Before referring to nanoGateway and advantages participation in this project entails, it is worth diagnosing the relative weaknesses of the Interreg Spain-Portugal area it aims to address.

According to the Eurostat Yearbook for 2017, POCTEP regions were in the lowest statistical bracket for GDP per capita in purchasing power standards during 2015. This was especially true of Extremadura and Andalusia in Spain, and all the Portuguese regions on the border, with the exception of Algarve. Further, POCTEP regions enjoyed below EU-average changes in this index for the period between 2007 and 2015 (in fact, purchasing power has fallen in most of them). They also exhibit high unemployment rates.

This is the case despite a high average number of weekly working hour (especially in Portugal), by European standards.  The apparent paradox is explained by the fact that the gross value added per hour worked in relation to the EU average is quite low in POCTEP regions. Put succinctly, the POCTEP labour force works more hours but is less productive than the EU average.

No doubt this is largely a consequence of the sorts of industries that predominate in these eight regions. The share of total gross value added represented by agriculture, forestry and fishing is relatively high (especially in Galicia, Portugal Centro and Andalusia), while the share of human resources working in science and technology within the economically active population is lower than the European average (although not by much, indicating that the lag can be made up for).

The obvious solution, therefore, is to invest in activities that: 1) are high in value added, addressing the current low return in economic value per working hour, 2) can upgrade rather than displace primary sectors such as agriculture and fishing, and, therefore, 3) can increase the purchasing power of the population.

Nanotechnology and, specifically, the approach to its cultivation represented by the nanoGateway project, offers precisely this. Like all technologically-advanced industries, its end products are high value added, assuming, of course, that there is a market for these, which is increasingly the case for nanotechnology.

Further, the socially destabilizing effects of incorporating new technologies can be avoided, as nanotechnology need not abolish existing economic activity, but can be incorporated into it. Specifically, nanotechnology boasts ample applicability in primary sectors. By way of examples (of which many more could be mentioned) we may highlight the use of nanoparticles in increasing the yield of solar power cells, or the use of nano-texturization in offshore structures, lessening biological accretion and therefore reducing overhead costs for fisheries.

Of course, a technology is only as good as its application, which is why nanoGateway is necessary in guiding the absorption of this new industry by the POCTEP economy. nanoGateway represents an organic partnership between public sector representatives, researchers, commercial entities (both SMEs and larger companies) and academia. By receiving input from such diverse quarters it can help tailor research and innovation to real necessities (already largely articulated in the RIS3 objectives of the eight POCTEP regions), and ensure that technological transfer occurs such that new techniques are commercially viable, empowering businesses and adding to local economic dynamism (rather than resulting in a few well-positioned companies reaping all the benefits).

In this regard, it is worth noting that nanotechnology has already produced economically successful clusters in countries like Japan, where its incorporation precisely relied on guiding mechanisms somewhat similar to NanoGateway. It is also worth highlighting that becoming an early adopter on the governmental level, as it were, can allow a region or country to project a positive image of itself internationally, which can be instrumental in attracting investment and engaging in collaborative efforts with foreign entities. All of this, however, warrants separate analysis.

SEE ALSO: External benefits of nanoGateway