media release

Birth of a new business sector: study

February 18, 2013

Elicia Maine, 778.782.5260 (w), reachable through colleague’s cell 604.440.0751,
Derek Moscato, Beedie School of Business, 778.782.5038 (w), 604.671.4567 (cell),
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,

(Maine explaining bio-nano firms)

A new study led by a Simon Fraser University researcher reveals that a new breed of technology start-up companies is creating a novel, potentially very profitable business cycle.

De nova firms — technology start-ups borne of tightly integrated private industry and university research labs — are driving invention at the crossroads of nanotechnology and biotechnology. This, in turn, is energizing many economic sectors such as business investment and manufacturing.

Elicia Maine, an associate professor at SFU’s Beedie School of Business, unveiled the unpublished study, Global Bio-Nano Firms: Exploiting the Confluence of Technologies, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) convention today. It is the last day of the 2013 meeting of the world’s largest science research gathering in Boston, Massachusetts.

The study’s authors have identified, classified and analysed more than 500 of the world’s first companies in the emerging bio-nano sector. Their data shows these companies are taking hold not just in technology hotbeds such as California’s Silicon Valley and the northeastern United States but also across the country, and in Europe.

“We have watched the ecosystem emerge in terms of the number and type of firms entering,” says Maine.  “This confluence of technology silos in the emerging bio-nano sector is enabling radical innovation, new products and connections that didn’t exist before. Some of the things we’re talking about are targeted drug delivery, tissue engineering, enhanced medical diagnostics and new therapeutics.”

Between 2005 and 2011, the number of bio-nano firms nearly doubled to 507, with more than 100 of them emerging in North America alone.

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

Backgrounder: Birth of a new business sector

The global bio-nano industry includes sub-sectors such as biopharma, drug delivery, diagnostics, bioinformatics and medical devices.

The United States dominates this emerging sector, and the researchers attribute much of that to the U.S. Nanotechnology Initiative, founded in 2000 to support the advancement of the field.

Maine notes the interdisciplinary nature of her research team mirrors the interdisciplinary nature of the new business sector it studies. The global group includes both business and science researchers studying this collision of technologies and economies.

The study’s other co-authors are James Utterback, professor of management and innovation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); V.J. Thomas, postdoctoral fellow, SFU and Indian Institute of Technology Delhi; Armstrong Murira, doctoral student in molecular biology and biochemistry, SFU, and Martin Bliemel, lecturer, University of New South Wales’ Australian School of Business.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada partially funded the SFU-MIT interdisciplinary collaboration in this study.

The study’s unveiling at the 2013 AAAS was part of Confluence of Streams of Knowledge: Biotechnology and Nanotechnology, a half-day panel discussion organized by Maine and Utterback.

Other speakers included Robert S. Langer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nathan Lewis from the California Institute of Technology, Sarah Kaplan of the University of Toronto and Han Cao, founder of BioNano Genomics.

AAAS SESSION: Confluence of Streams of Knowledge: Biotechnology and Nanotechnology:

MIT SDM News: James Utterback: burgeoning innovation where technology streams collide:


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