The National Nanotechnology Initiative has released its 2011 Supplement to the President's Budget. In his introductory letter, Presidential Science and Technology Advisor John Holdren notes that "Nanotechnology R&D constitutes a core building block of innovation that will ultimately accelerate job creation and transform many sectors of our economy through commercialization."
The document gives final tallies for Federal agency investments in nanotechnology fiscal year 2009, estimates of current year investments, and budget requests for FY 2011. It includes descriptions of the current R&D interests of individual agencies as well as some hints of new programs we may see as the NNI enters its second decade.
The NNI budget continues to grow, with $1,701 M reported in 2009 and $1.781 M estimated for 2010. The 2011 request is slightly less - $1,762 M - but is likely to be exceeded when next year's estimates appear. Well over $500 M in extra allocations through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were also distributed in 2009.
The Department of Energy tops the budget tables for the first time, with a $424 M request for 2011. With Recovery Act funding included, it is also easily first in actual expenditures reported for 2009, at $626 M. The Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation still top the estimated 2010 expenditures, with DOE in third place. Two agencies - the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Products Safety Commission - appear in the budget tables for the first time as part of the continuing build-up in R&D related to environmental, health, and safety matters. Both agencies have been active NNI participants for several years.
The identification of three signature initiatives in areas that are "ripe for significant advances through close … interagency collaboration" gives us a glimpse of future plans, although few program details are presently available. The topics are nanoelectronics, sustainable nanomanufacturing, and solar energy.
- Six agencies have committed a total of $51 M to the Nanotechnology Applications for Solar Energy Initiative , in support of the Administration goal of generating 10% of our nation's electricity from renewable sources by 2012 and 25% by 2025. As NanoBusiness Alliance members well know, nanotechnology is expected to be a major factor in the widespread commercialization of solar energy, with great prospects for cost reduction, efficiency improvements, and optimizing use of precious materials. It will be interesting to see how this initiative encourages the incorporation of nanoscale materials and devices in both photovoltaic and concentrating solar power systems - the stated goals run the full gamut from improved understanding of the underlying science, through characterization of prototypes, and on to economical manufacturing.
- Sustainable Nanomanufacturing gets an initiative of its own, with five participating agencies and $23 M committed to date. The emphasis is on self-assembled systems, a.k.a. the bottom-up approach to nanotechnology. This is a long-term initiative, with a first-decade goal to manufacture, on the industrial scale, systems of "relatively limited complexity" from engineered nanoparticles. A whole host of high-impact applications are mentioned - high-speed communication and computation, solar energy harvesting, waste heat management and recovery, energy storage - but the real emphasis is on developing general manufacturing techniques and then applying them to increasingly complex systems. The inclusion of "sustainable" in the title and the participation of the Environmental Protection Agency tips us off that lifecycle analysis of the materials and processes, up to and including recycling or reclamation, will be expected.
- The final signature initiative, Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond, starts with a $55 M commitment from five agencies. This effort shares the basic goals of the Nanoelectronics Research Institute (the current NNI partnership with the Semiconductor Research Corporation) to develop robust U.S. capabilities for manufacturing novel electronic technologies which will take the computing and communications industries beyond the end of the CMOS roadmap. It will expand ongoing NNI R&D in several areas: alternatives to charge-based information processing, combined nanophotonic/nanoelectronic systems, nanotech approaches to quantum information science, and carbon-based electronics devices such as nanotube transistors or this year's coolest material, graphene. A new university-based facilities network, the National Nanoelectronics Research and Manufacturing Infrastructure, is also planned as part of this initiative.
Finally, the budget supplement notes that an update to the NNI strategic plan is due to Congress in December 2010. The Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology Subcommittee, which oversees the NNI, is open to input from all stakeholders. As the participating agencies consider how nanotechnology stimulates the commercialization and job creation opportunities Dr. Holdren mentioned, let's make sure the voice of the innovation experts from the nanotechnology business community are heard. One great chance is coming up soon - come to the NanoBusiness Alliance DC Roundtable on March 16th and 17th. You'll also find contact information for representatives of all the NNI agencies at the back of the budget supplement.