It may be time to start rethinking the term "small business." A recent announcement from MIT suggests that nanotechnology—in all its permutations—may be the wave of the future with regards to new business ventures.

The university has recently created a new research program that specifically targets developments in nanotech with one class working exclusively to launch businesses in the industry.

In a moment when traditional businesses are static or sinking and innovation seems stagnant, it may be the perfect opportunity for ventures to experiment with new technology that has some seriously awesome potential. Right now, just a few of the applications for nano are: diagnostic imaging of the brain through methods such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging; neuropharmacology (drugs, including painkillers and antidepressants, that affect brain and nervous system functioning); enhancements or replacements for sensory or motor systems (cochlear or retinal implants, "smart" prosthetics) and neurostimulation through implanted electrodes to treat diseases such as Parkinson's or to restore mobility to paralyzed patients. Creating a market for this stuff certainly shouldn't be an issue.

Not only do these business models hope to capitalize on the latest technology, they're also seeking to tap into global markets from the word go. Each class in the program was co-taught via teleconferencing with the University of Hong Kong, where Professor Rutledge Ellis-Behnke is based, and the hope is that it will grow to other locations. "It has now started to spread to places where we have no formal ties," Professor Ed Boyden, who teaches with Ellis-Behnke, says. "We want students to think globally about this field." So, now the world is flat. And tiny. 

Click here to hear MIT president Charles Vest on nanotechnology. We think he would approve of the new direction.