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Press Releases :: March 11, 2008

Subcommittee Examines How to Effectively Commercialize Nanotechnology Research for Public Good

Washington, D.C. – As part of the Committee’s reauthorization process for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), today the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a hearing to examine how well the initiative is supporting activities to make sure that the results of nanotechnology research are translated into commercial products and processes. 

Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) and Subcommittee members also studied whether or not the research being supported by NNI in such areas as nanomanufacturing is relevant to the needs of industry.  As a relatively new and exciting science, nanotechnology is expected to offer the world unimaginable benefits in a wide range of fields– including innovation in health care, energy efficiency, electronics, and water remediation.  To better grasp and understand those benefits, the NNI has been coordinating federal nanotechnology research and development since its creation in 2003. 

“It is clear that nanotechnology can offer this nation and our entire world tremendous gains in the production of renewable energies, life-saving drugs, and new technologies that will protect us against chemical or biological agents,” said Chairman Baird.  “That is why federal investment in basic research is critical to nanotechnology’s development.  Unfortunately, this investment will be squandered if we do not successfully cultivate the technology into usable products or processes.”

The NNI was authorized by the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003.  The Act authorized the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) to provide technical and administrative support to the NSET for this coordination.  The total estimated NNI Budget for FY2008 was $1.49 billion.

Members of the Subcommittee questioned key witnesses on the current barriers that exist to commercialization of nanotechnologies and discussed ways in which the NNI can enhance technology transfer and help promote the commercialization of nanotechnology. 

“Certainly, the commercialization of nanotechnology, like any developing technology, is complex,” said Baird.  “However, nanotechnology has some unique challenges.  The development of nanomaterials and devices most often requires highly specialized and expensive instruments.  In addition, the scale-up of nanotechnology requires unique processes that have very low error rates. Furthermore, quality control in nanomanufacturing requires lengthy evaluations and expensive equipment.”

During the hearing, Subcommittee Members also examined whether the current investment in basic research for nanomanufacturing under the NNI is adequate and whether the nation’s focus on manufacturing techniques positioned the U.S. to be a global leader in specific technologies. 

Members also discussed the effectiveness of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) programs in promoting the commercialization of nanotechnology.  Under current law, the National Science and Technology Council is required to develop a plan to utilize the SBIR and STTR programs to support NNI activities.

Subcommittee members heard testimony from the following witnesses:  Mr. Skip Rung, President and Executive Director, Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI); Dr. Julie Chen, Co-Director, Nanomanufacturing Center of Excellence, University of Massachusetts Lowell; Dr. Jeffrey Welser, Director of the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI); Mr. William Moffitt, CEO of the Nanosphere, Inc. and representing the NanoBusiness Alliance; and Dr. Mark Melliar-Smith, CEO of Molecular Imprints, Inc.



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