MEMS, nanotech fields show promise for EE employment

By Scott Sargis
Published In Electronic Engineering Times
January 27 2003

Recruiters and venture capitalists report that nanotechnology and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are set for record job creation and may offer potential opportunities for electronic engineers willing to acquire new skills.

Nanotechnology manipulates materials at the molecular level, letting scientists create materials with unique, useful properties.

In 10 to 15 years, the government predicts, the field will produce more than $1 trillion a year in products and services. More than 50 venture capital firms are investing, the NanoBusiness Alliance (New York) reports.

“Many traditional companies such as Boeing are already applying nanotechnology principals to make planes lighter, faster and more durable,” said early-stage venture capitalist Matthew McCall, partner of Portage Venture Partners Inc. (Northfield, Ill.).

Northwestern University professor Chad Mirkin predicted “jobs creation [in nanotechnology] will grow over the next two to five years.”

While nanotechnology and MEMS offer promise for EEs, recruiters caution that technical jobs in these fields require industry-specific training from top academic institutions on the cutting edge.

Steve Kennedy, the CEO of MEMS optical switch maker Siwave Inc. (Arcadia, Calif.), believes the field’s growth will outpace the overall economy in the next five to 10 years.

But he drew a distinction between technical and business professions. “If you are in the IC industry, you can move into MEMS very easily because it is a very similar process,” he said. But in sales, marketing and general management, one can make the transition with only a general understanding of the field, he said.

Scott Sargis is president of Chicago-based Strategic Search Corp.