We work not only with the energy sector as it exists now, but also in thinking about other sources of alternative energy. It goes hand in hand with things that take a long time to develop, which may be there as alternatives co-existing with the energy sources we now have.
There is a very large opportunity in the area of biomaterials. The sort of research we do in nanotechnology is intimately linked with materials. As we look at materials, we ask how we can do a better job at mimicking nature and how we can use biomaterials, materials that are designed so that they work like biological materials. Biomaterials often have the advantage of being degradable and they're not toxic. It's an opportunity for Canada, which is rich in resources, to help the forestry industry for example, and the materials there. Among the materials in nanotechnology, we worry about nanocrystalline cellulose. How is that a new material? How is it going to affect medicine? Could we use it as a material in automotive and aerospace applications, and so on? It's a new material system that can help sectors in which Canada does very well.
As I said, we take the approach of looking at materials from a perspective of toxicity, degradability, environmental impact, and the life cycle of the materials. In many of the comments that were made, I think social licence to use....
With disruptive technologies we also have to think about the impact on our society and whether it is something we wish to have in our future. We've had to address that with nanotechnology because as we decrease the scale to the atomic scale, the same material could be non-toxic at large scales and become toxic at certain scales. We have to understand the toxicity aspect. We have to understand whether this is something we want in our environment. If I make a device, if I make a new sensor, what's the impact on the environment when it degrades in the eco-centre?
With disruptive technologies also come these other aspects. From Industry Canada's perspective, it means a collaboration between NSERC, SSHRC, and CIHR. Often disruptive technologies leverage different disciplines. There are engineers working with biologists, physicists, chemists and social scientists. That's the approach for disruptive technologies, so that, for a very good technology, we won't get to the end point and say that we'll never get acceptance for that and we should have worried about that from the very start. That I think is an aspect of disruptive technologies that we have to support.