The National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN) is a collective of fourteen universitybased facilities with the mission to enable rapid advancements in nanoscale science, technology and engineering through open and efficient access for fabrication. It provides facilitiesbased infrastructure resources that are openly accessible to researchers from academia, small and large companies, national laboratories, and others. It enables the reduction of ideas to practice by providing the capacity to explore materials, structures, devices and systems through access to tools, training and specialized knowledge for operating tools, handson and remote operation – all at affordable cost. NNIN also conducts other activities with broader impact: in computation and modeling, education, in enhancing diversity in technical disciplines, in societal and ethical implications of nanotechnology and in health and environment.
NNIN was established in 2004 following a competitive proposal process. NSF is the granting agency, providing $14M/year for the first 5 years, and $17M/year for the second 5 years ($138M total funding to date). In 2011 NNIN provided support for research and development to 350 small companies and 89 large companies.
NNIN provides significant leverage in support of the national research agenda. Supported by only 125 full-time-equivalent staff, each year more than 6000 researchers depend on NNIN for at least part of their research and development activity. This includes researchers from 188 academic institutions and over 200 companies. Through its shared resources, the $17 million direct government investment, NNIN enables more than $500 million research annually. The research impact of NNIN extends across the fields of nanotechnology. Over 2500 publications reported research results enabled by NNIN in 2011, which span across the breadth of the engineering, physical, and life science disciplines. In many of these publications, external users were able to exercise the capabilities of NNIN to fabricate materials, structures, devices, or systems that advanced the state of nano-science and engineering.
The NNIN Minnesota node focuses on serving a large set of external users in a variety of areas including electronics, MEMS and alternative energy. A primary performance metric is the number of users, especially external users. The node engages in an aggressive recruiting process. Over the last year our number of users increased about 10%, as it has for the last three years. We now have users from more than 50 external universities or companies.