Global Bio-Nano Firms: Exploiting the Confluence of Technologies

Armstrong Murira, Elicia Maine and V. J. Thomas

New research by Prof. Elicia Maine and her co-authors (MIT’s James Utterback, Professor of Management and Innovation, Sloan School of Management and Professor of Engineering Systems; V.J. Thomas, Postdoctoral Fellow, SFU and IIT Delhi; Martin Bliemel, Lecturer at the Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales; and Armstrong Murira, Simon Fraser University PhD student, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry) highlights the economic ramifications of the confluence of the biotechnology and nanotechnology sectors.

In the paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston on 18th February 2013, they show that the confluence of biotechnology and nanotechnology is giving rise to start-up ventures, commercializing science and technology developed in university research labs.  One of the reasons that there are companies forming around the opportunity created by this confluence of technologies is that larger firms have known organizational disincentives to commercializing radical innovation.  So small science-based ventures have a better chance of success when commercializing radical innovation, disruptive technology, and – they argue – in integrating disparate technology streams.   For example, they notice that de novo bio-nano ventures (those formed around the integration of these technology fields) often have founders who have dual competencies themselves in these fields. So when the founders have these capabilities themselves, it is easier for the research teams of start-up bio-nano ventures to integrate diverse knowledge streams.

AAAS 2013 Symposium: Confluence of Streams of Knowledge: Biotechnology and Nanotechnology

“Birth of a new sector”: SFU-MIT study shows technology start-ups driving burgeoning bio-nano industry

Bio + Nano = a whole new sector



Knowledge Diversity in the Emerging Global Bio-Nano Sector

As scientists are able to understand and manipulate ever smaller scales of matter, research in the fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology has converged to enable such radical innovations as lab-on-a-chip devices, targeted drug delivery, and other forms of minimally invasive therapy and diagnostics. This paper provides a descriptive overview of the emerging bio-nano sector, identifying what types of firms are entering, from what knowledge base, where they are located, and their strategic choices in terms of technological diversity and R&D strategy. The firms engaged in bio-nano research and development span the range from start-up firm to multinational pharmaceutical, biotech, chemical, and electronics firms: two thirds of bio-nano firms are relatively young and relatively small. The United States dominates this sector, with more than half of all bio-nano firms located in the USA. Even within this sector which epitomizes the convergence of technology, there is a broad range of technological diversity, with the most diverse firms overall coming from a base in electronics, the most diverse start-up firms coming from a base in nanomaterials, and the most narrowly focused firms coming from biotechnology/ pharmaceutical base. We find that hybridization has been the dominant knowledge diversity strategy, with 93% of the bio-nano firms with nano-patents holding multiclass patents.

MIT ESD Working Paper 2012-20

MRS Proceedings 2012

GBN Welcome Dr. Martin Bliemel

GBN Welcome Dr. Martin Bliemel

Dr. Martin Bliemel

This month, our bionano research group welcomes Dr. Martin Bliemel as a collaborator. Martin Bliemel is a Lecturer in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and is apart of the School of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Australian School of Business.  He is also the Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), which administers the Diploma in Innovation Management, a multi-disciplinary undergraduate diploma, unique to UNSW. Martin’s research is on the use and development of entrepreneurial networks and his research interests include the following:

Recent Publications 

  • 2010 Bliemel, M., McCarthy, I., Maine, E. ‘A Typology of Entrepreneurial Network Configurations: Integration of Network Structures and Flows’ 7th AGSE International Entrepreneurship Research Exchange, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia (ISBN: 978-0-9803328-6-5)
  • 2009 Bliemel, M., McCarthy, I., Maine, E. ‘In Search of Entrepreneurial Network Configurations: Using Q-Analysis to Study Network Structures and Flow’ in Closing the Innovation Gap: Theory and Practice. Proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Technology Management, Dekkers, R. (ed.); 6-8 September 2009, Glasgow. Paisley: University of the West of Scotland, 2009 (ISBN: 978-1-903978-41-2). (Winner of the overall Best Paper Award, sponsored by Arthur D. Little)
  • 2008 Bliemel, M., McCarthy, I. ‘Networks of dedicated biotechnology and service firms in Vancouver’ Journal of Commercial Biotechnology (
  • 2008 Bliemel, M., Maine, E. ‘The Impact of Embeddedness on the Performance of New Technology Based Firms (NTBFs): A Literature Review’ International Journal of Technoentrepreneurship,1(3), p. 313-341 (
  • 2007 Bliemel, M. ‘Embeddedness and New-Technology Based Firm Growth: A Study of New Technology-Based Firms in the Vancouver Biotech and New Media Clusters’. In F. Chee (Ed.), Location-based Awareness: Research on local systems of innovation in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (pp. 60-73). Compendium published by the Centre for Policy Research on Science and Technology, Simon Fraser University