Nanotechnology first came across the radar of investors in the early to mid-2000s. Promises of tiny self-replicating machines that could perform pretty much any task with minimal effort and nanomaterials that had superior properties well beyond any currently known substance sounded like lucrative investments for those who “got in the door early”. One nanomaterial that over promised and undelivered, at least for retail investors, was that of the carbon nanotube. Many companies claimed to be commercializing carbon nanotubes but few were successful. Was this because the material was not superior? This doesn’t seem likely. While in the early stages of commercialization still, carbon nanotubes hold great promise in a wealth of applications in various industries. Just last week, a team of Stanford researchers created carbon nanotube transistors with record-setting current densities and stacked them to make 3-D circuits. One private company that claims to be making great progress commercializing carbon nanotubes is Nanocyl.
Belgium based Nanocyl claims to be the leading global manufacturer of specialty and industrial Carbon Nanotubes Technologies (CNTs). The Company was founded in 2002 as a spin-off from the Belgian Universities of Namur and Liège with the support of private investors. In 2005, Nanocyl announced the first commercial use of their “Nanocyl™ NC 7000” multiwall carbon nanotubes in the Electronics sector while at the same time announcing the achievement of ISO 9001 certification. In 2007, the Company announced the first commercial use of their CNTs in the Automotive sector. In 2008 they launched their EPOCYL™, THERMOCYL™ and AQUACYL™ product families.
Nanocyl has had multi-ton production capacity as far back as 2007 and spends 39% of their total budget on R&D. While Nanocyl has been a partner in several European Union initiatives to develop nanotechnology, the actual large scale commercialization of product applications can be difficult. Francis Massin, the managing director of Nanocyl, made the following statement in 2011:
“The biggest challenge is that industry in general is very conservative, and so moving from the semi-industrial lab level to the industrial level takes a lot of time and a lot of investment,” said Francis Massin. “You’re looking at an investment in the order of 20 to 50 million euros to really take a new material from laboratory stage to industrial level.”
While the carbon nanotube is a superior material that shows great promise at a prototype level, commercializing this nanomaterial to create value requires significant investment. Nanocyl hasn’t provided many updates in the past few years about their progress. Their last press release in April of 2014 highlighted a change in leadership. Laurent Kosbach, an executive with almost 20 years of marketing & sales practice in the European chemicals business, was appointed as the Company’s new CEO.
Publicity is important for private companies. We receive many emails from private companies who see our articles about them and want to update us on their progress. This is because visibility is good for private companies as it creates exposure about what they are up to which can consequently attract investors. The cheapest way to attract publicity is through issuing press releases on your company website. This seems to be the number one prerogative of most OTC companies for much the same reason. So why would a private company stop providing updates about their progress? It’s either because they are too busy inking deals and driving revenues or their progress has stalled. Which one is it for Nanocyl?