216693 7/15/2009 11:22 09BUCHAREST494 Embassy Bucharest UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY VZCZCXRO7835 PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG DE RUEHBM #0494 1961122 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 151122Z JUL 09 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9730 RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY UNCLAS BUCHAREST 000494
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E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: ECON, TNGD, TPHY, TSPL, EINV, RO SUBJECT: ROMANIA: NANOTECHNOLOGY POTENTIAL
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1. (U) SUMMARY: EconOff recently visited the National Institute for Research and Development in Microtechnologies (IMT), an open-source institute that has received significant national funding. IMT represents a promising future for nanotechnology in Romania, but will need continued investment and outside partners to reach its full potential. In particular they are looking for closer U.S. cooperation which could be aided by a follow-on meeting pursuant to the bilateral Science and Technology Agreement. END SUMMARY.
2. (U) In June, EconOff attended the first annual nanotechnology conference in Romania, NanoRomania 2009, which was held at the Ioan Cuza University in Iasi and partially underwritten by a National Science Foundation Grant to the University of Central Florida (UCF). The conference was well attended by representatives from Romanian and U.S. academic institutions. The organizer and Director of UCF's nanotechnology center, James Hickman, PhD, highlighted IMT as a prime example of Romania's potential during the conference.
3. (U) EconOff subsequently met with the founder and director of IMT, Dan Dascalu, and toured the facility to better assess Romania's nanotechnology capabilities. IMT was founded in 1991 as an autonomous research institute and receives grant funding from the Ministry of Education through the National Authority for Scientific Research (ANCS). IMT is an open-access research facility, which allows companies to conduct research projects using the facility's equipment without forfeiting intellectual property rights. While more typical in the U.S. or U.K., open-access facilities are not as abundant in Europe. IMT is the only open access facility in Romania and claims to be the only such facility in Eastern Europe. Since 2006, IMT received significant national funding totaling over 5 million euro in the last year alone. In the last five years, IMT has purchased about 8 million euro worth of equipment for the center, which includes a fully operating clean room. Currently, IMT has over 100 staff members, several of whom have studied and trained abroad.
4. (SBU) Capable leadership and state-of-the-art modern technology make this facility a positive example of Romanian scientific leadership in the nanotechnology field. Both the director and his staff are very knowledgeable, open, and interested in developing concrete nanotechnology applications for practical business usage. To this end, IMT privately shared with EconOff that they have quietly launched a new partnership with Honeywell, which is conducting a research project at the facility. At the same time, the director shared his dismay that other companies, notably IBM which is developing a new Nanotechnology Center in Bulgaria, are not making better use of existing Romanian facilities.
5. (U) Due to the economic downturn and concomitant budget cuts, IMT is unable to continue building its center without further investments. Because companies using the facility are not charged for investment or operational costs, the shortage of government funds presents a serious barrier to expansion and improvement. Investments which were made in the expectation of continued funding through the current fiscal year are now in jeopardy given the government's precarious financial situation. For example, the facility has built a second clean room and purchased the equipment for its operation. However, they have run short of the 250,000 euro required to install an air filtration system, making this clean room unusable. To remedy the investment shortfall, IMT plans to apply for EU structural funds and holds out some hope that these funds, as well as collaboration with potential outside investors, will keep the facility modern and relevant.
6. (SBU) COMMENT: IMT's approach as an open research facility offers promise for the development of practical nanotechnology applications in Romania. Despite the government's interest in promoting nanotechnology development, the fiscal environment does not allow for further investments at IMT. Romania and IMT both need to attract independent business collaborators if this center is to reach its full potential. Post continues to encourage cooperation between the government, research facilities, and businesses, but this process could be further aided by a follow-on meeting pursuant to the U.S.-Romanian Science and Technology Agreement. Such a meeting could highlight for the Romanian government how best to promote research and development cooperation with the U.S. on nanotechnology and other areas of common interest. While IMT should be able to continue operations for the foreseeable future, encouraging further development in Romania's nanotechnology center will require international support and partnerships with private industry. END COMMENT.