, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 137–156 | Cite as

Southern Roles in Global Nanotechnology Innovation: Perspectives from Thailand and Australia

  • Donald C. Maclurcan
Original Paper


The term ‘nano-divide’ has become a catch-phrase for describing various kinds of global nanotechnology inequities. However, there has been little in-depth exploration as to what the global nano-divide really means, and limited commentary on its early nature. Furthermore, the literature often presents countries from the Global South as ‘passive’ agents in global nanotechnology innovation—without the ability to develop endogenous nanotechnology capabilities. Yet others point to nanotechnology providing opportunities for the South to play new roles in the global research and development process. In this paper I report on the findings of a qualitative study that involved the perspectives of 31 Thai and Australian key informants, from a broad range of fields. The study was supplemented by a survey of approximately 10% of the Thai nanotechnology research community at the time. I first explore how the global nano-divide is understood and the implication of the divide’s constructs in terms of the roles to be played by various countries in global nanotechnology innovation. I then explore the potential nature of Southern passivity and barriers and challenges facing Southern endogenous innovation, as well as an in-depth consideration of the proposition that Southern countries could be ‘active’ agents in the nanotechnology process. I argue that it is the nano-divide relating to nanotechnology research and development capabilities that is considered fundamental to nanotechnology’s Southern outcomes. The research suggests that Southern countries will encounter many of the traditional barriers to engaging with emerging technology as well as some new barriers relating to the nature of nanotechnology itself. Finally, the research suggests that nanotechnology may offer new opportunities for Southern countries to enter the global research and development picture.


Nanotechnology Global south Developing countries Innovation Research and development Nano-divide Ethics 



This paper was presented at the Third Nano Ethics Workshop held at the University of Aarhus, October, 2008. The author is grateful to the Nano Ethics Network for their support in making this presentation possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Nanoscale TechnologyUniversity of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia

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