BOX 1-2

A Brief History of the National Nanotechnology Initiative

In September 1998, an ongoing interagency dialog on nanotechnology was formalized as the Interagency Working Group on Nanotechnology (IWGN). Established under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the IWGN developed a number of reports on a long-term vision for nanoscale R&D, on international benchmarking of nanotechnology, and on U.S. government investment in nanotechnology research and development (R&D).1,2 In March 1999, IWGN representatives proposed a nanotechnology initiative with a budget of half a billion dollars for fiscal year (FY) 2001.3 In January 2000, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) was formally established, and preparations were begun for a coordinated federal investment in nanoscale R&D.

In August 2000, as the NNI got underway, the NSTC established the Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee to replace the IWGN. The NSET Subcommittee was tasked to implement the NNI by coordinating with federal agencies and R&D programs. At the time of this writing the NSET Subcommittee comprises representatives of over 20 federal departments and agencies along with officials from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

In January 2001, the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) was established to provide daily technical and administrative support to the NSET Subcommittee and to assist in multiagency planning and the preparation of budgets and program assessment documents. The NNCO was also tasked with assisting the NSET Subcommittee with the collection and dissemination of information on industry, state, and international nanoscale science and technology research, development, and commercialization activities.4 The NNCO provides technical guidance and administrative support, organizes monthly NSET Subcommittee meetings, conducts workshops, and prepares information and reports, serving as a point of contact and helping to facilitate communication. Currently, these important operational functions are managed by a small group of scientific experts and technical staff.


1M.C. Roco, S. Williams, and P. Alivisatos, eds. 2000. Vision for Nanotechnology Research in the Next Decade. Nanotechnology Research Directions, IWGN Workshop Report. Kluwer Academic Publishers.


2R.W. Siegel, E. Hu, and M.C. Roco, eds. 1999. Nanostructure Science and Technology. Kluwer Academic Publishers.


3M.C. Roco. 2004. The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative after 3 years (2001-2003). Journal of Nanoparticle Research 6: 1010.


4National Research Council. 2002. Small Wonders, Endless Frontiers: A Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

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