Committee on Science and Technology
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Legislative Highlights :: May 7, 2008

National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act

H.R. 5940

Bill Summary and Status

Reported (as amended) by the Full Committee May 7, 2008

Introduced in the House on May 1, 2008


Section 1 – Short Title: 

National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008.

Section 2 – Amendments to the 2003 Act:

Modifies the NNI strategic plan to require specification of (1) both near and long term objectives, (2) the timeframe for achieving near term objectives, (3) the metrics for measuring progress toward objectives, and (4) multi-agency funded projects in areas of significant economic and societal impacts (see SEC. 5).

Requires agencies participating in the NNI to support the activities of committees involved in the development of standards for nanotechnology and authorizes reimbursement of travel expenses for scientists participating in such standards setting activities.

Provides an explicit funding source for the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) – each participating agency provides funds in proportion to the agency’s fraction of the overall NNI budget – and requires the NNCO to report annually on its current and future budget requirements, including funding needed to create and maintain new public databases (see following provision), to fulfill the public input and outreach requirements specified in the 2003 Act, and to allow the National Academy of Sciences to carry out its triennial reviews of the NNI.

Requires the NNCO to (1) develop a public database for projects funded under the Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS), Education and Societal Dimensions, and Nanomanufacturing program component areas, with sub-breakouts for education, public outreach and ethical, legal and other societal issues projects; and (2) develop, maintain and publicize information about NNI supported (and may include State-supported) nanotechnology facilities available for use by academia and industry.

Specifies that the NNI Advisory Panel must be a stand-alone advisory committee (at present the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology is assigned this role).

Requres the NNI Advisory Panel to establish a subpanel with members having qualifications tailored to assessing the societal, ethical, legal, environmental, and workforce activities supported by the NNI.

Revises the charge to the National Research Council (NRC) for the content and scope of the triennial reviews of the NNI.

Provides explicit funding to the NNCO of $500K/year for FY 09-11 for the NRC triennial reviews.

Section 3 – Societal Dimensions of Nanotechnology:

Assigns responsibility to an OSTP associate director (to be determined by the OSTP Director) to fulfill the role of Coordinator for the societal dimensions component of NNI.  The coordinator is (1) responsible for ensuring the strategic plan for EHS is completed and implemented; (2) serves as the focal point for encouraging and advocating buy-in by the agencies, and monitoring their compliance, in providing the resources and management attention necessary; and (3) is responsible for encouraging the agencies to explore suitable mechanisms for establishing public-private partnerships for support of EHS research.

Requires the Coordinator to convene and chair a panel of representatives from agencies supporting research under the EHS program component area to develop, annually update, and coordinate the implementation of a research plan for this program component.  The plan, which is to be appended to the statutorily required NNI annual report, must contain near and long term research goals and milestones, include multiyear funding requirements by agency and by goal, and take into consideration the recommendations of the NNI Advisory Panel and the agencies responsible for environmental and safety regulations.  The plan must include standards development activities related to nomenclature, standard reference materials, and testing methods and procedures.

Establishes Nanotechnology Education Partnerships as part of the NSF Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program to recruit and help prepare secondary school students to pursue postsecondary education in nanotechnology.  These partnerships are similar to other MSPs, but must include 1 or more businesses engaged in nanotechnology and focus the educational activities on curriculum development, teacher professional development, and student enrichment (including access by student to nanotechnology facilities and equipment) in areas related to nanotechnology.

Requires the Program to include within the Education and Societal Dimensions program component area activities to support nanotechnology undergraduate education, including support for course development, faculty professional development, and acquisition of equipment and instrumentation.  To carry out these activities, the bill authorizes an additional $5M per year for FY 2009 and FY 2010 for the NSF Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement program (undergraduate STEM education program open to all institutions of higher education) and an additional $5M per year for FY 2009 and FY 2010 for the NSF Advanced Technological Education program (open only to 2-year institutions). 

Requires formation of an Education Working Group to coordinate, prioritize, and plan the educational activities funded under NNI. 

Section 4 - Technology Transfer:

Requires agencies supporting nanotechnology research facilities under NNI to allow, and encourage, use of these facilities to assist companies in developing prototype products, devices, or processes for determining proof of concept.  The agencies are required to publicize the availability of these facilities and provide descriptions of the capabilities of the facilities and the procedures and rules for their use.  For cases in which full cost recovery for use of facilities is not required, the agencies must develop criteria for access, including the significance of the project for meeting national needs, readiness of the project for demonstration, and the prospects for commercial follow-on development of a successfully demonstrated concept.

Requires agencies to encourage applications for support of nanotechnology projects under SBIR and STTR programs, requires publication of the plan to encourage this within 6 months (plan originally required under the 2003 Act), and requires a report that will track the success of the programs in attracting and supporting nanotechnology projects.

Requires NIST to encourage submission of proposals under the Technology Innovation Program (TIP) for support of nanotechnology related projects and to report to Congress on how this is to be accomplished and on the outcome of the effort over time.  Requires the TIP Advisory Board to provide advice to the program on ways to increase the number of nanotechnology related proposals and to assess the adequacy of funding provided for such proposals.  

Encourages the creation of industry liaison groups in all relevant industry sectors (4 currently exist) to foster technology transfer and to help guide the NNI research agenda.   

Adds to the activities enumerated by the 2003 Act that are required to be carried out under the NNI the coordination and leveraging of federal investments with nanotechnology research, development, and technology transition initiatives supported by the States.

Section 5 – Research in Areas of National Importance:

Requires the NNI to include support for large-scale research and development activities in application areas with potential for significant contributions to economic competitiveness or other important societal benefits.  The activities, which must involve collaborations among universities and industry (and federal labs and non-profit research organizations, as appropriate), are to be designed to advance the development of promising nanotechnology research discoveries by demonstrating technical solutions to important problems in areas of national importance, such as nano-electronics, energy efficiency, health care, and water remediation.

Requires that the competitive, merit based selection process for awards and the funding of these awards be carried out through a collaboration between at least 2 agencies, that the award selection process take into favorable consideration the availability of cost sharing from non-federal sources, and that federal funds be leveraged by collaborations with relevant state initiatives.

The research and development activities may be carried out through awards for support of interdisciplinary research centers, and all activities supported must include a plan for fostering the transfer of research discoveries and technology demonstration activities to industry for commercial development. 

Requires the NNI annual report to include a description of the activities supported in accordance with this section at the same level of budget detail as for NNI program component areas.

Section 6 – Nanomanufacturing Research:

Specifies inclusion of research under the Nanomanufacturing program component area to include projects to develop instrumentation/tools for rapid characterization and monitoring for nanoscale manufacturing and to develop techniques for scaling nanomaterial synthesis to industrial-level production rates.

Requires that centers established under the NNI that focus on nanomanufacturing and on applications in areas of national importance (SEC.5) include support for interdisciplinary research and education on methods and approaches to develop environmentally benign nanoscale products and nanoscale manufacturing processes.  These centers must also develop their research and development agendas taking into consideration research findings and results from activities supported under the NNI’s EHS program component area and must include activities to help transfer the results of the centers’ research to industry. 

Requires a public meeting and subsequent review by the NNI Advisory Panel of the (1) adequacy of the funding level and the relevance to industry’s needs of research under the Nanomanufacturing program component area and (2) adequacy of the capabilities of nanotechnology facilities for meeting the needs of the nanotechnology research and development community and the funding required to support instrumentation and equipment acquisition and facilities operations.  The results of the review are to be submitted to Congress.

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