nanotechnology. Established in 2000, the NNI is relatively young, especially when viewed from the perspective of the typical timescales needed to reap the benefits of research on an emerging technology. The 20- to 40-year period for the development of computing and communications technologies made possible by basic research funded earlier in the 20th century offers an apt comparison. A basic tenet of the committee’s analysis is that the NNI clearly represents a long-term undertaking whose goals and benefits will take time to realize. Moreover, nanotechnology is an enabling technology whose impact may be difficult to determine fully and rigorously even as the technology matures and appears in widely available products. In this report, the committee (1) discusses accomplishments of the NNI to date that augur well for ongoing progress in nanotechnology R&D to benefit the nation and (2) offers recommendations aimed at ensuring an enhanced U.S. capacity to realize and measure discernible benefits, responsibly developed, from nanoscale R&D into the future.

NNI Structure and Goals

The NNI has several management layers that are described in detail in Chapter 1. In summary, the National Science and Technology Council, a cabinet-level committee with a membership drawn from federal agencies across the government, through its Committee on Technology formed the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee to focus on NNI activities. The NSET Subcommittee currently involves more than 20 federal agencies. In FY 2005, 11 agencies reported investments in nanotechnology under the NNI umbrella that totaled about $1.1 billion.1 The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), established in 2001, provides technical guidance and administrative support to the NSET Subcommittee, facilitates multiagency planning, conducts activities and workshops, and prepares information and reports. In addition, in 2004 the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) was designated by President George W. Bush as the National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel (NNAP).2 Chapter 1 discusses the role of the NNAP in more detail.

The NNI has four goals:3

  •  Goal 1: Maintain a world-class research and development program aimed at realizing the full potential of nanotechnology.

  •  Goal 2: Facilitate transfer of new technologies into products for economic growth, jobs, and other public benefit.

  •  Goal 3: Develop educational resources, a skilled workforce, and the supporting infrastructure and tools to advance nanotechnology.

  •  Goal 4: Support responsible development of nanotechnology.



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