On May 20th, the National Economic Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy held a forum at the White House to discuss opportunities to accelerate the commercialization of nanotechnology.
Over the last fifteen years, the Federal government has invested over $20 billion in nanotechnology R&D as part of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), working towards breakthroughs such as smart anticancer therapeutics that will destroy tumors while leaving healthy cells untouched, and lighter, thinner body armor that could save the lives of America’s soldiers.
A recent review of the NNI by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) concluded that:
“…the nanotechnology field is at a critical transition point and has entered its second era, which we call NNI 2.0. This next technological generation will see the evolution from nanoscale components to interdisciplinary nano‐systems and the movement from a foundational research‐based initiative to one that also provides the necessary focus to ensure rapid commercialization of nanotechnology.”
In recognition of the importance of nanotechnology R&D, representatives from companies, government agencies, colleges and universities, and non-profits are announcing a series of new and expanded public and private initiatives that complement the Administration’s efforts to accelerate the commercialization of nanotechnology and expand the nanotechnology workforce:
- The Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, NY and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are launching the Nano Health & Safety Consortium to advance research and guidance for occupational safety and health in the nanoelectronics and other nanomanufacturing industry settings.
- Raytheon has brought together a group of representatives from the defense industry and the Department of Defense to identify collaborative opportunities to advance nanotechnology product development, manufacturing, and supply-chain support with a goal of helping the U.S. optimize development, foster innovation, and take more rapid advantage of new commercial nanotechnologies.
- BASF Corporation is taking a new approach to finding solutions to nanomanufacturing challenges. In March, BASF launched a prize-based “NanoChallenge” designed to drive new levels of collaborative innovation in nanotechnology while connecting with potential partners to co-create solutions that address industry challenges.
- OCSiAl is expanding the eligibility of its “iNanoComm” matching grant program that provides low-cost, single-walled carbon nanotubes to include more exploratory research proposals, especially proposals for projects that could result in the creation of startups and technology transfers.
- The NanoBusiness Commercialization Association (NanoBCA) is partnering with Venture for America and working with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote entrepreneurship in nanotechnology. Three companies (PEN, NanoMech, and SouthWest NanoTechnologies), are offering to support NSF’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program with mentorship for entrepreneurs-in-training and, along with three other companies (NanoViricides, mPhase Technologies, and Eikos), will partner with Venture for America to hire recent graduates into nanotechnology jobs, thereby strengthening new nanotech businesses while providing needed experience for future entrepreneurs.
- TechConnect is establishing a Nano and Emerging Technologies Student Leaders Conference to bring together the leaders of nanotechnology student groups from across the country. The conference will highlight undergraduate research and connect students with venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. Five universities have already committed to participating, led by the University of Virginia Nano and Emerging Technologies Club.
- Brewer Science, through its Global Intern Program, is providing more than 30 students from high schools, colleges, and graduate schools across the country with hands-on experience in a wide range of functions within the company. Brewer Science plans to increase the number of its science and engineering interns by 50% next year and has committed to sharing best practices with other nanotechnology businesses interested in how internship programs can contribute to a small company’s success.
- The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology is expanding its partnership with the National Science Foundation to provide hands-on experience for students in NSF’s Advanced Technology Education program. The partnership will now run year-round and will include opportunities for students at Hudson Valley Community College and the University of the District of Columbia Community College.
- Federal agencies participating in the NNI, supported by the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, are launching multiple new activities aimed at educating students and the public about nanotechnology, including image and video contests highlighting student research, a new webinar series focused on providing nanotechnology information for K-12 teachers, and a searchable web portal on nano.gov of nanoscale science and engineering resources for teachers and professors.
As the President observed in his most recent State of the Union, “Twenty-first century businesses will rely on American science and technology, research and development.” We call on all sectors of the nanotechnology community to identify additional ways to work together and make sure more of those businesses are built on nanoscience and nanotechnology.
- Report to the President and Congress on The Fifth Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (October 2014)
- National Nanotechnology Initiative
- White House Forum on Small Business Challenges to Commercializing Nanotechnology
Lloyd Whitman is Assistant Director for Nanotechnology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
JJ Raynor is Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy at the National Economic Council.