: The case of the German länder

The topography of a regional/local nanotechnology cluster is shown by the elements or players

that make it up. Although their elements do not evolve (or increase) in the same manner,
clusters are dynamic. Some parts rapidly dynamise while others tend to stagnate. Lock-in
effects sometimes hinder change. For instance, this would be the case of academic cultures
which are not well adapted to innovation in the field of economics and/or business cultures
reticent to deal with science.

After having analysed the make up of nanotechnology clusters in all the German länder, we
chose 5 länder in Tables 2 and 3 due to their specific features that enable us to contrast some
of the hypotheses set forth in this article. The Table 2 shows the number of agents devoted to
nanotechnology production and research in each länder. It also shows the number of
networks, government support, and financing related to nanotechnology. Specialisation by
fields of nanotechnology research is indicated in Table 3 (Federal Ministry of Education and
Research, 2009). This table shows the German research organizations in each länder.



BREMEN 1 0 4 10 16 1 2 1 34

WESTPHALIA 22 33 33 158 141 55 14 8 444

WÜRTTENBERG 13 13 25 30 79 35 2 8 193

SAXONY 5 8 20 29 73 11 4 1 146

BAVARIA 15 18 13 49 94 42 3 17 238

Data source: Information obtained in July 2010 from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, “Competency Map Nanotechnology in Germany“
(Available at:


BREMEN 1 materials
1 bios
1 medicine

1 bios
1 medicine
3 chemistry

2 materials
1 bios
3 bios
BADEN- WÜRTTENBERG 1 electronics
2 physics
2 transfer of tech. and consulting
1 processing
1 bios
4 electronics 1 new materials
SAXONY 1 physics
3 materials 1 polymers
1 chemistry
1equipment 2 modification surfaces
1 others
2 electronics
2 materials

Data source: Information obtained in July 2010 (except for North Rhine Westphalia) from the websites of the following Research Centers (Fraunhofer, Max
Planck and Scientific Community Leibniz), and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Our interest initially focuses on the make up of each cluster matrix, observing in each case if it
is a complete configuration or if there are gaps or relative absences of agents that exist in
other regional contexts. We are studying the German case because it exemplifies the most
advanced paradigm in nanotechnologies and there is excellent information available from the
German Federal Government.

In the following section, we put forth the first conclusions that we have drawn from careful
study of the agents intensely involved in activities related to nanotechnologies in each länder
during 2009 and 2010.

1. The group of länder show a matrix lacking some elements. It is made up of Bremen, Lower
Saxony, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schleswig-Holstein, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt,
which add up to 22% of the German population. Of the latter, Bremen, Brandenburg and
Saxony-Anhalt do not have large firms although two big firms set up in Saxony-Anhalt in 2010.

2. The länder that are outstanding for a higher proportion of large firms in their own matrix
are: Lower Saxony, Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.

3. Those that are outstanding for having a high proportion of universities and/or research
centers in their own matrix are: Bremen, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia,
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Saxony. In the two years studied, an increase in the influence
of universities is observed in Saxony.

The smaller regions do not have networks except for Saxony-Anhalt (which has a higher
proportion of networks than the rest). Most of the small regions have few large firms and
some have none. Thuringia is the only exception in this case. In contrast, the difference
between the number of small and large firms is much lower in the most powerful länder. The
proportion may be 1/2 in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg whereas it is 1/16 in Bremen.

Essen has proportionately more large firms and there are fewer research players than in other
regions with a similar number of agents. There is a high correlation (in some cases, a complete
correlation) between higher university participation and low participation from large firms.
One explanation for this inverse correlation could be that the support that small innovative
nanotechnology firms need in order to start, grow and expand may come from research
centers and universities to a greater degree when large firms are lacking. This hypothesis is
supported by the case of Bremen.
Growth in the number of agents devoted to nanotechnologies in the länder was noted during
2009 and 2010. In a period of a year and a half, the number of agents was multiplied by at
least 1.1 and a maximum of 1.6, depending on the länder. However, North Rhine-Westphalia
was the exception as its number of agents doubled, marking an increase of 226 in the total
number of agents in the länder. In addition to this länder, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and
Saxony registered the largest increases in the number of agents. In every case, this growth is
greater in quantitative terms for university agents and, to a lesser extent, for research centers.
At a lower level, numbers increased faster in large firms than in SMEs.

In almost all the German regions, there are more research agents in nanomaterials and
analytical procedures and instruments. In those two cases, the proportionate level for each
region is similar in almost all the regions. At a considerably lower level (on the average), we
find nano-bios and nanoelectronics. The two show similar levels but vary according to the
region. Finally, on a lower level, there is nano-optics (in some cases, nonexistent). Concerning
research centers: in some regions, there are two or three times more university institutes than
research centers (e. g. Bremen and Bavaria). In other regions (e. g. Baden-Württemberg), they
are found in similar numbers. Regions that have sizeable university institutes and are large
tend to show average higher levels of research in all fields. The clearest case is North Rhine-

It is clear that centers connected to the “Fraunhofer” influence the parameters in the different
länder. The Fraunhofer centers are not equally distributed throughout Germany. We see that
there are more Fraunhofer centers in the former East Germany than in other areas. It is also
observed that it is precisely in those areas of the former East Germany that there are no large
firms. As a hypothesis, it can be put forth that Fraunhofer centers served to compensate in
some manner the difference in development, shown by the absence of large firms. The case of
North Rhine-Westphalia demonstrates that it is the länder with the highest number of agents
although the Fraunhofer was not active in the nanotechnology field in the area in 2009.

The centers connected to “Max Planck” also clearly condition the parameter of research
centers in the different German regions. The following section reviews the influence that the
location of the Max Plancks have on research centers by comparing them with the number of
university institutes in regional nanotechnology clusters.

In view of the information on nanotechnologies in the different länder, we shall illustrate some
of the previous hypotheses:

- In the länder of Bremen, the combination of university institutes and the Fraunhofer
materials center may compensate for the absence of large firms.

- North Rhine-Westphalia has a considerable proportion of firms and presents an

important critical mass in nanomaterials and chemicals due to Max Planck.

- In Hesse the Max Planck centers strengthen specialisation in bios (and medicine) in

- Baden-Württemberg is characterised by important research centers, being the länder

where the Fraunhofer is most clearly present. University institutes are relatively less
important. Research alternates between materials and transfer, in addition to bios and
physics in Max Planck.

- In Saxony, we observe a combination of university institutes and Fraunhofer centers

that boost fields such as materials, analytics and tools.

- There is a combination of powerful features in the matrix in Bavaria since it combines

all the elements at a considerable level, thus indicating that this is a länder with great

There are some länder where the different agents devoted to nanotechnology are relatively
distributed in the territories. However, part of the nanotechnologies seems to be concentrated
in the most important German metropolitan areas. The following are the most important areas
in the leading länder: In North Rhine-Westphalia the Dusseldorf-Essen-Dortmund axis, with the
Ruhr area (Essen-Dortmund) being the most important; in Hesse, Frankfurt and Wiesbaden are
outstanding; in Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart and Tubingen; in Bavaria, Munich; and in
Saxony, Dresden and Chemnitz.

Some of these metropolitan nuclei have high levels of specialisation and economies of
concentration. The following should be highlighted: Stuttgart, specialized in ICTs with
emblematic firms such as SAP, IBM and HP. Another important cluster has developed in
Bavaria in the Munich metropolitan area. This is the Biotech region, ranking first in the German
bio industry. Its strong cluster agents are outstanding with 45 pharmaceutical firms jointly with
their subsidiaries.
Finally, in Saxony, the cluster is called “Silicon Saxony”. This länder concentrates a considerable
group of research centers and university institutes focusing on materials and electronics. A
sizeable number of centers in the länder are concentrated in the Fraunhofer. The region
accounts for 70% of all the employment in the field of semiconductors in Germany1. The main
center in the länder is Dresden. There are eight big firms located in the region. One of the most
outstanding is Infineon Technologies AG, created from Siemens AG in 1999 when the group
outsourced its semiconductors division. The main office of this multinational is located in
Neubiberg near Munich although it also has facilities in other länder (mainly North Rhine-
Westphalia and Saxony). It is the leading patenting firm for nanotechnology in Germany,
outdistancing Fraunhofer and its original firm Siemens AG (Dang et al., 2010).

The influence of different agents in nanotechnologies clusters varies according to the field of
application they specialise in. The chemicals/materials and equipment/engineering sectors
register the largest number of agents and firms in Germany as well as a considerable number
of large firms.

In the equipment sector, the proportion of firms is much higher than that of other agents
working exclusively in research. There are more research agents in the chemicals sector than
in the equipment sector. The proportion of large firms in the chemicals sector is much lower
than in the other sectors mentioned and also lower in comparison to agents in the sector itself.

The situation in the nanomaterials field is very similar to chemicals, which contrasts sharply
with the nanosensors, nanosystems and nanoelectronics fields where firms play a lesser role
than other cluster agents.

The points put forth in the preceding paragraphs enable us to infer that some agents are more
important than others in nanotechnologies clusters, according to their specialist field. For
instance, nanoelectronics requires many research agents and fewer firms (especially large
ones). However, specialization in equipment (especially production technologies) would call
for more large firms. Lastly, chemical and nanomaterials clusters need both: many research
agents and many firms.

3.3. Nanoclusters in two Autonomous Communities: The Basque Country and Catalonia

A nanotechnology cluster can be represented as an array of elements. While the major regions
of Germany are characterized by having a full and expanding array of elements, in the two
Spanish communities the nanotechnology has been recently introduced. Both in Catalonia and
Basque Country clusters are weak due to the low presence of companies. Nanotechnology
industry is in its early stages, except in the area of nanomedicine in Catalonia, where it reaches
a good level.

In the case of the Basque Country four data bases were studied in this section of the paper2. A
specific base of firms with over 250 employees was “built up” in order to observe the
innovative potential of Basque firms from their positions as agents that boost or increase
innovation. A list of the firms that make up the GAIA (microelectronics, computers and
telecommunications) cluster is also available as a real representation of nanotechnology
potential. From this group, 49 firms were selected, being the only ones whose specialist field
enables them to use or research nanotechnology. Study of each firm’s web page involved close
inspection of the R+D sections and their statements on whether they are working with

It was observed that highly competitive firms with markets in many countries and sectors likely
to be found in advanced technology ranges can be expected to work with nanotechnology.
However, it is important that these firms have their research centers in the Basque Country.
Although some firms do not state that they work in nanotechnology in their own departments,
they supervise or run technology centers that do. In this case, the criteria are to exclude them
because the aim is to identify firms that work with their own means or resources. To ensure
that an R&D department actually works with nanotechnologies, a laboratory should have at
least some of the basic tools such as electron scanning microscopes. Otherwise, it could not be
considered to be in the field of nanotechnology.

Those firms selected as likely to have links with nanotechnologies and classified as follow,
corresponding to the number on the list of the 334 previously chosen: a) Firms belonging to
multinational, b) Firms from the region or which expand from the region, and c) Firms that
belong to a national group (Spain).

According to the typology set down in the section on criteria, in the Basque Country there are
0 firms in the specific category, 4 in the first category and 10 in the second category, as shown
in Table 4.


Category Firms

No Firms

AERNOVA - Factors that explain this firm’s position are its expansion, nanos being
used in the aeronautics industry and maintenance of the firm’s most prominent
center in Alava.

GAMESA EÓLICA - Its expansion worldwide, maintenance of its headquarters. The

First group’s potential in Spain and abroad (with 261 patents) and dynamisation of the
Category REOLTEC network are factors that determine its position.

ITP - The sector where it is located and the prominent role of its center in Zamudio
justify its position.

MAIER - Due to its specialist field and the Maier Technology Center.

CEGASA – second category in transition to first category.

FAGOR AUTOM. - second category in transition to first category.

CAF - second category in transition to first category.

IBERDROLA - There are no influential research centers in the region.

category MCC - The firm has the potential and conditions to go to the first category.

SENER - The center for integration and tests is located in Madrid, which keeps the
firm in the second category.

PETRONOR - The R&D headquarters of REPSOL are based in Madrid.

ORMAZABAL - The firm takes part in projects such as CITYELEC.

GRUPO ARTECHE - The firm researches nanos through an engineering department.

We must not forget that this business scope is set in regional autonomous political
administrative contexts. In the specific case of the Basque Country, institutional design shows
competences dispersed amongst government departments and local governments of the
historical territories with a certain lack of efficient coordination entities.

Thus, there is an executive separation between science and technology since they belong to
different governmental departments (Education and Industry). Technology dominates in terms
of budget as well as the design of the Science, Technology and Innovation system. There are
indications that more specialized research entities are being created within the scope of
science. The logics of synthetic knowledge still prevail although there are signs of development
toward mixed and analytical knowledge. The lack of science parks is noticeable, although
somewhat lessened by the proliferation of Technology Parks. In this overall context, the
evolution of university spin offs, in particular those related to the field of nanotechnology, may
show certain future tendencies concerning development of nanotechnology in the industrial

The 2008 REDOTRI survey rates the UPV/EHU (University of the Basque Country) as one of the
five Spanish universities with the highest number of spin offs created. The same survey
indicates the number of spin offs created during that year.

The university also furnished its information which shows that spin offs were created in
business nurseries where other local institutions had stakes. Examples of the latter include the
provincial government, savings banks and local development agencies (Debegesa). In the
overall data, 5% referred to nanotechnology, in different fields (electronics, materials, etc.).

As a provisional assessment, it can be stated that although the creation of academic spin offs
in the Basque Country was high in relative terms in comparison to other autonomous
communities, it is still insufficient. However, there are indications that lead us to expect rapid
growth in the coming years.

Concerning financing for academic spin offs, there is a very dynamic venture capital company
in the region although it does not specifically address the problem of academic spin offs. Other
backing such as business angels are still weak. From a first analysis, we deduce that there are
few existing relationships between the two groups, which leads us to believe that there are
structural difficulties between radical nanotechnology innovation and business (there are firms
that “consume” nanotechnology but do not carry out radical nanotechnology innovation).

Although a priori Catalonia shows a macro institutional framework similar to the Basque
Country, the design of its internal functions and competences is different. There is a
governmental department that combines the academic, technological and innovative realms.
This helps to create channels for the transfer of analytical knowledge. There are also dynamic
science parks linked to universities. The available information is highly systematised and
focused on the scope of creating firms, particularly academic spin offs. There are specific
entities for nanotechnology research.

Observing the information contained in reports from science parks linked to universities from
the Barcelona metropolitan area,3 we can state that there is dynamic spin off creation and
there is a clear focus on nanotechnology development, at both the scientific and technological
levels. A linear strategy focused on becoming a reference point for nanotechnology in
southern Europe (Marquet, 2010), influential scientific groups are being implemented. There is
also a higher concentration of firms whose size and strategic position endow them with great
potential for nanotechnology development, particularly if we admit that there is a correlation
between firm and capacity to innovate (Camisón- Zornoza, 2004).4

A large number of chemical firms are located in Catalonia (FedeQuim, 2010). Some of these
are the world’s top patenting firms in the field of nanotechnologies. Examples include Basf
Curtex, Basf Española SA, Bayer, Merck SL and Solvay Iberica SL. The abovementioned firms
work almost exclusively in the field of chemicals in Catalonia and have research centres
outside the region. This information leads us to conclude that a firm considered to be part of a
nanotechnologies cluster in Germany may not be listed as such in Catalonia.

However, not all sectors are as outstanding in this sense as the biomedical and pharmaceutical
as well as the medical sectors (and part of the Chemicals)5 . From this perspective, and clearly
in line with science parks and therefore universities in Catalonia, there is specialization in
biomedical, pharmaceuticals, medicine and, to a certain extent, chemical where
nanotechnology acquires a significant potential to develop still.

However, it is important to note if we apply our criteria concerning laboratories in the region
to the business scope, it can be stated that the amount is still deficient, even with the
paradoxes of those firms based in Barcelona but having laboratories abroad.

The following table (Table 5) shows some relevant features of the two Spanish autonomous




Nano industry in its early stages (except

Nano industry in its early stages
nano medicine)
Weak business presence Weak large companies presence
Good infrastructure to support Good infrastructure to support science (e.g.
technology Alba Sincroton)
Weak research of large car Weak research of large chemical
manufacturing companies manufacturing companies
Technological Centers are immersed in
Highly developed pharmaceutical
an industrial tradition. They begin to
move into nanotech.
Large industry companies as users of Important biomedical clusters (more than
nanotechnologies 200 companies)
Technological Centers well supported by
High quality clinical research
public institutions
Good Technological Parks Networks Good Science Parks Networks
Scientific capacity Remarkable scientific capacity


This section refers to the scientific production of the universities and research centers in the
field of nanoscience and nanotechnology (Tables 6 and 76).

Scientific production from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) in the field of
nanotechnology is lower than that of the University of Barcelona (UB) and the Autonomous
University of Barcelona (UAB) in absolute terms. However, if we take into account the
proportion of scientific production in the field of nanotechnology and the total scientific
production (no. of nano documents/no. of total documents %), we see that production from
the UPV/EHU (4.37%) is even higher in relative terms than that of the universities in Barcelona
(UB: 3.67%, UAB: 2.63%).

Nano Nano documents/ Academic Documents/ Nano doc./
UNIVERSITY Documents documents Documents staff Academic staff Academic staff

University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) 16,127 705 4.37% 5,000 3.23 0.14
Universitat de Barcelona (UB) 40,037 1,469 3.67% 4,700 8.52 0.31
Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB) 30,443 800 2.63% 3,260 9.34 0.25
Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya (UPC) 18,191 397 2.18% 2,630 6.92 0.15

Universität Bremen 14,251 638 4.48% 1,490 9.56 0.43

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München 68,215 1,755 2.57% 3,400 20.06 0.52

Technische Universität München 53,612 1,510 2.82% 4,300 12.47 0.35

Technische Universität Dresden 22,827 1,333 5.84% 2,800 8.15 0.48

Universität Bochum (Ruhr Area) 34,868 1,093 3.13% 2,900 12.02 0.38
Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen 37,315 1,013 2.71% 2,400 15.55 0.42
Universität Dortmund (Ruhr Area) 14,105 547 3.88% 2,090 6.75 0.26
Universität Duisburg-Essen (Ruhr Area) 21,882 1,136 5.19% 2,480 8.82 0.46
Universität zu Köln 36,398 452 1.24% 2,900 12.55 0.16
Universität Bonn 43,799 900 2.05% 4,030 10.87 0.22
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster 36,105 1,023 2.83% 3,260 11.08 0.31
Heinrich Heine Universität, Düsseldorf 30,212 496 1.64% 1,740 17.36 0.29

Universität Stuttgart 24,464 898 3.67% 3,040 8.05 0.30

Data source: SCOPUS Database and the universities’ websites. This search was carried out in July 2010. Authors’ own calculation.
The total scientific production, of both the UB and the UAB is much higher than that of the
UPV/EHU although the latter has a higher number of academic staff. In effect, the productivity
per staff member is much higher in the UB (8.52 documents per staff member) and in the UAB
(9.34) than in the UPV/EHU (3.23). Productivity for the field of nanotechnology is higher as
well: 0.14 in the UPV/EHU, in comparison to 0.31 in the UB and 0.25 in the UAB. However, in
this case, the difference in productivity is much smaller.

The comparison between the UPV/EHU and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) is
quite interesting. In both cases, total scientific production is similar (between 16,000 and
18,000 documents). However, scientific production in nanotechnology from the UPV/EHU
(4.37%) is double that of the UPC (2.18%). Nevertheless, if we take into account that there are
almost twice as many academic staff members at the UPV/EHU (5,000) than at the UPC
(2,630), we can calculate the number of documents on nanotechnology published by each staff
member, reaching the conclusion that it is similar in both cases (0.14 and 0.15). If we contrast
this result with total productivity (taking into account the entire scientific production) of the
academic staff, it is more than double in the UPC (6.92 documents per staff member) that of
the UPV/EHU (3.23). We can therefore state that the situation of researchers that publish
documents on nanotechnology in the UPV/EHU is more comparable than that of the rest of
the researchers at this university.

If we compare the results of the UPV/EHU with German universities registering similar total
scientific production (between 13,000 and 22,000 documents), we see that the University of
Bremen (4.48%), the Dresden University of Technology (5.48%) and the University of Duisburg-
Essen (5.19%) show higher relative scientific production in nanotechnology than the UPV/EHU
(4.37%). Others, such as Dortmund University (3.88%) are lower than the UPV/EHU.

If we take into account the number of academic staff at each university when comparing the
UPV/EHU with German universities, we observe that productivity is lower in the UPV/EHU
(0.14) in every case, and is up to three times higher for: University of Munich (0.52), University
of Dresden (0.48), University of Duisburg-Essen (0.46) and RWTH Aachen University (0.42). The
difference is even greater in terms of total scientific productivity as in this case it is 5 or 6 times
lower in the UPV/EHU.

Therefore, the productivity gap between the academic staff of the UPV/EHU and universities
analysed is somewhat lower for researchers in the field of nanotechnology.

When comparing Catalonian and German universities, we see that the percentage of total
scientific production accounted for by the field of nanotechnology is similar although some
German universities stand out above the rest: Dresden University of Technology (5.84%),
University of Duisburg-Essen (5.19%) and the University of Bremen (4.48%). Productivity in the
field of nanotechnology per researcher at the UB and the UAB is, in general, somewhat lower
than the German universities analysed. This is also the case for total productivity although the
gap tends to be greater. We can conclude that scientific production for Catalonian universities
in the field of nanotechnology is not very different from its German counterparts.

Nano documents/
RESEARCH CENTER Documents Nano documents Documents
DIPC (Donostia International Physics Center) 900 171 19.00%
INASMET 232 36 15.52%
LABEIN 153 13 8.50%
CEIT (Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones Técnicas) 559 51 9.12%
CIDETEC (Centro de Tecnologías Electroquímicas) 139 58 41.73%
TEKNIKER 97 25 25.77%
CIC NANOGUNE 107 40 37.38%
CIC BIOMAGUNE 66 39 59.09%
IKERLAN 188 13 6.91%
POLYMAT (Instituto Universitario de Materiales Poliméricos) 258 37 14.34%
Institut Català de Nanotecnologia (Facultat Ciencies, UAB) 120 92 76.67%
Institució Catalana de Recerca I Estudis Avançats, Barcelona 1,448 201 13.88%
Institut de Ciencies Fotoniques, Barcelona 758 116 15.30%
Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC, Campus UAB) 2,335 415 17.77%
Instituto Catalán de Investigación Química (Tarragona) 614 94 15.31%
Fraunhofer-Institut für Fertigungstechnik und Angewandte Materialforschung 551 100 18.15%
Fraunhofer-Institut für Integrierte Systeme und Bauelementetechnologie, Erlangen 338 52 15.38%
Fraunhofer-Institut für Silicatforschung, Würzburg 387 54 13.95%
Helmholtz Zentrum München, GmbH 1,464 60 4.10%
Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik, Garching bei München 3,345 70 2.09%
Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Planegg 7,125 210 2.95%
Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkstoff- und Strahltechnik, Dresden 419 61 14.56%
Fraunhofer-Institut für Keramische Technologien und Systeme, Dresden 401 54 13.47%
Max-Planck-Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden 3,219 203 6.31%
Max-Planck Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe, Dresden 1,703 88 5.17%
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden 921 68 7.38%
Leibniz Institut fur Festkorper und Werkstoffforschung Dresden 4,485 1,112 24.79%
Leibniz-Institut für Polymerforschung Dresden e.V 1,975 482 24.41%
Forschungszentrum Dresden Rossendorf 4,788 512 10.69%
Helmholtz Zentrum fur Umweltforschung, Leipzig 3,769 51 1.35%
Institut für Oberflächenmodifizierung Leipzig eV 779 148 19.00%
Research Center Caesar, Bonn 537 149 27.75%
Forschungszentrum Jülich in der Helmholtz Gemeinschaft, Jülich 26,902 1,277 4.75%
Institute for Analytical Sciences, Dortmund (Ruhr Area) 1,273 77 6.05%
Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mülheim an der Ruhr (Ruhr Area) 2,992 269 8.99%
Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung, Düsseldorf 1,891 176 9.31%
Max Planck Institute for Metals Research 7,036 956 13.59%
Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research 11,548 1,289 11.16%

Data source: SCOPUS Database. This search was carried out in July 2010. Authors’ own calculation.

The following section refers to the results for Research Centers, which we can see in Table 7.
The term “research centers” is very diverse if we bear in mind that the starting points are quite
different. The centers in the Basque Country have traditionally been technology centers
without focusing on scientific research. It seems that this lack of vocation has changed in
recent years, if we go by the scientific publications that we encounter in our work. On the
other hand, the creation of CICs (Centers for Research Cooperation) by the Basque
Government´s Department of Industry in recent years means there are more players on the
research scene since they are clearly orientated to research from the start. The inauguration of
the Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC) in 2000 was a milestone as it was created as a
research center closely linked to the university. POLYMAT was set up as a university institute of
the UPV/EHU in 1999. The Catalonian centers we analysed are focused on science and have
important connections with universities. In several cases, the centers are located on university
campuses. The German centers have a long tradition of dedication to science, with big
research institutes throughout the different länder: Max Planck, Helmholtz and Leibniz. Of
those included in our study, the Forschungszentrum Jülich in der Helmholtz Gemeinschaft,
located in Jülich (North Rhine-Westphalia) is outstanding due to its size as one of the largest
research centers in Europe with some 4,400 staff.

It is not simple to compare German research centers, mainly because of their long tradition
and the size of many of them. As could be expected, the scientific production from German
centers is much higher than that of Basque and also Catalonian centers.

Of the Basque centers, the DIPC is outstanding. It is clearly focused on research and boasts a
total number of publications, as well as publications on nanotechnology, comparable to that of
several of the Catalonian centers and German centers.7 We must bear in mind that both the
DIPC and the CICs are relatively young centers and are at a clear disadvantage when compared
with centers located in areas where science has long had historic recognition. Nevertheless, in
spite of these circumstances, the Basque centers’ dedication to the field of nanotechnology is

We observe high percentages of scientific production in the field of nanotechnology in

proportion to the total scientific production of several centers: Cidetec 41.73%, Biomagune
59.09%, Nanogune 37.38% and Tekniker 25.77%.

All in all, we see that new research centers have been created in the last decade (DIPC, CICs)
and that traditional Basque technology centers are redirecting (Inasmet, Labein, Ceit, Tekniker,
Ikerlan, ...) their efforts towards scientific publication in general and the field of
nanotechnology in particular. This marks a hopeful change that may open doors to a new
conception of relationships between the different agents generating science in the Basque
Country. Taking greater advantage of existing scientific resources may generate positive
synergies that allow the application of new knowledge in clusters that make up the regional
innovation system. It may also lead to the creation of science-technology bases that give rise
to new clusters.



There are two types of clusters or situations: those that strengthen and consolidate
concentration of the more endogenous nanotechnology; and on the contrary, situations that
weaken the consistence and coherence of a region or area’s own cluster.

An example of an area with a powerful concentration of its own clusters in Europe is the
nanotechnology and nanoelectronics pole in Grenoble, France, which is organised through
different technology platforms. A critical mass of agents from different areas sustains a
network which gives rise to results that some of the agents convert into commercial output.
However, one of the features of this pole is its capacity to generate critical mass “for itself”:
research agents, highly qualified employment and innovating firms.

Different local agents may develop outsourcing or send staff out of the area to reinforce their
local strategy. An example of this latter case is when university graduates specialise or do
doctoral studies in scientific areas outside the region. The knowledge and skills they acquire
may later be used in their home region. Firms may also try to ensure that staff and technicians
go outside the area, for instance to higher technology centers, to learn about subjects when
there is a local gap. This system is could be called: “learning abroad”. This is the case of the
firm in Frankfurt, Halbleiterwerk, which produces semiconductors. Using a local base of
polytechnic training centers, this firm looks for greater practical training on the outside (mainly
in other areas or regions) although its local strategy is “for the firm itself” (Lange and Büttner,
2010). The model we call “learning abroad” does not share the dynamics of the brain drain
since the idea is to complement learning through a planned strategy of local human resources

management. However, the local area must have relevant production and employment
dynamics in order to implement this model.

Development of nanotechnologies requires that firms, including large enterprises, also become
involved in basic research. It would be advisable for firms to collaborate with universities
through publications and also in the field of nanotechnologies applications to achieve this
objective. In these cases, the incentive could focus on accessing funds from programmes
designed ad hoc by local governments to develop nanotechnologies (Kay et al., 2010).

There are situations that make local clusters weak. For instance, weak critical mass of
mediation agents in local clusters, poor financing for start-ups, a badly functioning triple helix
model, dynamics that outsource investments and, above all, human resources that may lead to
a situation of “no going back”. It may be difficult to achieve the conditions to create new
clusters in formerly industrial regions.

The convergence between modes of synthetic and analytical knowledge (Asheim and Gertler,
2005) may sometimes be complex and almost always requires quite a lot of time. Lock in
processes related to technological productive cultures are generated in many spaces and it is
difficult to exit without high costs. The case of the Basque Country shows signs of difficulty
overcoming the technology-centered “business culture” of the twentieth century. In China,
there must be a move from one mode of knowledge to another in order to implement

The industrial sector in China has always been quite weak in R&D+i, with clear differences
between universities, research institutes and firms, all of which had very different cultures.
The SMEs have had many difficulties organizing research departments. They have preferred to
buy licences from universities or groups from the outside.

Science parks do not always guarantee the relationship between university and industry. In the
largest science park in Beijing, only 26% of firms report doing some business with the world of
academics, thus showing the barriers for collaboration between university and industry.

The development of nanotechnology firms in China has taken on some “structural features” in
agreement with China’s National Innovation System. These features are: a) Expansion of
research (publications); b) Development of intellectual property in universities to transfer
technology and (tacit) knowledge from universities through: licences, incubation, joint
ventures and other types of transfer; and c), at the same time, there is also some weak
business activity in nanotechnology R&D, mainly from some multinational firms.

Domestic nanotechnology firms do not have the capacity to absorb and exploit the knowledge
generated through research at universities and research centers (Shapira and Wang, 2009). In
the nanotechnology field, firms with lower R&D capacity will be less willing to work with
universities. It is easier for firms of this type to learn from other industries (above all, foreign
firms in China) that have more applied tangible knowledge. It can be stated that spillovers
from Chinese research labs could be generated with these multinationals. There are many
examples of big multinationals working with universities and research institutes (some from
Chinese Academy of Sciences) such as: IBM, INTEL, L’OREAL, GE, etc.

In summary, the Chinese nanotechnology model habitually follows the route of lab to
multinationals and from local firms to firms abroad, both for advanced technologies and
mobility of qualified staff.

In this respect, and considering the above, in the case of the Basque Country, we find that with
a strong vocation government progress (with a clear determination to develop the
nanotechnologies, Nanogune, NanoBasque ...) there is a regional configuration metropolitan
structure marked by a little mature and a little weak since large cities compete with each other
without seeking synergies based on complementarity and geographic proximity, generating
atomized metropolitan areas. In the same direction, the business structure suffers from large
enough to generate dynamic driving companies demand STI (Science, Technology and
Innovation). In addition, there is still a remarkable division between the action line technology
(Technology Center) and the line of scientific performance (University). All this causes that also
gives a strong imbalance between the scientific production in nanotechnology and its transfer
to local firm. It is to consider the weak network of innovative financing for this area.

Catalonia also has a strong vocation for government and institutional development innovation,
where the scientific and technological areas are better integrated. Barcelona metropolitan
area is indisputable as reference. However, it still gives a significant imbalance in scientific
production in nanotechnology and its transfer to productive level. It is possible that this is still
not resolved the issue of corporate decision-making centers, often located outside the region,
or that its research labs are not local. Sometimes paradoxes occur where there is Barcelona-
based company locating research laboratories in other countries (e. g. Novartis).

When creating a local nanotechnologies cluster, lack of a key agent such as a large firm may
lead to failure. Generating a “local initiative” to strengthen certain fields or clusters is one way
of overcoming this problem. This initiative might consist of creating or fostering research

groups, forming centers of excellence, local or international coordination and even trying to fill
the gap due to the lack of large firms.

In the case of Catalonia, the absence of research centres belonging to big chemicals
multinationals could be compensated for by an initiative arising from the region itself. For
instance, it might aim to create nanomaterials centers of excellence which are committed to
innovation and capable of attracting R&D centers from the big chemicals groups.

In the case of the Basque Country, the absence of big chemicals groups prompts initiatives
backed by regional government to create clusters that include nanomeaterials research and
user firms. An example would be a new energy cluster created in the Basque Country.


In the strict sense of the word, nanotechnologies are not new. What makes them distinctive is
the nano scale on which they can function and the new properties that the different elements,
compounds or metals may acquire on this scale. This article highlights the diverse influence of
nanotechnologies on multiple applications. These applications are found throughout a large
part of the economic fabric, reaching sectors such as automobiles, electronics, chemicals, the
environment, medicine, etc. Perhaps what is even more surprising is that an important series
of “radical innovations” may be developing at present as a result of having introduced
nanotechnologies. Therefore, accessing these breakthroughs has become a priority for all the
OECD member nations.

Creating and forming nanotechnologies clusters is the aim of many areas and regions.
However, not everyone is starting the race in the same conditions. Nanotechnologies clusters
are part of a certain innovation system and are formed from two big components: research
groups and firms. Scientific research is essential to achieve this objective.

Because the different clusters undergo such complex development, it is difficult to define them
“a priori”. This article aims to shed light on this aspect by studying the make up of agents in
different regions. We have observed that in German länder there are large firms which are
world leaders in their sector and a long tradition of basic and applied scientific research.
Therefore, they form very strong clusters. Cases in point include Baden-Württemberg, North
Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, etc. Due to limited data for other cases, we chose to use these
regions as reference points for comparison with other emerging regions in the field of

nanotechnologies. In other words, we have compared the strength of the clusters in the länder
mentioned above with other German länder and with Catalonia and the Basque Country.

We must take into account that these regional realities are immersed in a global world and
undergoing permanent change. Therefore, the reality observed at present will soon be quite
different. We have drawn some conclusions that may prove to be of interest for the design of
local clusters.

The first point we would like to highlight is that having accredited scientific capacity with
results is not sufficient for a cluster to reach a certain level of success. There are regions with
considerable scientific production but which are still very weak in business.

The second conclusion is that not all clusters require the same relative participation of
business and research agents. Clusters may have different degrees of specialization and
exercise greater influence on certain applications, thus leading to different needs. For instance,
specialization in medicine or nano-bio technologies requires fewer large firms than those areas
with greater specialization in chemicals or nanomaterials.

The third aspect we would like to point out is that developing clusters with a certain degree of
haste, for competitive reasons, requires emerging regions or those which are weak in
nanotechnologies to use available business resources rapidly and efficiently. It is also
important to generate or promote transfer between science and industry. Different strategies
are needed to achieve this. One strategy is to consider firms in sectors where application of
nanotechnologies is clear as nano user firms (native to or consolidated in the region). Examples
of this include firms from the environmental, energy, automotive sectors, etc. Another
possible strategy would be one based on attracting R&D centers from large multinational
groups that have high nanotechnology production and patenting and are already located in the
region (although solely in the fields of production or commercialization). This is the case of the
large chemicals groups located in Catalonia.

Based on the previous affirmations concerning the different situations of large firms, we have
proposed an ad hoc typology of firms in this article. This typology has been used for the cases
of Catalonia and the Basque Country. Creation of local initiatives that could be implemented
following a study of the characteristics of each region and sectors with potential for
nanotechnology application is a channel that has not yet been developed. Local initiatives
could sometimes be manifested as development or promotion of science parks and transfer
bodies that increase the synergies of relationships between science and industry.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Basque Government
(Saiotek S-PE08UN56, Compatec Research Project).


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Esade/Guiame: 28 August and 10 September 2010

Federal Ministry of Education and Research, “Competency Map Nanotechnology in Germany“:


Gaia: Asociación Cluster de Telecomunicaciones:

German Universities:

Max Planck Society:

NanoMed Spain: 29 August and 15 September 2010

Red de Parques Científicos y Tecnológicos de Catalunya (Xarxa de Parcs Científics i Tecnològics

de Catalunya –XPCAT):,map 28 August and 6 September 2010

Scientific Community Leibniz:


Universidades de España,


The semiconductors market in Germany mainly targets electronics for the automotive industry and
information technologies and, to a lesser extent, industrial electronics and telecommunications.
Dun &Bradstreet (; Eustat (Official Statistics of the Basque Country:;
CIVEX (Catálogo Industrial y de Exportadores del País Vasco:; España 25000 + Dicodi
Network of Science and Technology Parks of Catalonia (available at:,map): Parc
Cientific de Barcelona, Parc de Recerca Biomedica de Barcelona, Parc d´Innovació laSalle, Parc de
Recerca i Innovació de la UPC, Parc Tecnologic Barcelona Nord, …
There is about a corporate policy to facilitate cooperation between SMEs and large enterprises in this
field of research involving Air Products, Repsol, Telefónica.
The Catalan government created in 2004 Biocat as an expression of Catalonia Bioregion. See also in
this respect, NanoMed Spain and ESADE / Guiame.
Most Spanish medical nanotechnology companies are in Catalonia. According to Spanish NanoMedicine
Platform at least seven nanomedicine companies are in Catalonia (NanoMed Spain 2010).
The information about the scientific production was obtained from the Scopus database. This search
was carried out in July 2010. Information about the academic staff was obtained from the universities’
For instance, the Basque centers are comparable to the Institut de Ciencies Fotoniques (The Institute
of Photonic Sciences) and Institució Catalana de Recerca I Estudis Avançats (Catalan Institution for
Research and Advanced Studies), although without reaching the figures registered by the ICMAB-CSIC
(Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona -Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas).
The DIPC has a larger volume of scientific production than the Fraunhofer Institutes we analysed and
also more than the Research Center Caesar in Bonn. However, it is clearly lower than most of the Max
Planck Institutes and the Leibniz Institutes.