In the annual report accompanying the 2011 budget, the National Nanotechology Initiative (NNI) announced three signature initiatives for the purpose of developing technology in fields that focused and closely coordinated support of research and development (R&D) between agencies and that could lead to more rapid advancements. Signature initiatives represent collaborations between the Office of Science and Technology Policy and NNI member agencies. The initial signature initiatives involved sustainable nanomanufacturing, solar energy collection and conversion, and nanoelectronics. One of the two additional signature initiatives created in 2012 is tasked with building a nanotechnology knowledge infrastructure, and the other, with developing nanotechnology-based biological and chemical sensors. Table 5.1 shows which agencies contribute to each signature initiative.
Over $300 million, or about one-sixth of the total NNI budget, is proposed in 2013 for the three signature initiatives that were introduced in 2011: $112 million for Nanotechnology for Solar Energy Collection and Conversion, $84 million for Sustainable Nanomanufacturing, and $110 million for Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond. Those numbers, shown in Table 5.2, represent a 24 percent increase in signature initiatives investments compared with 2011 actual spending, well above the 4 percent increase for NNI as a whole. When the supplement to the President’s 2013 budget was submitted to Congress on February 13, 2012, and the white papers for the additional two signature initiatives were introduced during May and July, funding levels for the two had yet to be reported.
TABLE 5.1 Agency Contributions to Signature Initiatives by Thrust Area
and Thrust Area
|Solar Energy Collection and Conversion|
|Improved photovoltaic solar electricity generation|
|Improved solar thermal-energy generation and conversion|
|Improved solar-to-fuel conversions|
|Design of scalable and sustainable nanomaterials, devices, and processes|
|Nanomanufacturing measurement technologies|
|Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond|
|Exploring new or alternative state variables for computing|
|Merging nanophotonics with nanoelectronics|
|Exploring carbon-based nanoelectronics|
|Exploiting nanoscale processes and phenomena for quantum information science|
|National Nanoelectronics Research and Manufacturing Infrastructure|
|Nanotechnology for Sensors and Sensors for Nanotechnology|
|Develop nanoscale materials and engineered nanomaterials to resolve current technical barriers|
and Thrust Area
|Assess the impact of engineered nanomaterials across their life cycles on human health, safety, and the environment|
|Nanotechnology Knowledge Infrastructure|
|Enlarge a diversified community of scientists, engineers, and technical staff|
|Build a network that couples experimental basic research, modeling, and applications development|
|Build a cyber-toolbox to enable application of models to nanomaterials design|
|Create a robust digital nanotechnologic data and information infrastructure|
NOTE: For a list of acronyms see Appendix B.
TABLE 5.2 NNI Approximate Funding (millions of dollars) for Three Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives, 2011-2013
|Nanotechnology Signature Initiative||Participating Agencies||2011 Actual||2012 Estimated||2013 Proposed|
|Sustainable Nanomanufacturing||DOD, DOE, IC/DNI, NASA, NIOSH, NIST, NSF, USDA/FS||61||73||84|
|Solar Energy Collection and Conversion||DOD, DOE, IC/DNI, NASA, NIST, NSF, USDA/NIFA||88||89||112|
|Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond||DOD, DOE, IC/DNI, NASA, NIST, NSF||97||104||110|
NOTE: For a list of acronyms see Appendix B.
SOURCE: The National Nanotechnology Initiative: Supplement to the President’s 2013 Budget. 2012. National Science and Technology Council. Available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/nni_2013_budget_supplement.pdf, accessed 07/011/2012.
Each signature initiative is described in a white paper1 that outlines the national need that it is intended to meet, the focus areas identified and prioritized as “thrusts,” the expected outcomes, and the individual agency expertise to be involved. The white papers for the five signature initiatives vary widely in the specificity of technical targets, interagency planning, management, and coordination in meeting the scientific and technical targets, milestones, and roles that individual agencies play to meet the goals.
For example, the white paper on the Sustainable Nanomanufacturing signature initiatives2 describes a path for “creating manufacturing technologies for economical and sustainable integration of nanoscale building blocks into complex, large-scale systems” and provides metrics for success in terms of the outcomes, milestones, and time frames of specific planned, coordinated, and managed interagency endeavors. The growing effectiveness of interagency planning, management, and coordination processes was evident in updates given to the committee, as was the commitment to common long-term goals. Box 5.1 provides a summary of the Sustainable Nanomanufacturing signature initiative.
The white paper on the signature initiative on the Nanotechnology Knowledge Infrastructure (NKI) proposes long-term interagency collaboration among the disciplines of materials science, chemistry, biology, engineering, and advanced measurement and characterization science. To that end, the white paper indicates that the NKI signature initiative will leverage other federal efforts, such as the Big Data Research and Development Initiative (announced March 29, 2012) and the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI).3
In contrast, whereas the white paper on the signature initiative on Solar Energy, Collection, and Conversion4 is notable for its clear and quantifiable technical targets
2 National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), National Nanotechnology Initiative Signature Initiative: Sustainable Nanomanufacturing—Creating the Industries of the Future, Final Draft, Committee on Technology, Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology, July 2010, available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/nni_siginit_sustainable_mfr_revised_nov_2011.pdf, accessed December 10, 2012.
3 The Big Data Research and Development Initiative was announced by the Obama administration on March 29, 2012. The administration announced the Materials Genome Initiative on June 24, 2011. More information is available on each at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/big_data_press_release_final_2.pdf and http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/mgi_fact_sheet_05_14_2012_final.pdf, respectively; both sites accessed December 17, 2012.
4 NSTC, “National Nanotechnology Initiative Signature Initiative: Nanotechnology for Solar Energy Collection and Conversion,” Final Draft, Committee on Technology, Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology, July 2010, available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/nnisiginitsolarenergyfinaljuly2010.pdf, accessed December 17, 2012.
(for example, “single junction silicon devices with improvements such as better band gap engineering at the nanoscale which will reach efficiencies of 28 percent [theoretical max 33 percent, best to date 25 percent]),” it is also notable for its lack of description of interagency planning, management, and collaboration, with the exception of a joint request for proposal (RFP) between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE). The lack of interagency activity was also reflected in the update to the committee in which the Solar signature initiative representative did not know of any interagency collaboration except the aforementioned DOE NSF RFP.
Given their strong connection to applications of nanotechnology, the signature initiatives are obvious vehicles for coordinating efforts and collaborating to support research investments with the private sector. For example, the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI), a consortium of member companies of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) that contribute funding and other resources in a program of university research. Support for NRI research also comes from NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as from universities and state and local governments.5 NRI partnerships among industry, NIST, and NSF have been highly effective at informing university research and moving results to the private sector. The NRI’s success led to the creation of the signature initiative Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond. For more information on the NRI see Box 5.2. This industry partnership has the opportunity to leverage the full NNI investment related to the Nanoelectronics signature initiative (valued at more than $100 million in 2012) and can provide industry input and perspective to the larger effort that includes DOE, Department of Defense (DOD), the intelligence community/Director of National Intelligence (IC/DNI), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in addition to NSF and NIST.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an effective strategy includes the following six characteristics (described in greater detail in Table 5.3):
• Purpose, scope, and methods.
• Problem definition and risk assessment.
• Goals, activities, and performance measures.
• Resources, investments, and risk management.
• Organizational roles and responsibilities.
• Integration and implementation.
Table 5.3 shows an assessment of each of the signature initiatives on the basis of the GAO traits and associated white papers produced by the NNI.
5 See SIA, “Nanoelectronics Research Initiative: A Model Government-Industry Partnership Promoting Basic Research,” SIA Issue Papers, available at http://www.semiconductors.org/resources/sia_issue_papers/, accessed December 17, 2012.
Sustainable Nanomanufacturing Signature Initiative
The overarching goal of the Sustainable Nanomanufacturing signature initiative is to “establish manufacturing technologies for economical and sustainable integration of nanoscale building blocks into complex, large-scale systems.”1 The key requirement of the initiative is the development of manufacturing processes that are
• Precise, controllable, and sustainable.
• Safe and produce nanotechnology-based products that perform to specifications throughout their life cycle without harm to the environment or human health.
During the first year (2011), the initiative was funded at $61million. It is estimated that expenditures will be $73 million in 2012, and $84 million has been proposed for 2013.2
The initiative has two thrust areas:
1. Design of scalable and sustainable nanomaterials, components, devices, and processes.
2. Nanomanufacturing measurement technologies.
The initiative is supported by many federal agencies, whose roles include basic research and applied research (e.g., NSF, USDA, and DOE), metrology (e.g., NIST), manufacturing development (e.g., NSF and NIST), EHS (e.g., OSHA and NIOSH), and technology transfer and commercialization support (e.g., EPA and DOD).
Metrics and timelines have been developed for both thrust areas. Initial focus areas are carbon nanomaterials (NIST), optical metamaterials (NSF), and cellulosic nanomaterials (USDA).
For thrust area 1, success will be realized if within 2 years consortia (academic, industry, and government partners) have been established for the purpose of coordinating research on manufacturing methods; if within 4 years there has been a successful demonstration of processes that are scalable, sustainable, and safe; and if within 8 years materials and processes that are appropriate for production have been identified and technology transfer or adoption by U.S. manufacturers has occurred.
For thrust area 2, the initial focus area is roll-to-roll manufacturing. This thrust will be deemed successful if within 2 years, a consortium focused on metrology roll-to-roll processing has been formed, if within 4 years a real-time in-line measurement system has been demon-
The committee’s analysis of the effectiveness of the signature initiatives Sustainable Nanomanufacturing and Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond focuses on the following:
• Collaboration with federal and nonfederal partners.
• Defined metrics of success with timelines and outcomes.
• Effective communication, including updates to stakeholders.
• Periodic reviews of the plan and adjustments of plan as necessary.
strated, and if within 8 years a benchmarking of measurement systems has taken place with industrial partners to allow technology transfer.
To date, the signature initiative is on track to meet its goals. USDA has developed roadmaps and awarded $6.7 million for public–private collaborative research at seven universities for cellulosic-nanomaterials research and has installed a cellulose-nanomaterial pilot plant in the Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin. NIST has held a workshop on carbon-based nanomaterials; there were participants from industry, academe, and government, and measurement barriers were identified. A cooperative research and development agreement is in place with Applied Nanostructured Solutions to understand the effect of growth conditions on the structure of carbon-based nanomaterials. The NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing is focused on advancing technologies for roll-to-roll processing. The center also supports the community through coordination of the National Nanomanufacturing Network and roadmap development.3
Interagency coordination is active. The NNCO staff person who supports the signature initiatives facilitates extensive and frequent interactions among the participating agencies.
The initiative participants interact regularly in person, via telephone, or via e-mail to share the scientific details of agency programs to identify opportunities to leverage activities and expand interagency collaboration.
The signature initiative Sustainable Nanomanufacturing has several participants in common with the Nanomanufacturing, Industry Liaison, and Innovation (NILI) Working Group, and communication between the two groups is strong. The co-chairs of NILI take strong personal interest in the initiative’s goals and objectives. An update on the initiative is provided to the co-chairs of NILI, which has been helpful in identifying potential industry and academic partners. NILI has also provided outreach to the nanomanufacturing stakeholders in the industrial community.
1 NSTC, 2010, “Sustainable Nanomanufacturing—Creating the Industries of the Future,” Committee on Technology, Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology, available at http://eprints.internano.org/1849/1/nni_siginit_sustainable_mfr_revised_nov_2011.pdf, accessed December 11, 2012.
2 NNI, “Supplement to the President’s 2012 Budget,” available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/nni_2012_budget_supplement.pdf.
3 J. Alexander Liddle, NIST, “Nanomanufacturing Signature Initiative,” presentation to the committee on July 10, 2012.
The Sustainable Nanomanufacturing signature initiative has been exemplary in its collaboration with federal and nonfederal partners and in its interaction with industry and academe. The role of each agency is clearly defined at the project level. This signature initiative is also to be commended for its effective communication with its stakeholders and with the Nanotechnology, Industry Liaison, and Innovation (NILI) Working Group.
The Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond signature initiative strives to advance the field of nanoelectronics by exploring new and revolutionary materials, devices,
Nanoelectronics Research Initiative Model of Industry, Government, and University Collaboration
One industry that already is designing and manufacturing nanotechnology-based products is the semiconductor industry. The trend known as Moore’s law states that the number of transistors (the devices that store and manipulate digital information) on a computer chip about the size of a fingernail will double every 18 to 24 months. Scaling has enabled the steady increase in performance and decrease in cost of integrated circuits (ICs) for everything from smart phones to credit card scanners. Cutting-edge ICs made today using silicon complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology have patterned features with a dimension of just 22 nm and require deposition of layers of materials that are only a few atoms, or about 1 nm, thick.
Continued improvement in performance and cost, which is vital to the competitiveness of the U.S. semiconductor industry and to technological leadership in support of national security, will require a new technology beyond CMOS. In 2005 a group of semiconductor companies formed a consortium—the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI)—to fund precompetitive university research in partnership with government with the mission to demonstrate the next logic switch. NRI awards research contracts based on competitive solicitation processes and to date has supported research at 57 universities involving more than 250 faculty researchers and 430 students.
NRI provides a model for industry collaboration and for public–private partnership. In addition to industry support, NRI research is funded by NIST, NSF, universities, and state/local governments. The collaborative industry investment would not be possible without the substantial NNI investment in nanoelectronics, e.g., the NSF program Science and Engineering Beyond Moore’s Law. A key driver for other government agencies at all levels is economic development and the desire to see that the nanoelectronics industry takes hold in the United States or in their jurisdiction.
NRI employs a number of metrics with which to gauge success. Of greatest interest to industry members is progress toward the technical goal of demonstrating a superior logic switch. A set of parameters has been developed to compare the respective performance of each technology under investigation. Results of this benchmarking are used to guide research during the course of the project and to identify the most promising new devices. Other measures of NRI output include number of students supported and career positions following graduation; numbers of and citations to publications and patents/patent applications; and spin-off/start-up companies based on NRI research. An NRI metric that is perhaps unique for such an industry consortium is member company satisfaction with the program, based on annual surveys.
NRI is a research initiative, but its outputs eventually may play a role in the economic success of the semiconductor industry and of other industries that utilize semiconductor-powered technologies. One measure is based on sales. The U.S. semiconductor industry accounts for nearly half of the $300 billion world market and is the largest U.S. export over the past 6 years. A study of the economic impact of semiconductors over the past several decades based on data collected by the Department of Commerce concludes that the semiconductor industry grew 25 times faster than the U.S. economy as a whole between 1960 and 2007, and between 2000 and 2007 semiconductors accounted for 15 percent of the growth in sectors as diverse as motor vehicles and communications equipment.1 Such quantitative estimates may not be possible for nanotechnology as a whole without modification of the data that are collected. However, the semiconductor industry can continue to be tracked and used as an example of the economic impact of nanoscale science and engineering.
1 J.D. Samuels, “Semiconductors and U.S. Economic Growth,” draft, 2012, available at http://www.semiconductors.org/clientuploads/directory/DocumentSIA/ecoimpactsemidraft_Samuels.pdf.
TABLE 5.3 Strategic Characteristics Addressed by Each Signature Initiative
|GAO National Strategy Characteristics||Solar||Nanomanufacturing||Nanoelectronics||Sensors||Knowledge|
|Characteristics of effective strategies||Addressed||Addressed||Addressed||Addressed||Addressed|
|Goals, activities, and performance measures||Partially addressed||Partially addressed, but quantitative metrics are missing||Mostly addressed; additional quantitative goals could be included||Partially addressed; no performance measures||Partially addressed|
|Resources, investments, and risk management||Not addressed||Not addressed||Slightly addressed||Not addressed||Partially addressed|
|Organizational roles||Minimally addressed, only at thrust level, not project level||Addressed at project level, at thrust level, and at research level||Addressed only at thrust level, not project level||Partially addressed but only at mission level, not project level||Fairly well addressed (agencies and their roles identified)|
|Integration and implementation||Not addressed||Not addressed||Slightly addressed||Not addressed||Partially addressed|
systems, and architectures and applying novel nanoscale fabrication processes and concepts to produce them. The initiative includes strong collaboration among industrial and academic partners, mainly through participation of NSF and NIST in the NRI. The NRI invests in large centers that coordinate across multiple universities and projects. In addition, input provided to NSF by industry members during the development of solicitations results in research grants that have well-defined metrics of success, timelines, and outcomes. Research is continuously guided via collaboration between university researchers and industrial scientists and engineers. Each project is formally reviewed at least once a year by all NRI partners, which provides comments, including recommended plan adjustments. University researchers prepare periodic reports and share them with industry members.
It is outside this committee’s charge (see Box S.2 in the Summary) to determine specific goals and outcomes (definitions of success) and metrics for the individual signature initiatives, or to determine who is going to be assigned what role, what the milestones and timelines are, and how the signature initiative teams should plan, manage, and coordinate to meet their goals. However, the committee believes that it would benefit the NNI if the signature initiative teams considered developing and
implementing formal interagency plans for the signature initiatives and reporting annually on their progress.
Finding: Whereas the breadth of nanotechnology research and development under the NNI and the diversity of agency missions and needs make it difficult and impractical for the NSET Subcommittee to manage and coordinate the entire portfolio of activities in support of NNI goals, the signature initiatives offer clear opportunities and pathways for accelerating progress through “close coordination” in defined fields of scientific and technologic importance.
More active, explicit, and transparent interagency planning, management, and coordination are needed, including jointly planned and even executed research programs, in order to increase the progress and impact of the signature initiatives.
Recommendation 5-1: Each signature initiative team should develop a strategic plan. The NSET Subcommittee and the signature initiative teams should expand the associated white papers to include specific goals (outcomes) with quantifiable technical targets where possible, milestones for reaching them, expected outputs and short-term outcomes, and roles and responsibilities of the (two or more) participating agencies, the NSET Subcommittee, and the NNCO. Planned actions and outputs and short-term outcomes to document progress should be reported online and in the annual report.
A key initial measure of success for the NNI will be the NSET Subcommittee and the signature initiatives teams’ performance in developing and implementing the strategic plans.
The committee observes that the PCAST 2012 report made a similar although less-detailed recommendation in this regard.6
Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology Working Groups
As described in Chapter 3, the NSET Subcommittee has created four working groups—Global Issues in Nanotechnology (GIN), Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI), Nanotechnology, Industry Liaisons, and
6 See President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), Report to the President and Congress on the Fourth Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, April 2012, Executive Office of the President, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/PCAST_2012_Nanotechnology_FINAL.pdf, accessed November 28, 2012.
Innovation (NILI), and Nanotechnology Public Engagement and Communications (NPEC)—to address subjects that could benefit from greater interagency focus and coordination. It is not clear to the present committee how effective those groups are. For example, although NEHI has been quite active, visible, and effective, it appears that other working groups have been, to different degrees, less so. It is difficult to determine what specific needs are identified by each working group, what their priorities are, and what the individual working groups have planned and accomplished. Even information on current membership and participation in the working groups is not completely transparent: the NEHI page lists member organizations in detail, but the NILI page simply states that membership is open to “all federal agencies and their component organizations,” and the NPEC site states that “working group participation is open to all NSET members and/or their designees.”
The four existing working groups are described below, as well as two more groups, proposed for consideration by this committee.
Global Issues in Nanotechnology (GIN)
The GIN working group has as its goals the strengthening of international R&D collaboration, capacity-building, and engagement on regulatory and trade issues. Chaired by the U.S. Department of State, this group also coordinates federal government activities in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Party on Nanotechnology. The “international engagement” website at nano.gov provides more detailed information on various international nanotechnology groups and activities, although it does not link to the GIN working group website. A distinction is made between GIN’s responsibilities on the international scale and that of the White House Office of International Regulatory Affairs:
The Global Issues in Nanotechnology (GIN) Working Group helps to coordinate international activities among the various NNI member agencies, while the White House Office of International and Regulatory Affairs … promotes international regulatory cooperation in a number of venues, including Regulatory Cooperation Councils with Canada and Mexico and the High Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum with the European Union.7
The 2011 NNI strategic plan indicates that NIST works with the International Organization for Standardization’s Technical Committee 229 and other standards organizations, including the OECD Working Party on Manufactured Nanomateri-
als, in the development of standards and that these activities are coordinated with other agencies through the GIN working group.
Nanomanufacturing, Industry Liaison, and Innovation
The purpose of the NILI working group is to
advance and accelerate the creation of new products and manufacturing processes derived from discovery at the nanoscale. This includes stimulating nanotechnology innovation in and by federal government agencies for their use and in transferring technology among industry, academe, and State and local organizations. The NILI Working Group serves to coordinate nanomanufacturing R&D and translation activities among the participating agencies, which also involves liaison and close coordination with the private sector, where nanomanufacturing innovations will be implemented. It also facilitates interagency cooperation and cooperation with industry, in the development of standards and nomenclature.8
NILI’s goals include facilitating interactions between U.S. industry and state organizations to support nanotechnology development and technology transfer. Membership in the NILI working group is open to all federal agencies and their component organizations, but a specific list of participating agencies is not provided on the NILI working group website. It is not clear how the broad goals of the NILI working group—stated as a detailed list of activities to support, facilitate, and enhance nanotechnology development and technology transfer—are being worked toward.9 Only one report was listed for “NILI” in a search of nano.gov publications.10 However, a general search of the Internet reveals that an overview of the NILI work plan was given at the October 13, 2009, meeting of the NSET Subcommittee and the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) meeting.11 Although it is apparent that several reports address the goals of NILI, it is unclear what role NILI, as opposed to the NSET Subcommittee, had in guiding the activities. There are links to reports on the nano.gov/nili website, but it is unclear whether these are the output of the NILI working group. The 2009 overview advocated a number of laudable goals, including completion of NILI surveys on current status in four stakeholder sectors, increasing participation of groups and
9 NNI, “Nanomanufacturing, Industry Liaison, and Innovation (NILI).”
11 M.C. Roco, NSF, NILI Chair, “Nanomanufacturing, Industry Liaison, and Industrial Innovation Working Group (NILI),” presentation to the Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology Subcommittee meeting, October 13, 2009, available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/nilioverview.pdf.
agencies involved in nanomanufacturing, partnering with industry and promoting technology transfer, disseminating the use of NNI infrastructure, evaluating the current environment for innovation in the United States, and creating a NILI website on nano.gov to include all relevant activities.
The 2012 PCAST Fourth NNI Assessment Report noted that the NNI had made progress on recommendations of the 2010 report and highlighted the progress made by NILI in “developing mechanisms to incorporate industrial input in NNI planning through public-private partnerships and in developing an agenda that focuses on job creation and state outreach.” Another favorable aspect is that strong communication exists between NILI and the Sustainable Nanomanufacturing signature initiative. Information was also provided that NNCO is aligning staff assignments to new programmatic needs and had created the position of industry and state liaison.12
Recommendation 5-2: Given the emphasis on the role of small business, the NSET Subcommittee should reach out to the Small Business Administration to gain insight into opportunities and mechanisms by which to support innovation better through this important and diverse sector.
Nanotechnology Public Engagement and Communications
The NPEC working group’s goals are to promote best practices in public engagement and communication. The group’s role is to educate and involve the public, policy makers, and stakeholder groups in discussions about nanotechnology and to assist in development of research-based guidance among stakeholders for the responsible development of nanotechnology. The NSET Subcommittee held a workshop on public participation in 2006.13 The resulting report, released with additional information in February 2012, provided
invaluable insights and guidance to the NPEC Working Group and the NSET Subcommittee as they plan ongoing NNI public outreach and engagement activities. For example, based in part on the workshop recommendations, the NSET Subcommittee organized a series of stakeholder workshops in 2009 and 2010 to guide the development of the 2011 NNI Strategic Plan and the 2011 NNI Strategy for Environmental, Health, and Safety Research. The subcommittee also established a website in 2010, the NNI Portal, to obtain
12 Sally Tinkle, Acting Director/Deputy Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, presentation to the committee, January 2012.
13 NSTC, Public Participation in Nanotechnology: Report of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Workshop, May 30-31, 2006, available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/nni_public_participation_ws_report.pdf, accessed September 25, 2012.
14 The NNI strategy portal is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/07/15/nni-strategy-portal-a-pathway-new-ideas-nanotechnology-innovation, accessed September 25, 2012.
stakeholder comment on these strategy documents. Through the NPEC Working Group and other avenues, the NSET Subcommittee is committed to improving and expanding the public’s input into its activities and to fostering an open dialogue with American citizens on the subject of nanotechnology.
Several PCAST reports have requested that the NNI, through NPEC and NNCO, “demonstrate more clearly to the public the value of nanotechnology and NNI-supported research and development.”16 There have also been presentations to the OECD Working Party on Nanotechnology at a Workshop on public engagement with nanotechnology, held in Delft, the Netherlands, in 2008.
Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications
The NEHI working group has an active agenda, with membership supported by many of the federal agencies centered on the protection of public health and the environment. This working group promotes communication of information related to research on environmental, safety, and health (EHS) implications of nanotechnology and provides information exchange among agencies regarding research, regulation, and guidelines related to nanomaterials and products that contain nanomaterials. Working with the NSET Subcommittee and other interagency groups, NEHI supports the development of tools and methods to identify, set priorities among, and manage strategies to enable risk analysis and regulatory decision making for nanomaterials and products that incorporate them. The group also supports development of consensus-based nanotechnology standards, including nomenclature and terminology, by working with international organizations and governments and shares its findings and EHS best practices with international organizations. NEHI takes responsibility for managing, coordinating, reviewing, and revising the interagency Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Strategy document.17
Over a period of years, NEHI has iteratively set goals and priorities; this has resulted in the 2011 NNI EHS research strategy, which includes recommendations
15 NSTC, Public Participation in Nanotechnology: Report of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Workshop, May 30-31, 2006, available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/nni_public_participation_ws_report.pdf, accessed September 25, 2012, p. iii.
16 See PCAST, The National Nanotechnology Initiative: Second Assessment and Recommendations of the National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel, Executive Office of the President, April 2008, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/PCAST-NNAP-NNI-Assessment-2008.pdf, accessed November 15, 2012.
17 NSTC, National Nanotechnology Initiative: Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Strategy, Committee on Technology, Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology, Executive Office of the President, October 2011, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/nni_2011_ehs_research_strategy_final.pdf, accessed December 11, 2012.
from a series of stakeholder workshops conducted in 2009 and 2010. The workshops were organized by the NSET Subcommittee to guide the development of this strategic research plan.18 The plan establishes clearer EHS and ethical, legal, and societal implications (ELSI) goals and research needs; principles for identifying high-priority nanomaterials; mechanisms for targeting and accelerating research; and the beginning of a framework for implementing research programs. However, it is important to heed the following caution of the National Research Council committee that reviewed the 2011 NNI EHS research strategy:19
To advance the research strategy, mechanisms will be needed to ensure its effective implementation, to evaluate research progress, and to refine the strategy as the base of evidence evolves—elements that the committee considered integral to its charge. Implementation will also require the integration of the various participants, both domestically and internationally, involved in nanotechnology-related EHS, including the NNI and the federal agencies; the private sector, such as nanomaterial developers and users; and the broader scientific and stakeholder communities, such as academic researchers.
Successful implementation will require mechanisms that improve coordination and modify institutional arrangements. Such modifications have been articulated by stakeholder groups involved in the nanotechnology-related EHS research enterprise. The committee concludes that attention to these implementation mechanisms is as integral to the success of the research strategy as the research priorities themselves, a key finding of the 2009 NRC review of the federal strategy. [Italics added.]
The 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) analysis of EHS echoed that view, saying that the EHS strategic plan lacked “performance information— such as targets, metrics and time frames for meeting those targets.”20
The NEHI working group has made progress toward developing research priorities and is well positioned to take the next steps to develop more specific long-term goals and long-term outcomes, specific plans to reach them, and short-term outcomes and metrics. Suggested definitions of success and associated metrics for the NNI EHS program and NEHI are presented in Box 5.3.
18 For more information on this plan, go to NNI, “Key Concepts in the 2011—National Nanotechnology Initiative Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Strategy,” brochure, available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/2011_brochure_ehsresearchstrategy.pdf, accessed December 11, 2012.
19 National Research Council, A Research Strategy for Environmental, Health, and Safety Aspects of Engineered Nanomaterials, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2012.
20 GAO, “Nanotechnology: Improved Performance Information Needed for Environmental, Health, and Safety Research,” GAO-12-427, 2012, p. 2, available at http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591007.pdf, accessed September 25, 2012.
Suggested Definitions of Success and Metrics for EHS and NEHI
If one reflects on NNI Goal 4, which is “to support the responsible development of nanotechnology,” it is clear that it encompasses the goals that the Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group sets and some aspects of other working groups. Responsible development of nanotechnology is central to advancing a world-class research and development (R&D) program (NNI Goal 1), educating the workforce and engaging the public (NNI Goal 3), and all aspects of nanomanufacturing and product commercialization (NNI Goal 2). Because of the complexity of Goal 4, related definitions of success (outcomes) are particularly challenging to summarize, but they may include the following:1
• NNI develops, updates, and works to implement a coordinated program of environmental, safety, and health (EHS) research that will develop tools and methods for risk characterization and assessment in general—including both hazard and likelihood of exposure—and support expanding understanding of potential risks of broad classes of nanomaterials. Publicly available results of EHS research worldwide are made available broadly to researchers and users of nanomaterials.
• Businesses of all sizes are aware of potential risks of nanomaterials and know where to obtain current information about properties and best practices for handling.
• Regulatory agencies have sufficient information about risks of new nanomaterials to enable sound risk assessment that promotes innovation.
• NNI supports research to assess the societal impacts of nanotechnology in parallel with technology development.
• The general public has access to information about nanotechnology and a growing percentage is familiar with the fundamental precepts.
• NNI includes R&D aimed at applying nanotechnology to solve societal challenges such as affordable access to clean water, safe food, and medical care
Possible metrics for Goal 4 could include the following:1
• EHS collaborations and projects/centers funded.
• Number of NNI EHS research results that are made easily accessible, e.g., through an NNI-managed clearinghouse or in cooperation with international organizations.
• Publicly available guidance documents developed.
• Number of faculty/students supported for research in these areas.
• Number of K-12 students and educators engaged by NNI-related funded researchers, including Department of Energy laboratory outreach and National Science Foundation-funded researchers, and the impacts.
• Data from NNI-related funded research on public awareness and attitude regarding nanotechnology.
• Analysis of online information and news items related to nanotechnology.
• Evidence that NNI agencies are engaged in international forums discussing and developing standards, norms, and strategies for responsible development of nanotech.
• Number of NNI agency representatives to various international forums.
• Compilation of commercialized or commercializable technologies.
• Number of companies offering EHS, nanotoxicity, and/or nanotechnology safety services.
• Evolution of outcomes and impact resulting from sustained funding in EHS and the social dimensions of NNI.
1 National Research Council, Interim Report for the Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, Phase II, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2012 (reprinted in Appendix E).
Proposed Working Group: User-Facility Oversight and Coordination
The NNI has been highly successful in creating substantial user facilities that benefit academic, government, and industrial researchers throughout the nation. A prime example is the DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), which provide access to state-of-the-art experimental facilities without user fees for publishable research. Other prime examples are NSF’s National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN); the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory, in conjunction with NIST and the Food and Drug Administration; and the NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology. Those facilities represent a substantial achievement of the NNI, but opportunities for further optimization of the facilities probably lie in better interagency coordination. Although there is evidence of interaction and even collaboration among the several centers or facilities reporting to the same agency (such as the five DOE NSRCs and the NSF NNIN facilities, which are regularly reviewed), there appears to be no clear mechanism for sharing of best practices, strategic planning, user information, and so on, among centers in different agencies. Similarly, the committee’s impression is that although there is strong regional coverage of user facilities, there are no clear mechanisms for interagency coordination of the capabilities and methods of access in the facilities. For example, when a major new suite of instruments is established in an NSF, DOE, or NIH facility, there should be a ready forum for discussion to ensure that there is coordinated acquisition and distribution of critical equipment. The committee believes that oversight for addressing such issues continuously could be facilitated by the formation of a new working group.
Proposed Working Group: Education and Workforce Development
Nanotechnology education and workforce development are recognized as vital for achieving the full benefits of the NNI programs and are explicitly called out in the program’s high-level goals. The agencies appear to be using a variety of programs and organizations to address their needs. However, in the NNI 2013 budget supplement, only one listed activity (of four) shows a higher level of coordination, with two agencies involved (NSF and the Department of Education). Given the broad spectrum of individual agency activities,21 finite resources, and the variety of expertise in nanotechnology education and worker training, there appears to be
21 The 2013 budget supplement describes individual efforts of DOD, DOE, Department of Education, FDA, IC/DNI, NASA, NIH/NCI, NIST, NSF, USDA/FS, and USDA/NIFA. See NSTC, The National Nanotechnology Initiative—Supplement to the President’s 2013 Budget, February 2012, available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/nni_2013_budget_supplement.pdf, accessed January 10, 2013.
an opportunity to enhance current investment in education and training through greater coordination by establishment of a new working group or refinement of the scope of the existing NPEC working group. In addition, agencies that have a mission to promote workforce development and training, such as the Department of Labor, should be included in this working group.
Finding: There appears to be substantial opportunity to revise roles of working groups or to create new working groups in user-facility oversight and coordination and in education and workforce development.
The NNI and the global nanotechnology landscape have evolved since the working groups were established; therefore it is both timely and important that the NSET Subcommittee reevaluate and, if appropriate, update the working group portfolio.
Recommendation 5-3: The NSET Subcommittee should regularly assess the working groups to ensure that each is serving a useful management and coordination role related to the goals and objectives of the NNI strategic plan. Working groups that are no longer useful should be redefined or eliminated, and new working groups should be formed as needed. In particular, the NSET Subcommittee should consider creating new groups in the areas of user facility oversight and coordination and education and workforce development.
Recommendation 5-4: Each working group should address specific goals and objectives and should develop and annually update plans for outputs and short-term outcomes that are related to longer-term outcomes. Ties to signature initiatives should be highlighted. The NNI annual report should include working group plans, such as information about the annual objectives, activities, management, and accomplishments.
Given the diverse nature of the working group activities that affect the advancement of knowledge and the progress of nanotechnology, all working groups should be responsible for identifying and sharing information among agencies and with the broader community through the NNI website.
High-Level Interagency Engagement
The human resources that the agencies commit in the form of participation in the NSET Subcommittee and working groups are substantial. However, in its 2010 assessment, PCAST expressed concern that the level of the agency participants was such that they were not able to make decisions on behalf of their agencies. PCAST therefore recommended that the President and Congress “require each
agency to task senior representatives with decision-making authority to participate in coordination activities of the NNI.”22 The committee appreciates the intent of that recommendation but also sees great value in the corps of expertise and long-term participation of many members of the NSET Subcommittee and the working groups.
Finding: High-level agency awareness and engagement are important, but there may be a trade-off between authority in the agencies and the ability to devote time and effort to the many NNI coordinating activities.
Recommendation 5-5: To improve engagement by senior NNI participating agency officials and decision makers, the NSET Subcommittee should inform and obtain input from the NSTC Committee on Technology on NNI objectives and plans at least annually.
An essential component of coordinating and managing goal-oriented R&D, such as the signature initiatives, is determination of targets and pathways for reaching them. Federal agencies that fund basic research often tend to focus on identifying opportunities. For example, DOE held a series of workshops that resulted in a set of reports on basic research needs for various energy technologies.23 Some fields have turned to the National Academies for expert advice on research opportunities, including the decadal survey of research in astronomy and astrophysics, most recently updated in 2010.24
A field of research that has been driven by planning and cooperation in industry is semiconductor technology. That industry is one of the world’s largest (about $300 billion in annual revenue worldwide). Since 2005, products of the U.S. semiconductor industry have been the largest contributor to U.S. exports.25 That success
22 PCAST, Report to the President and Congress on the Third Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, March 29, 2010, Executive Office of the President, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-nano-report.pdf, accessed November 15, 2012.
23 For more information, go to U.S. Department of Energy, “News and Resources: Basic Research Needs,” available at http://science.energy.gov/bes/news-and-resources/reports/basic-research-needs/, accessed December 13, 2012.
24 National Research Council, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2010.
25 D. Hatano et al., “Doubling Semiconductor Exports Over the Next Five Years—An Economic Analysis by the Semiconductor Industry Association,” July, Semiconductor Industry Association, San Jose, Calif., 2010, available at http://www.sia-online.org/clientuploads/directory/DocumentSIA/Export/Doubling_Exports_Paper_0610.pdf, accessed December 13, 2012.
is due, in part, to several approaches to precompetitive collaboration in R&D, including public-private partnerships such as SRC and SEMATECH. Those consortia have been guided and coordinated in their research efforts by the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). The industry-wide roadmapping effort, which has been fueled by the industry commitment to maintaining the increase in performance/cost ratio, has enabled scaling to ever smaller dimensions, as expressed by Moore’s law, and by the integration of new functionalities.
Two decades of history and success of the ITRS26 have inspired the development of additional roadmaps. There is room for similar activities in other industries enabled by nanotechnology. By building consensus on future technology needs, such roadmaps can foster commercialization and improve efficiency throughout an R&D supply chain. That continues to be true in the semiconductor industry, in which continued scaling of transistor size is enabled by a wide variety of complex, continually developing technologies that must be coordinated at least partially to provide reasonably efficient return on R&D investment. Other industries in which fundamental or platform nanotechnology advances would benefit the entire sector could also create roadmaps to expedite overall progress. As in the case of the ITRS, NNI-agency representatives can be important contributors to such efforts. In addition, the NNI could consider the development of such “technology needs” roadmaps to coordinate interagency efforts toward, for example, the “grand challenges” addressed by signature initiatives.
The best practices principles for technology roadmapping that are used in developing each biennial edition of the ITRS are these:
• Focus on identification of technology needs rather than on specific potential solutions.
• Indicate quantitative needs as a function of time out to a “rolling horizon” (such as 10-20 years) to help to identify consistent sets of solutions for each future technology generation.
• Characterize the adequacy of current resources by addressing each future need (for example, green, yellow, and red color codes for “pass”, “borderline,” and “fail”).
• Highlight “grand challenges.”
• Enlist broad participation (by industry, academe, and government) in “technology working groups” to write topical chapters of the roadmap. Include participants in the relevant supply chains.
26 W.J. Spencer, L.S. Wilson, and R.R. Doering, “The Semiconductor Technology Roadmap,” Future Fab International 18, January 12, 2005.
• Hold public conferences to gain additional feedback during updates and rollouts of the roadmap.
• Publish the roadmap on the Internet.27
Fundamentally, a roadmap created by an industry that uses voluntary, open, and transparent processes is a common good that allows every business in the sector to benefit and grow. Overarching benefits of industry-wide roadmapping include the following:
• Providing a guide for research worldwide.
• Synchronizing technology development and timely availability of manufacturing tools and methods.
• Increasing efficient use of R&D resources.
• Promoting market growth and job creation by reducing unknowns and increasing confidence.
As the semiconductor industry approaches the end of scaling complementary metal-oxide semiconductor technology as the primary ITRS driver, it has been evaluating how roadmapping can be used in general to address a broader set of technology needs. The resulting necessary conditions for any industry-wide technical roadmap effort include28
• A restricted set of performance measures against which progress can be gauged.
• Convergence of opinion among a majority of key players on the progress trends that the figures of merit are expected to follow.
• A potential market of substantial size that induces wide applicability of the roadmap (that is, the roadmap effort must be worth doing).
• Willingness to share information.
• Existence of a community of stakeholders.
Although the semiconductor industry sometimes is viewed as uniquely able to form consortia to fund basic research, one can argue that every industry can point to fundamental, platform science, engineering, and technologies for which each participating company would be willing to forgo exclusivity to make progress faster and less expensive through a consortium approach. Moreover, such roadmapping
28 W. Arden et al., eds. “More than Moore,” white paper, available at http://www.itrs.net/Links/2010ITRS/IRC-ITRS-MtM-v2%203.pdf, accessed September 25, 2012.
could be especially helpful in realizing progress in the signature initiatives. The challenge at the outset is to form a community of industry participants that are willing to share information.
The federal government can encourage industries to take those first steps. The proposed Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortium program (AMTech) is intended to stimulate early-stage technology development based on industry needs by incentivizing industry-led consortia (new or existing) that would support long-term basic and applied research on enabling technologies. AMTech would provide grants to consortia to develop roadmaps of critical long-term industry research needs and to fund facilities, equipment, and research directed at meeting the needs.
AMTech is consistent with the recommendations of the PCAST report on advanced manufacturing released in June 201129 and was “strongly endorsed” by the NIST Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) in February 2012.30 The VCAT report noted that the SRC NRI “stood out” among management models and recommended that AMTech be managed through consortia, led by industry, that include participation by universities and government agencies.
Finding: The NSET Subcommittee could consider efforts that encourage industry consortia to plan and fund long-term research, similar to the proposed AMTech program.
Recommendation 5-6: The NSET Subcommittee should incentivize groups in nanotechnology-enabled industries to participate in developing roadmaps and in partnering to address long-term research needs. Roadmapping would be especially helpful in realizing progress in the signature initiatives.
The vision and structure of the NNI require planning, coordination, and management throughout a complex and diverse set of federal agencies. NNI planning and management at the interagency level have evolved over the years, and a few best practices that make it reasonably strong have been established, but they are not sufficiently widespread.
Definitions of success for the NNI are inextricably linked to the management and coordination framework adopted by the NSET Subcommittee of the NNCO
29 See PCAST, Report to the President on Ensuring American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing, June 2011, Executive Office of the President, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-advanced-manufacturing-june2011.pdf, accessed September 26, 2012.
30 NIST, NIST Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology: Recommended Design Principles for AMTech, February 7, 2012, available at http://www.nist.gov/director/vcat/upload/VCAT-Mfg-Summary-Recommendations.pdf, accessed 09/26/2012.
Committee on Technology and by the NNCO itself.31 In looking at the practices of specific agencies, the present committee has found that the ones that conduct focused workshops, program reviews, and similar activities are often more effective in informing and helping to coordinate planning and execution among their stakeholders. Fairly high levels of communication and awareness can be found among the following agencies: DOE and its Nanoscale Science Research Centers, NSF and its Nanoscale Science and Engineering Networks, and the Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, which all exemplify successful practices. However, coordination among the remaining NNI agencies is considerably less intensive and less effective. Stakeholders that are not members of such intra-agency communities are often missing out. The NSET Subcommittee and the NNCO can and should do more to involve such stakeholders.
The planning, management, and coordination framework needed depends on the complexity of the goal, the agencies and other stakeholders involved, the interconnectedness of planned outcomes, and the duration of the collaboration required to meet the goal. For example, ensuring soundness of federal government investments in nanotechnology by avoiding redundancy in and among agencies requires at least regular information-sharing. If information-sharing is the goal, holding regularly scheduled joint project reviews or workshops might be sufficient to ensure appropriate management and coordination. But in the much larger and more challenging context of the NNI, achieving longer-term goals will require much more formal planning and management. For example, ensuring that technologies developed with NNI-based federal funding have a clear pathway to commercialization requires that the barriers to such pathways are identified, that plans are developed to reduce or remove them, and that sufficient management and coordination are in place to execute the prescribed actions. Needs in that regard include interagency approaches to intellectual property policies, development and implementation standards, EHS requirements and public information-sharing, and education and workforce development.
The organizational structure of the NNI, depicted in Figure 1.1, provides both opportunities for and obstacles to addressing those challenges. The framework seeks to link agency programs and federal investments to metrics and progress toward the NNI’s long-term desired outcomes. Assessing the effectiveness of the linkage is a major concern of the present report.
This chapter describes current processes and recommends changes in the planning, coordination, and management frameworks to enable the NNI to add more value to a whole that exceeds the sum of the parts in the nation’s nanoscale initiative. The findings and recommendations in this chapter address the building of a larger, healthier U.S. nanotechnology community in which there is better vertical
31 For the structure of the NNI, see Figure 1.1.
interaction of the NNCO and the NSET Subcommittee with the higher levels of the government. They also aim for greater coordination in the planning and execution of major efforts such as the signature initiatives; adoption and promulgation of best practices, such as technology roadmapping; enhanced information management and sharing through a restructured, more interactive website; and enhanced coordination with entities outside the U.S. federal government.
Specifically, this section considers the need and opportunity for substantially increased interagency information-sharing and access to information by the wide variety of NNI stakeholders, especially through the NNI website. This chapter also discusses the role of the five signature initiatives and the NSET Subcommittee working groups in supporting the NNI community and recommends specific actions to strengthen interactions between the NSET Subcommittee and the NNI community.
Information Management and Communication: Website Clearinghouse
The effective acquisition and sharing of information is important for the success of any organization. It is essential in an enterprise as diverse, interdisciplinary, and complex as the NNI. Indeed, there are probably few initiatives in which effective communication with such a wide variety of stakeholders is as vital for success as the NNI.
Every one of the participating NNI agencies supports and executes mission-oriented communication processes of its own. Some are complex, especially in the larger, more research-oriented agencies. A principal responsibility of the NNCO is communication: taking advantage of and building on agency processes and the information that they represent to ensure enhanced interagency awareness, communication, and coordination. The complexity of the NNI stakeholder communities described in Chapter 3 requires a creative approach to the nanotechnology communication challenge.
The NNI’s communication could play an even more vital role in encouraging economic activity in nanotechnology by increasing general awareness of emerging technologies, by encouraging students to enter STEM fields related to nanotechnology in order to develop an educated workforce, and by educating the public on EHS and other effects of nanotechnology. Those activities necessarily cover a wide demographic range—K-12 students, universities, business circles, and the general population. The tools to address communication are varied and need to be appropriate to the intended audience; they may include methods as diverse as workshops, web resources, and even educational games. They will change as new communication technologies emerge and communication norms change.
The World Wide Web’s nano.gov is a primary vehicle for meeting that challenge, and it has been successful and valuable in several ways. It provides considerable information on programs, resources, news, and events. For some purposes,
it can be navigated and mined with reasonable ease. For example, it provides introductory material on nanotechnology aimed at the K-12 and more general populations; provides links to NNI reports, workshop announcements, and research centers and user facilities; and in some cases provides opportunities for collaboration and funding.
However, the committee believes that there are important unmet stakeholder needs and opportunities for the NSET Subcommittee and the NNCO, where the solutions could be addressed through the NNI website. These opportunities fall under two main headings. First, organizing the website to provide portals and paths to guide specific stakeholders—for example, educators, small businesses, local governments, and nongovernment organizations (NGOs)—to resources would improve NNI communication substantially. Second, the website could be structured to be highly interactive and easily searchable throughout agency-centric content. For example, the site provides a comprehensive list of, and links to, the many NNI-related user facilities. But a central resource that cuts across all the relevant centers and facilities regardless of hosting agency would enable potential users to identify the instruments, capabilities, and expertise in each facility and center and provide links for accessing them.
In the same vein, such an improved website could be the central resource for the project-related data called for in Chapter 4. Such a searchable database would allow all stakeholders to identify projects of interest to them and the participants involved and to the agencies funding the work. It would also aid agency program managers in remaining cognizant of related programs and investments by other agencies and thereby enhance the NNI’s management and coordination capabilities. Furthermore, a searchable database would enhance technology transfer and commercialization of nanotechnology R&D. Often industry—particularly small businesses—does not have the appropriate awareness or resources to mine the databases of current R&D projects on agency websites. Organizing the information and having it searchable along stakeholder lines may ease the transition across the “valley of death” for nanotechnologies. The committee therefore offers a twofold recommendation.
Recommendation 5-7: The NNI website (nano.gov) should be redesigned and its content organized to provide portals and guidance directed to the NNI stakeholder communities (industry, facilities, users, educators, mass media, and so on). The information should be appropriately integrated across the participating NNI agencies.
An essential ingredient in this redesign should be the incorporation of an easily searchable database of NNI research projects, facilities and centers, associated instruments and expertise, and the agencies and program offices providing project funding.
Interaction and Coordination with Entities Outside the U.S. Federal Government
As described earlier in this report, a number of groups have an interest in nanotechnology and the NNI, and many of them are outside the federal government. The committee believes that the NNI could better achieve its goals of fostering technology transfer and ensuring responsible development of nanotechnology if it engaged nonfederal stakeholders, including international organizations.
Stakeholder workshops are among the most successful and effective contributions of the NNI. The NSET Subcommittee, assisted by the NNCO, has sponsored or endorsed many workshops on virtually all aspects of nanotechnology. Workshops were organized to help in the planning and preparation of the NNI strategic plans and in executing recommendations made by PCAST and prior National Research Council reviews.
Finding: The NNI has spurred a substantial amount of information-sharing among the various participating agencies and other stakeholders that otherwise probably would not have occurred. Much of the information exchange has happened through workshops and publications. The NNCO, in partnership with the NSET Subcommittee, has facilitated many of the activities. The present committee endorses the activities and their continuation.
The PCAST 2012 nanotechnology report32 included a brief section on international developments (PCAST 2012). PCAST noted that the United States leads the world in nanotechnology R&D, but that other nations are gaining ground. For example, Russia is investing aggressively. The Russian Nanotech Corporation (RUSNANO) now ranks second worldwide in nanotechnology spending and plans to increase investment.33
Within the European Union (EU), there were plans for major investment in science and technology, including substantial components in nanotechnology. In particular, the EU recently completed the process of selecting flagship initiatives (FIs) as part of the Europe 2020 plan.34 Each FI is expected to represent an invest-
32 PCAST, Report to the President and Congress on the Fourth Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, April 2012.
33 Ibid, p. 13.
ment of 1 billion euros over a program lifetime of 10 years. Among the selected was an FI on graphene.
In addition to national and regional programs worldwide, there are many international activities, a number of which are listed on nano.gov. The GIN working group provides a forum for agencies to share information and coordinate such international activities, which include multilateral and bilateral cooperation and participation in international and regional forums and other events. The global nature of information-sharing in nanotechnology research can be seen in the international government groups, NGOs, and companies that participate in the annual International Nanotechnology Conference on Communication and Cooperation (for example, INC9 2013 in Berlin35) and in the World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC) panel report Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal Needs in 2020.36 As part of that community, the NSET Subcommittee tracks progress in foreign nanotechnology R&D and helps to promote the trade and commercial interests of the United States in the development of a global marketplace for nanotechnology products.
Recommendation 5-8: The Global Issues in Nanotechnology Working Group should expand activities aimed at development of a healthy global marketplace for nanotechnology, including international efforts on governance, environmental health and safety, and standards in the annually updated working group plan called for earlier in this chapter.
U.S. Regional, State, and Local Stakeholder Initiatives
Since the launch of the NNI, many states have begun programs aimed at supporting emerging nanotechnology university programs and businesses with the goal of leveraging federal investments and staking a leadership position as the field grows economically. According to the 2009 NNI workshop report Regional, State, and Local Initiatives in Nanotechnology, there are 34 regional initiatives supporting thousands of organizations performing nanotechnology research. One example is in New York, where the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany, State University of New York, has been built with $14 billion in public and private funding, including a substantial amount from the state. Other states have also funded efforts aimed at attracting and promoting the fledgling nanotechnology industry.
The NNI has taken steps to reach out to regional, state, and local nanotechnology efforts through a series of workshops, the most recent in May 2012 in Portland,
36 M.C. Roco, C.A. Mirkin, and M.C. Hersam, Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal Needs in 2020—Retrospective and Outlook, 1st Edition, Springer, 2011.
Oregon. These workshops provide a forum at which leaders of regional, state, and local efforts can gather to
• Exchange information and stimulate collaboration between the workshop participants.
• Explore mechanisms for linking the NNI and regional, state, and local initiatives.
• Explore the roles of federal, regional, state, and local entities in nanotechnology transfer, education and training, and economic development.
• Identify common goals and objectives among the initiatives.
• Identify paths to enhance the effectiveness of the initiatives through collaboration, information exchange, and resource-sharing.
The workshop reports and other resources aimed at assisting regional, state, and local nanotechnology-related efforts can be found on the NNI website at nano.gov/initiatives/commercial/state-local.
In addition, following a recommendation by PCAST in its 2012 review of the NNI, the NNCO created a staff position dedicated to engagement with industry and states. Having a single contact for all activities related to those communities should improve the NNI’s ability to provide them support.
The NNCO plays a critical role in the functioning of the NNI—facilitating information sharing internally and externally and providing administrative and technical support. The NNCO brings considerable value in coordinating the NSET Subcommittee, its working groups, and the signature initiatives. The NNCO also provides essential support and maintenance of the NNI website, which is the government’s portal to information about nanotechnology and about activities and services throughout the government.
Finding: In light of the findings noted in this report—particularly the need for coordinating signature initiatives, providing centralized cross-initiative information access, and collecting and aggregating data to support metrics— the responsibilities of the NNCO will probably expand and require additional resources.
Recommendation 5-9: The NSET Subcommittee should ensure adequate support for the NNCO to execute its current and future assigned responsibilities.