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Press Releases :: April 16, 2008

Committee Moves Forward On Nanotechnology Reauthorization

(Washington, DC) – As a step towards the reauthorization of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), the House Science and Technology Committee held a hearing today to review the program and proposed draft legislation. As the Committee of jurisdiction, the body has held many hearings throughout this and past Congresses to improve the program in an effort to maintain the U.S.’s competitive lead in nanotechnology. As an advocate for advancement in nanotechnology, Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) discussed the enormous benefits and national significance of the field.

"The term ‘revolutionary technology’ has become a cliché, but nanotechnology truly is revolutionary. We stand at the threshold of an age in which materials and devices can be fashioned atom-by-atom to satisfy specified design requirements. Nanotechnology-based applications are arising that were not even imagined a decade ago," stated Gordon. "The range of potential applications is broad and will have enormous consequences for health care and medicine, water purification, and electronics, to name a few examples. Indeed, the scope of this technology is so broad as to leave virtually no product untouched."

"Nanotechnology is one of the next frontiers of science and research, and this field directly impacts all sectors of society from health care to energy to national security," added Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA). "I am honored to have led a series of hearings on the commercialization of nanotechnology, the importance of educating students about the nanotechnology field, and the potential environmental and health risks of nanotechnology. I am pleased to take part in this full committee hearing today on the NNI. I look forward to working with Chairman Gordon on the reauthorization bill and to ensuring that the federal government remains an important partner in our country's efforts to stay at the forefront of this unique and cutting edge science."

NNI was authorized by the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-153). The 2003 statute established formal interagency planning, coordinating, and budgeting for NNI. Currently, twenty-six federal agencies participate in NNI, 13 of which contribute to NNI’s research and development budget. The legislation requires formal reviews of NNI’s program content and implementation by the National Academies and an advisory committee of non-government experts.

"The cooperation and planning processes among the participating agencies in the NNI have been largely effective. The NNI has led to productive, cooperative research efforts across a spectrum of disciplines, and it has established a network of national facilities for support of nanoscale research and development," said Gordon.

The draft legislation encompasses recommendations from Committee Members and stakeholders, witness testimony from previous NNI hearings, and formal reviews of NNI in 2002 and 2006. The proposed draft changes to the program include: strengthening the planning and implementation of the environment, health, and safety component; increasing emphasis on nanomanufacturing research and commercialization; creating a new focus on large-scale R&D projects in areas of national significance; and enhancing support for K-16 educational programs related to nanotechnology.

"Although the NNI has from its beginnings realized the need to include activities for increasing understanding of the environmental and safety aspects of nanotechnology, it has been slow to put in place a well designed, adequately funded, and effectively executed research program to address this issue," added Gordon. "The environmental and safety component of NNI must be improved by quickly developing and implementing a strategic research plan that specifies near-term and long-term goals, sets milestones and timeframes for meeting near-term goals, clarifies agencies’ roles in implementing the plan, and allocates sufficient resources to accomplish the goals."

In March, the Research and Science Education Subcommittee held a hearing focused on the importance of translating the results of nanotechnology research into commercial products and processes. In recognition of the significance of nanomanufacturing, the draft legislation establishes steps to increase the number of nanotechnology related projects under the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Technology Innovation Program, authorized under the COMPETES Act.

At today’s hearing the following witnesses testified: Mr. Floyd E. Kvamme, Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; Mr. Sean Murdock, Executive Director for the NanoBusiness Alliance; Mr. Joseph Krajcik, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Education at the University of Michigan; Dr. Andrew Maynard, Chief Science Advisor of Projects on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson Center; Dr. Raymond David, Manager of Toxicology at the BASF Corporation; and Dr. Robert R. Doering, Senior Fellow and Research Strategy Manager for the Texas Instruments.

For more information on this hearing or to access witness testimony, visit the Committee’s website.

 

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