Peter Cochrane, inspired by a recent visit and conference on the US West Coast, asks whether there is hope for American and European high-tech. Bring on the nano, bio and smart materials industries…

In over 30 years of travel to and from Silicon Valley I have seen the rise from near-obscurity to it being a dominant force in the world, to a slump during the dot-com bust, to what I now perceive as another rise in fortunes.

At the height of the dot-com bust San Francisco police were finding over 80 cars a day with the keys left in the ignition at San Francisco airport. This was mainly down to the population of Indian and Chinese immigrant engineers and scientist going back home. Having suddenly had their employment terminated by American companies and corporations they had no choice – it was time to go home.

Having been employed for many years in Silicon Valley, they had learnt about turning ideas into commercial success. They