The statement of task for this review asked that the committee assess the current state of nanoscience and nanotechnology resulting from the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) as authorized in 2003, including the current impact of nanotechnology on U.S. economic prosperity and national security. Based on this assessment, the committee was asked to consider the foundational question of if and how the NNI should continue. The committee has therefore devoted considerable discussion to this. The key questions are both (1) absolute—did the United States derive sufﬁcient beneﬁt from the investments of the NNI?—and (2) relative—have the investments and strategies for supporting nanotechnology advancement in other countries been more beneﬁcial than in the United States? The committee is uniﬁed in a positive assessment of the value of the NNI to the U.S. economy, but concerned that the recent, technically focused approaches of other nations may be yielding better societal outcomes. The committee therefore considered whether the U.S. nanotechnology effort could be organized in more effective ways to accelerate the transition of nanotechnology discoveries to the higher technology readiness levels that bring societal beneﬁts.
The committee notes that large-team science and engineering is unambiguously a critical component of the engine driving all advanced economies, and that individual and small-scale efforts are unlikely to deliver globally competitive outcomes. Accordingly, were coordination of the NNI to be dismantled, the committee anticipates that the U.S. ability to bring the breadth and depth of the nation’s research enterprise together to focus on crossdisciplinary nanotechnology challenges would be greatly attenuated, putting the national competitiveness at
even greater risk. Thus, the committee has arrived at the view that the NNI should be continued, but with signiﬁcant modiﬁcation to the coordination of its priorities and its methods and modes of operation to ensure that the United States is able to maintain a leadership position against a global backdrop of increasingly robust competition, as described elsewhere in this report. Rebranding is also recommended, to signal the shift in efforts and reafﬁrmation of the initiative. The speciﬁc recommendations for these proposed changes are described in detail in the rest of this chapter.
The NNI was established in 2000 and authorized in December 2003 with the goal of coordinating nanotechnology-related activities of federal departments and agencies. This coordination task has been accomplished with considerable effectiveness, despite its relatively small annual budget of ~$3 million for the actual work of coordination provided by Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET, in setting direction) and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Ofﬁce (NNCO, in supporting the implementation). The Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives (NSIs)1 were formulated to give strategic structure to this effort, and clearly address worthy topics of national concern.
However, in the years since the NNI was launched, the national priorities for science and technology have shifted in response to external factors (e.g., national security following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001), and in recognition of growing challenges (e.g., the effects of climate change) and new opportunities (e.g., the promise of quantum computing). The committee has formed the view that the NNI overall and the NSIs in particular have not stayed sufﬁciently closely aligned with the stated national priorities provided by successive administrations. This guidance impacts nanoscience and nanotechnology in numerous ways. For example, the FY 2020 Administration R&D Budget Priorities calls for improvements to the security of the nation through investments in artiﬁcial intelligence (AI), autonomous systems, hypersonics, and nuclear deterrent capabilities, and requires advancing our microelectronics, strategic computing, and cyber capabilities. It calls for leadership in quantum information science (QIS) and in advanced communications networks (e.g., 5G wireless networks). The guidance provided in the FY 2020 Administration R&D Budget Priorities stresses the importance of next-generation manufacturing, especially smart and digital manufacturing, advanced materials processing, bio-based manufacturing and new design tools, materials, devices interconnects, and architectures for semiconductors. The docu-
ment also directs investments to ensure U.S. leadership in space, to harness U.S. energy resources, to prioritize basic medical research and personalized medicine, and to advance precision agriculture technologies. Absent explicit alignment with the federal administration’s priorities, the NNI risks decreased support among the representative agencies and decreased relevance within the national science and technology agenda.2 While a mapping of the NNI research and development (R&D) portfolio and research investments onto these national research priorities would enable an annual realignment of the NNI program with the evolving strategic priorities of the nation, the committee struggled to discover any evidence that this is regularly (i.e., annually) undertaken by the NNI. It was unclear to the panel that any process exists to review the success (or otherwise) of the NNI’s research (re-)alignment strategy. These observations point again to the challenges of actively managing the research portfolio of a large program executed by numerous independent agencies via the current “weak” coordination approach.
Clarifying Key Contributions and Relationships: NNI and NQI
In strong alignment with the current administration’s research and development (R&D) priority on “Quantum Information Sciences, and Strategic Computing,”3 the White House has recently established the National Quantum Initiative (NQI). The NQI is envisaged as a whole-of-government approach, and is structured similarly to the NNI, with a coordinating ofﬁce to align the efforts of the relevant agencies.
This committee feels that it is vitally important to note that the emergence of the NQI is a testament to the success of the NNI. A great many of the recent advances in physics and chemistry that have propelled the ﬁeld of quantum computing forward, to the point of being considered as a viable applied technology that will serve the national interest, have emerged from work undertaken within
2 See, for example, Ofﬁce of Management and Budget and Ofﬁce of Science and Technology Policy, 2018, FY 2020 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, M-18-22, July 31, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/M-18-22.pdf.
3 See NQI bill, H.R.6227-National Quantum Initiative Act, https://www.congress.gov/bill/115thcongress/house-bill/6227/text, and related press coverage, for example, from the American Institute of Physics, “National Quantum Initiative Signed into Law,” https://www.aip.org/fyi/2019/national-quantum-initiative-signed-law.
the NNI. That is, the NQI may reasonably be viewed as an offshoot of the NNI that partners advances in nanoscience and nanoscale device fabrication with new computational theories and algorithms.
Moving forward, it is clear that there will be some overlap between the work carried out under the NNI and the NQI, even though the NNI is substantially broader in scope. Fundamental advances in the physical sciences at the nanoscale will continue to propel quantum computing infrastructure designs. Accordingly, the committee is of the view that the nation will beneﬁt by having the working relationship between the NNI and the NQI clearly deﬁned and articulated.
The NQI and the NNI overlap in several areas such as the synthesis of new materials, chemical processes, modeling and simulation, characterization tools, and nanofabrication to enable qubits and quantum devices. In some ways, QIS is driving and will be driving innovation in several areas including nanotechnology. At the same time, nanotechnology is and will continue to provide novel tools, techniques, materials, and processes that enable QIS. Similarly, some funding initiatives naturally overlap between NNI and NQI projects. For example, the Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), support NQI and NNI projects. Both initiatives and their corresponding coordinating ofﬁces need to ﬁnd ways to leverage efforts in the areas where there is overlap. This could possibly be achieved by creating incentives on projects or programs that make use of resources from both initiatives or by a working group with a speciﬁc and well-detailed agenda or by a person with a dual appointment at both coordinating ofﬁces.
A concern of the committee is that with the introduction of the NQI, with its overlap in R&D scope with the NNI, there will possibly be a reduction in the funding available to support the work of the NNI, since agencies will perhaps seek to minimize the R&D “tax” assessments applied to agency programs and used to support the coordination efforts of the two entities.
Emerging Opportunities: Innovations in the Bioeconomy
As discussed, countries outside the United States have shifted their focus toward responsible innovation. This direction represents an opportunity for the NNI to better align with U.S. R&D priorities, including efforts to advance the development and commercialization of bio-based and renewable materials as well as more sustainable methods of manufacturing. The U.S. bioeconomy may be deﬁned as:
Economic activity that is driven by research and innovation in the life sciences and biotechnology, and that is enabled by technological advances in engineering and in computing and information sciences.4
Focusing nanoscience and nanotechnology to advance the U.S. bioeconomy has signiﬁcant potential to enhance U.S. global leadership and competitiveness in this rapidly growing area. There is a signiﬁcant overlap between the goals of the Bioeconomy Initiative (also established in the year 2000, with the aim “to maximize interagency coordination to yield greater impact from federal investments and accelerate innovation”5) and the NNI, particularly in the area of bioproducts, and the derivation of materials from synthetic biology. Key takeaways from an October 2019 Ofﬁce of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Summit on the Bioeconomy include the following: building the bioeconomy workforce of the future; promoting and safeguarding critical bioeconomy infrastructure and data; and, critically, leveraging the entire U.S. innovation ecosystem, as well as identifying regulatory opportunities and challenges. “Advances realized over the past two decades have resulted from the unique U.S. innovation ecosystem and the convergence between biology and other disciplines and sectors, such as nanotechnology and computer science.”6 Examples of this convergence include organ-on-a-chip and three-dimensional (3D) printing of tissues.
The coordinating efforts of the NNCO represent existing infrastructure well suited to advance initiatives proposed in the U.S. Bioeconomy Initiative, and truly accomplish a highly efﬁcient leveraging, similar to the proposed integration with the Quantum Initiative.
The convergence of the bioeconomy and nanotechnology can create novel and advanced biomaterials more efﬁciently, sustainably, and with less negative societal impact by tailoring production to performance requirements. Further, biomaterials are made of nanoscale components, which can beneﬁt from the use of advanced manufacturing tools to efﬁciently produce products from them.
In 2016, the United States used about 365 million dry tons of biomass, about one-third of estimated capacity. A “review committee formed the view that this rich and renewable domestic resource could be greater utilized to improve the economic, environmental, and societal wellbeing, and the security of the United
5 See Biomass Research and Development, “The Bioeconomy Initiative: Implementation Framework,” https://biomassboard.gov/pdfs/Bioeconomy_Initiative_Implementation_Framework_FINAL.pdf, accessed 04/16/2020.
6 OSTP, 2019, “Summary of the 2019 White House Summit on America’s Bioeconomy,” https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Summary-of-White-House-Summit-onAmericas-Bioeconomy-October-2019.pdf.
States by exploring and adopting the tools of nanoscience and nanotechnology with biomaterials to improve efﬁciency and performance.”7 Two key examples of the ability to leverage nanotechnology and the bioeconomy are cellulose nanomaterials, derived from biomass, and synthetic biology.
The highly invested and rapidly growing sectors of the bioeconomy, including the Bioeconomy Initiative, the use of biotechnology to manufacture conventional consumer and industrial products, and innovation in the development of plant-derived biologically based products, creates an opportunity for adoption and integration nanomanufacturing and other tools of nanoscience and nanotechnology to increase the efﬁciency and economic impact of advanced manufacturing in the United States.8 The collaborative models of public-private partnerships, developed with support from the NNI by several agencies as part of signature initiatives and related manufacturing centers, may provide helpful models for navigating the challenges of protecting intellectual property in the biotechnology industry.
A Priority Practice: Transferring Technology from Laboratory to Marketplace
The committee’s assessment of nanoscale science and engineering efforts among other nations found that considerable new investments have been made in innovative programs that seek to accelerate the lab-to-market timeline for nanotechnologies in the period since the last NNI review. Prominent examples of such large-scale projects include the Tsukuba Innovation Arena (TIA) in Japan,9 an open innovation hub that fosters collaboration on innovations among ﬁve large agencies, and the multiple Open Innovation Test Beds and Industry Commons model developed by the European Union (EU).10 Further, other nations have taken struc-
7 M.H. Langholtz, B.J. Stokes, and L.M. Eaton (Leads), 2016, 2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy, Volume 1: Economic Availability of Feedstocks, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., https://www.energy.gov/eere/bioenergy/2016-billion-ton-report.
8 See Federal Register, “Request for Information on the Bioeconomy,” https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/09/10/2019-19470/request-for-information-on-the-bioeconomy.
10 See European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/wp/2018-2020/main/h2020-wp1820-leit-nmp_en.pdf, accessed 11/04/2019.
tured approaches to opening up international markets to their new and emerging nanotechnology products, by investing in targeted trade delegations and other commercial supports. As just one example, NanoCanada was launched in 2015 to provide support and coordination activities for accelerating the market launch of nanotechnology products created by small and medium-size enterprises, to the beneﬁt of the economy and peoples of Canada.11
Europe has made a strategic investment in graphene, including an (€1 billion ~ $1.1 billion) integrated R&D project, the Graphene Flagship, a partnership of universities, research centers, and companies focused on strategic applications and commercialization. The Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre in Manchester in the United Kingdom is a research and innovation center for both academia and industry, with shared infrastructure and resources geared toward commercialization. These resources are aimed at rapid commercialization. China has also invested heavily in graphene. The Chinese government has prioritized graphene in the Development Plan for New Materials during the 13th Five-Year Plan Period (2016-2020), which has led to more than 30,000 patents in 2018. Small and large companies producing graphene are emerging in China, reported to account for up to 20 percent of global R&D spending.12,13
Improved strategic focus of U.S. investment in nanotechnologies toward accelerating market adoption, particularly in areas of current national R&D priority, is critical for global leadership.
While the funded R&D efforts of the NNI have generated new knowledge and innovative technologies in many economic sectors, the return on NNI investment in terms of commercial adoption has not reached its potential. According to Columbia Technology Ventures, roughly 5 percent of inventions by Columbia are now licensed, despite the highly successful lab-to-market resources developed and
11 See NanoCanada, “202 NanoCanada Mission to Tokyo and Seoul,” https://nanocanada.com/2019/09/12/2020-nanocanada-mission-to-tokyo-and-seoul/, accessed 04/16/2020.
12 See Cision PR Newswire, “Global and China Graphene Industry Report, 2019-2025,” https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-and-china-graphene-industry-report-2019-2025-300897416.html, accessed 04/16/2020.
13 “China Is the World’s New Science and Technology Powerhouse,” Bruegel Report, 2017, https://bruegel.org/2017/08/china-is-the-worlds-new-science-and-technology-powerhouse/.
used there.14 Many factors contribute to the slow pace of commercialization, including challenges of scale-up, market pull, and the complexity of new technology innovation. After 15 years of investment, nanotechnology is now a more mature ﬁeld, where increased emphasis on later stages of commercialization is needed.
NNI has organized several events toward commercialization. These efforts bring key stakeholders together; however, the “valley of death” remains a critical hurdle in commercialization.15
The NNI has played a rather small role in important lab-to-market translational activities. Successful models have built integrated university research, technology transfer, talent pools, start-up resources, and large company partnerships to foster multisector efforts toward commercialization. The coordination efforts of the NNI touch each of these aspects of successful commercialization, but they were not focused in this direction previously.16 Many voices weighed in during the open session of the NNI Stakeholder Workshop in August 2019. For example, one attendee noted, “There is a lot of research going on and I think that is something that is not only important to the security of the United States, but also to create jobs and have a new technology for consumers.” Another mentioned, “I don’t mean that we stop the research, but I think we now, after close to 20 years, we want to take a step forward and commercialize a lot of the stuff that has already been done.”
Recommendation and Implementations
These six ﬁndings lead to the following key recommendation and implementations.
14 O. Herskowitz, Columbia Technology Ventures, presentation to the committee, September 2019.
16 C. Mirkin, presentation to the committee, September 2019.
The NNI, as implemented via NSET and the NNCO starting in 2003, enabled the United States to establish early leadership in the development of knowledge and facilities in many of the facets of nanoscience and nanotechnology. The 2016 NNI review examined the global revenues from the nano-enabled technologies market at that time, and provided forward-looking projections, based on external market analyses.17 At that time, it was estimated that the EU and Asia regions had both surpassed the United States in the fraction of market share in 2012 and that they both accelerated strongly past the United States in the years following. The market in 2018 was projected to be on the order of $3.4 trillion, with the prediction that the U.S. share would decrease from ~25 percent in 2016 to ~23 percent as the efforts to support commercialization activities in the EU and Asia are further ramped up.
17 See Figure 1.2, Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, 2016, https://www.nap.edu/catalog/23603/triennial-review-of-the-national-nanotechnology-initiative.
The committee notes that as Europe and Asia followed the lead of the United States in formulating and implementing their own nano-initiatives, their investments in R&D, perhaps naturally, occurred further along the nanoscience-to-technology continuum. That is, it is plausible that the timing of investments in countries outside the United States has allowed other countries to beneﬁt from foundational knowledge developed earlier in the United States, and to focus their investment in areas ripe for commercialization. In some cases, this has permitted other countries to establish facilities and innovative mechanisms for commercialization that exceed those that exist in the United States. A particular focus abroad is directed toward the development of multifaceted innovation ecosystems that aim to increase success in navigating the “valley of death” by integration of resources that go beyond those found in NNI legacy infrastructure and facilities in the United States. Examples include Japan’s Tsukuba Innovation Arena (TIA), the EU’s Open Innovation Platforms, and China’s Nanopolis, all described in Chapter 3.
The Role of Regional, State, and Local Entities in Commercialization of Nanotechnology
In 2012, the NNI hosted a workshop that engaged regional, state, and local representatives in a dialogue regarding commercial opportunities related to nanoscience and technology. Although the NNCO has participated in annual TechConnect conferences since 2012, there has been no subsequent workshop by the NNCO to speciﬁcally update regional, state, and local (RSL) representatives on the status of commercialization efforts or on potential partnerships and resources created by NNI for commercialization. In contrast, in other parts of the world, RSL initiatives are playing a key role in commercialization efforts, particularly in China. Although many RSLs had nano-speciﬁc commercialization efforts in 2012, the efforts in the United States have become diffuse, and have largely been integrated into broader initiatives (e.g., high-tech development ofﬁces). The maturation of nanoscience into commercial-ready nanotechnology since 2012, however, makes reengagement of RSLs by the NNCO particularly timely.
Nanotechnology Innovation Ecosystems
After a decade of signiﬁcant funding in nanoscience and nanotechnology, many countries moved from a nanoscience project-funding mode to the creation of a sustainable ecosystem comprised of academic institutions, small and large commercial enterprises, and government agencies, with the goal of creating long-term socioeconomic beneﬁts through translation of knowledge into proof of concepts, prototypes, and products. The EU uses its research funding program to provide access to state-of-the-art fabrication and characterization facilities and for the development of low-volume fabrication capabilities, through the Open Innovation Platforms. Another particularly interesting endeavor was the creation of NanoNextNL in 2010, a public-private partnership that matched €125 million (~$138 million USD) from the Dutch government over 6 years, which delivered a 4:1 return on investment (ROI).18 Some of the innovative aspects of the program were the integration of risk analysis and technology assessment in research programs, business case development tools, intellectual property training, and entrepreneurship for trainees. Another interesting example is the Nanotechnology Business Creation Initiative (NBCI) in Japan, an industry-driven organization supported by its membership (e.g., multinationals, small and medium-size enterprises, trading companies, venture capital and consulting ﬁrms, and universities). NBCI works across the Japanese nanotechnology ecosystem to support business matching activities—linking of public or private research with industry needs, development of public policies around the use of nanotechnology, promotion of open-innovation platforms, development of technology roadmaps and standards, and exchange of knowledge and best practices both nationally and internationally. Similarly, NanoMalaysia Berhad’s model explicitly addresses the needs of industry, academia, and research institutions in support of nanotechnology commercialization.
The United States has long relied largely on market-inspired commercialization activity in most business sectors, strongly preferring that to government-supported commercialization activity. For the NNCO to pivot to a more intentional, coordinated, and centralized approach to accelerating nanotechnology commercialization will require signiﬁcant changes in how the NNI-involved agencies operate and how they work together. Funding will need to be carved out of budgets for robust multiyear commitments to a shared vision with a whole-of-government approach. A willingness to engage in public-private partnerships will need to be cultivated in a multiagency framework, and ﬂexible legal and IP structures will need to be developed to allow these partnerships to be attractive and fruitful. Separate legal entities, outside the NNI-involved agencies, may be needed to allow for nimble
18 See NanoNextNL, “End Term Report 2010-2016,” https://www.nanonextnl.nl/wp-content/uploads/NNXT_EndTermReport_WEB_spreads.pdf, accessed 04/16/2020.
execution of business objectives on the path to commercialization. The committee fully recognizes that such efforts will be challenging for the involved agencies and the NNCO to address, even while recognizing the value of the deep agency knowledge that the NNCO brings to the problem of commercialization.
The committee was concerned that the current organizational structure of the NNI, directed by NSET with support from the NNCO, strongly serving interagency cooperation but less so public-private interactions with industry, may inhibit it from supporting industry in the goals of technology transfer, thus limiting the societal beneﬁts of federal investments. A separate 501(c)(3) not-for-proﬁt organization or industry consortium may be needed to speciﬁcation support commercialization.
The committee struggled to develop a comprehensive understanding of national and global commercialization opportunities. A concern that was discussed by the committee at length is that data to guide potential U.S. and global industry partners on nanotechnology commercialization opportunities is not aggregated and shared by the NNI. It is startling to note that the Iran-based website StatNano provides a wide array of useful global data for industry use that in many cases is more comprehensive than that on the NNI’s websites. This struck the committee as being particularly concerning given that speciﬁc recommendations were made in the review of 2013 (Recommendations S.2, S.3, S.4, S.8, in particular) to address this shortfall.19
19Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, 2013, https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18271/triennial-review-of-the-national-nanotechnology-initiative.
Return on NNI Investment
Identifying the need and opportunity to signiﬁcantly strengthen technology transfer, the U.S. federal government recently has launched the U.S. Return on Investment Initiative, which aims to increase the lab-to-market return on the government’s investment in R&D.20 This includes the following priorities: (1) optimizing the management, discoverability, and ease-of-license of the 100,000+ federally funded patents; (2) increasing the utilization of federally funded research facilities by entrepreneurs and innovators; (3) ensuring that relevant federal institutions and employees are appropriately incentivized to prioritize R&D commercialization; (4) identifying steps to develop human capital with experience in technology transfer, including by expanding opportunities for entrepreneurship education; and (5) maximizing the economic impact of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Although not speciﬁcally aimed solely at nanotechnology, the ROI Initiative is well positioned as leverage for future NNI enhancements in the development of more successful nanotechnology innovation, entrepreneurship, and commercialization.
Role of the NNCO in Quantifying Outcomes of NNI Funding
Although the NNCO has engaged in efforts to facilitate commercialization of nanoscience in the United States through Global Tech Connect, for example, evaluation of the impact/value of those efforts, and other efforts invested by stakeholders in the NNI, are nearly impossible to quantify without data about the outcomes. Prioritization of investments, and informed decision making related to initiatives that do not yield a signiﬁcant return, is not possible. Similarly, evaluation of the competitive status of the United States in the context of commercialization of nanotechnology is not possible without relevant data.21,22 This committee was unable to obtain data via the NNCO regarding the outcome of initiatives related to commercialization, which is problematic for nanotechnology generally, and speciﬁcally
22 If the NNCO were to (1) hire a data scientist or information scientist who can provide accurate assessments of competitiveness across all sectors and (2) maintain up-to-date information online in order, it would likely maintain its status as the go-to authority in the United States.
Pilot Plants and Test-Bed Facilities
A number of countries have invested in the creation of pilot plants, or small-scale manufacturing plants, as a means of de-risking the commercialization of emerging technologies. For example, the EU supports low-volume manufacturing and prototyping capabilities through its Open Innovation Platforms Horizon 2020 and Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC) in Belgium, while Canada has semiconductor foundries such as the Canadian Photonics Fabrication Center24 in Ottawa and the C2MI25 in Bromont, Quebec, as well as the National Design Network26 linking 10,000 academic users and 1,000 companies in micro-nanotechnologies. Many of these facilities are very open to having U.S.-based companies utilize their pilot-scale fabrication activities facilities (for fees), and U.S.-based companies have reported considerable satisfaction with using these facilities.
Entrepreneurship Awareness in Workforce Training
Training in best practices in nanotechnology development can be improved in many universities to raise the level of quality in precommercial ideas and prototypes. Although some universities have programs that provide effective tech transfer and training opportunities to students, there is no Accreditation Board for Engineering
24 See National Research Council Canada, “Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre,” https://nrc.canada.ca/en/research-development/nrc-facilities/canadian-photonics-fabrication-centre, accessed 04/16/2020.
26 See Canada’s National Design Network (CNDN), https://navigator.innovation.ca/en/facility/queens-university/canadas-national-design-network-cndn, accessed 04/16/2020.
and Technology (ABET)—like assessment and standards27 to help achieve uniformly high-quality training in entrepreneurship and technology transfer for engineering and science majors across the United States. On the technical side, an entrepreneurial student should be aware of intellectual property management, technology integration and scale-up, packaging and manufacturing costs, product safety, and life cycle assessments. In addition, typical entrepreneurship courses should include foundations in entrepreneurial management, market intelligence and customer demand, business model design, marketing and sales, building and managing a team, and ﬁnding and managing ﬁnancing. Not every student will pursue a career involving tech transfer or R&D, but foundational training leading to an awareness of the key challenges and approaches underlying technology development is likely beneﬁcial for all or most.
Recommendation and Implementations
These eight ﬁndings led the committee to propose a key recommendation and identify several approaches for its implementation.
State-of-the-Art Facilities and Their Challenges
Maintaining and constantly updating a state-of-the-art infrastructure is critical to support a world leadership position in science and technology. This has been recognized in the FY 2020 Administration R&D Budget Priorities,28 where Managing and Modernizing R&D Infrastructure is considered an R&D priority practice. Access to state-of-the-art experimental apparatus and fabrication capabilities is an important enabler of advanced nanomaterials, devices, and systems research. In addition, centers that foster collaboration and interdisciplinary interactions help to promote innovative R&D. This has been a continued and critical emphasis of the NNI, as is highlighted in Program Component Area (PCA) 4 of the NNI Strategic Plan. This emphasis on developing and maintaining physical and cyber-physical infrastructure has led to its current networks of world-class user facilities: ﬁve DOE NSRCs,29 the National Science Foundation (NSF) National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI),30 the NSF Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN),31 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory (NCL),32 and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST).33
These nanotechnology networks were often seen as a model by other countries. Today, several nations follow the U.S. model and are making substantial investments in nanotechnology infrastructure supporting a wide spectrum of nanotechnology efforts from basic science, to ﬁrst demonstration, to ﬁrst products for commercialization. Examples include the Nanotechnology Platform in Japan,34 ForLab in Germany,35 Nano-X Research Facility in China,36 IMEC in Belgium,37
28 Ofﬁce of Management and Budget and Ofﬁce of Science and Technology Policy, 2018, FY2020 Administration Research and Development Budget Priorities, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, M-18-22, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/M-18-22.pdf.
35 Germany Forschungslabore Mikroelektronik Deutschland (ForLab), https://www.elektronikforschung.de/service/aktuelles/forschungslabore-mikroelektronik-deutschland-gestartet), accessed 04/16/2020.
While the United States has been a leader in establishing the infrastructure to support nanotechnology research for the past two decades, the rest of the world has followed this example and several countries have invested heavily in research facilities and regional centers of expertise. In terms of current research interests such as quantum devices, China is outspending the United States signiﬁcantly. For example, China has invested $11 billion to build a single facility in Hefei, while the United States has allocated $1.2 billion over 5 years as part of the NQI. Continued leadership of the United States in nanotechnology is not a forgone conclusion. In particular, research equipment becomes obsolete in a matter of years and new capabilities emerge that need to be made available. Therefore, continual renewal and updating of equipment and research capabilities is necessary.
Planning for facilities’ refresh cycles in the NNI core infrastructure sites should accommodate this reality in order to sustain U.S. competitiveness. This concern was already stated in the 2016 Triennial Review of the NNI.41 While the 2020 NNI Proposed Budget42 notes that NSF is planning a 5-year renewal of NNCI and lists all the major infrastructure funded through the government agencies, when measured as a fraction of the gross domestic budget, funds for facilities (infrastructure) have been trending downward since the mid-1970s (see Figure 4.1), although in terms of actual dollars, they have remained ﬂat since 2015 (see Table 4.1). The NSF recently introduced its Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure program43 (with ﬁrst awards announced recently) in addition to its Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program and Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) projects; however, it is not clear how many of these will inﬂuence nanotechnology infrastructure.
41 National Research Council, 2016, Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
42 See National Science and Technology Council, The National Nanotechnology Initiative Supplement to the President’s 2020 Budget, https://www.nano.gov/sites/default/ﬁles/pub_resource/NNI-FY20-Budget-Supplement-Final.pdf, accessed 04/16/2020.
43 See details at the NSF website, https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505602, accessed 04/16/2019.
Aging of the Nanoscience and Technology Infrastructure
The experimental tools needed to make, characterize, and optimize nanomaterials and devices are complex. Processing tools such as atomic layer depositions that enable the atomic layer-by-atomic layer synthesis and growth of thin ﬁlms on topology structure surfaces and direct-write electron beam systems for sub-10 nm lithography are often too expensive for single investigator use and are increasingly being located in shared nano-foundry research facilities. Electron microscopes with sub-atom resolution, new atomic force and tunneling microscopes, and the surface analytical tools are essential to the characterization of the materials made in these nano-foundries. Increasingly, major national laboratories with synchrotrons that include high-intensity beam lines are vital for nanoscience discovery and development. However, the maintenance and eventual replacement by new tools with superior
TABLE 4.1 Research Infrastructure and Instrumentation Budget by Agency from 2015 to 2020
|PCA#4 Research Infrastructure and Instrumentation Budget by Agency (Million USD)|
SOURCE: Data sourced from “PCA#4 Research Infrastructure and Instrumentation Budget by Agency (Million USD),” The National Nanotechnology Initiative Supplement to the President’s Budget (2017-2020).
capabilities is a continual challenge. This leading-edge scientiﬁc instrumentation typically becomes obsolete or outdated on scales of 5-7 years. Failure to invest in modernizing R&D infrastructure will threaten U.S. workforce development, competitiveness, and long-term security. At the same time, the recapitalization challenge opens an opportunity for the United States to take a new scientiﬁc and technological lead by a timely and strategic renewal of its aging infrastructure.
The Best Infrastructure Attracts the Best Talent
The NNI physical and cyber-physical infrastructure has been a key enabler for nanotechnology R&D over the past two decades. As is highlighted in Chapter 2, the NNCI facilities and tools were accessed by more than 13,000 users in 2018, including nearly 3,400 external users, representing more than 200 academic institutions in the United States and more than 900 small and large companies.44 More than 5,000 users, many of them Ph.D. students, are trained by the NNCI network per year.45
Moreover, the availability of ﬁrst-class research capabilities is considered a key component in recruiting the best talent. There is a perceived risk that talent is moving off-shore because of better infrastructure46 or better incentives or both. The industrial research landscape has changed from the days when places like Bell Labs provided a signiﬁcant pull for talent in physical sciences and for what later became nanotechnology. Today, the complexity and cost of such leading-edge sites may be found in shared public-private centers or consortia. Some examples in the United States might be the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) or the newly formed Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C), which provide an industry pull for academic research; however, they do not include the infrastructure. Notably, European examples like IMEC and Laboratoire d’électronique et de technologie de l’information (LETI) also provide state-of-the-art facilities where ideas can be tested in a single location. The NNI agencies should consider potential models in which the networks of nanotechnology centers could be made available and participate in the consortia where government participation already occurs. Reciprocity models across facilities should also be considered.
45 Task Force on American Innovation, 2019, “Benchmarks 2019: Second Place America? Increasing Challenges to U.S. Scientiﬁc Leadership,” http://www.innovationtaskforce.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Benchmarks-2019-SPA-Final4.pdf.
46 C. Mirkin, Northwestern University, presentation to the committee.
Infrastructure to Scale Up Nanotechnology-Enabled Future Products
With two decades of NNI supported and coordinated research, there is considerable new scientiﬁc understanding and technological capabilities that are being commercialized and utilized in new applications. The NNI physical infrastructure has been a critical resource to many start-ups and small and medium-size companies to access the staff expertise within the facilities and develop new technologies.47,48 Thus, the NNI infrastructure and its advanced capabilities play an essential role in translational research and the technology transfer ecosystem. Likewise, China and European countries have recognized this important role in the technology transfer ecosystem and have established dedicated organizations and institutes to work with companies on the development of new products. It would be valuable for U.S. institutions to evaluate which aspects of these off-shore efforts could be adapted and integrated within the U.S. nano-related research infrastructure. As an example, in the speciﬁc area of nanoelectronics, the NNI infrastructure has been critical to support innovation and ﬁrst demonstrations of numerous new nanotechnologies. The relevance of nanoelectronics has motivated the signature initiative nanoelectronics for 2020 and beyond.49 However, when it comes to tech transfer and commercialization, the costs and infrastructure needed to scale up new ideas to the next stage can be prohibitively expensive.
Off-shore micro/nanotechnology centers, such as the Micro and Nanotechnology Innovation Campus (MINATEC) and IMEC, attract not only major global corporations to utilize their facilities but also small and medium-size enterprises from the United States. In Japan, the TIA and China’s Nanopolis are also successfully creating environments where researchers from industry, academia, and government are collocated with state-of-the-art facilities, IP specialists, and venture capital with the objective of accelerating the commercialization of nanotechnology and reaping a greater share of the economic rewards of global R&D investments. These entities promote their IP arrangements as being ﬂexible enough to attract international
47 National Science and Technology Council, National Nanotechnology Initiative: Strategic Plan, 2016.
companies.50,51,52 This is a model that helps emerging technologies, especially resource-intensive applications or those requiring state-of-the-art semiconductor fabrication services. These large research and technology organizations that provide critical infrastructure for nanoelectronics participate on the nanotechnology initiatives in their respective countries. U.S. efforts to collocate companies with state-of-the-art nanofacilities and government/academic researchers and venture capital are lagging those of Europe, Japan, and China.
In addition to the physical infrastructure, it is also important to have up-to-date information to identify the best facilities and other available resources for those innovators that want to bring their ideas to the next level in the commercialization path. Currently, the nano.gov portal points to some available resources on its tech transfer page.53 Nonetheless, a number of these links are incorrect or outdated. Other resources like the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) or Tech-Link, while powerful and well organized, are centered around available inventions by federal laboratories. There are no “inventor-centric” resources. There are notable omissions like Cyclotron Road.54 The resources available to inventors and entrepreneurs listed in nano.gov contrast with those on the European Horizon 2020 test beds and on IMEC’s innovation services and solutions.55 As a coordinating ofﬁce, NNCO may have visibility to innovation hubs or incubation centers that support commercialization of nanotechnology and that are sponsored by the same government agencies that fund NNI. The sponsor agencies could forward a list of web links to these centers or hubs to be posted and updated on nano.gov (“networks and communities” or “commercialization” tabs) along with current opportunities, activities, and events.
50 See IMEC, “FAQ About Intellectual Property Rights (IPR),” https://www.imec-int.com/en/icon/faq/faq-about-intellectual-property-rights-ipr, accessed 04/16/2020.
51 See LETI, “Research Contracts,” http://www.leti-cea.com/cea-tech/leti/english/Pages/IndustrialInnovation/Innovate%20with%20Leti/research-contracts.aspx, accessed 04/16/2020.
52 See AIST, https://unit.aist.go.jp/tia-co/orp/scr/index_en.html, accessed 04/16/2020.
Recommendation and Implementations
The committee is convinced that leadership in nanotechnology will not be possible without state-of-the-art, well-maintained infrastructure and resources for making and characterizing nanomaterials, nanodevices, and related products.
As Chapter 3 described, researchers have witnessed a startling disruption of the global innovation ecosystem with the rapid rise of R&D intensity in China and other developing nations.56 China’s subsidy of capital-intensive industries and developing
56 See Task Force on American Innovation, “Benchmarks 2019: Second Place America? Increasing Challenges to U.S. Scientiﬁc Leadership,” http://www.innovationtaskforce.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Benchmarks-2019-SPA-Final4.pdf, accessed 04/16/2020.
nations’ low labor costs have resulted in nearly all of the high-tech products invented in the United States being manufactured in Asia. They have also focused intensively on the development of a workforce with the necessary skills to continue this disruption into the foreseeable future. China’s increased investment in education is similar to that of its investment in high-tech sectors. Although science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) investment and enrollment in K-12 increased in the United States during the past decade, these are now falling and this is resulting in lower numbers of STEM majors at universities.57 In contrast, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in STEM in China increased 460 percent from 2000 to 2014, while the corresponding change for the United States was 40 percent.
Growing and Attracting the Global Talent Pool
The United States has witnessed striking and substantial decreases in international students for the ﬁrst time in many years.58 International graduate applications and enrollment has declined over the past 2 years in the United States,59 especially in master’s and certiﬁcate programs. Across ﬁelds of study, engineering was down by 16 percent and physical and earth sciences by 9 percent, although the health sciences and math and computer science saw minor increases (5 percent) in application numbers. Data from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) indicates the number of international students at all levels declined by 2.7 percent.60 Also, ICE data show a 2 percent year-to-year decline from March 2018 to March 2019 from the leading sending country, China; a 1.2 percent decline from India, the number 2 sender; and a 7.6 percent decline from the number 3 sending country, South Korea.61 The number of institutions reporting increased delay or denial in visa issuance grew from 33.8 percent in fall 2016 to 68.4 percent in fall 2017.62
57 See National Nanotechnology Initiative, “Educational Resources for K-12 Teachers,” https://www.nano.gov/education-training/teacher-resources, accessed 04/16/2020.
59 International student data by countries of origin (2017-2018, latest available via Open Doors report), IIE, “Places of Origin,” https://www.iie.org/Research-and-Insights/Open-Doors/Data/International-Students/Places-of-Origin, accessed 04/16/2020.
60 H. Okahana and E. Zhou, 2019, International Graduate Applications and Enrollment: Fall 2018, Washington, D.C., Council of Graduate Schools, https://www.cgsnet.org/ckﬁnder/userﬁles/ﬁles/Intl_Survey_Report_Fall2018.pdf.
61 See Department of Homeland Security, “Read the Latest SEVIS by the Numbers Report,” https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/2020/01/read-the-latest-sevis-by-the-numbers-report, accessed 04/16/2020.
62 See Task Force on American Innovation, “Benchmarks 2019: Second Place America? Increasing Challenges to U.S. Scientiﬁc Leadership,” http://www.innovationtaskforce.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Benchmarks-2019-SPA-Final4.pdf, accessed 04/16/2020.
Recruitment and Training
The presence of talent development programs elsewhere as well as substantially increased investment in R&D is leading to a reverse brain drain, with scientists and engineers trained in the United States returning to their home countries (particularly China and South Korea). This applies to both recent graduates and long-time residents of the United States. The best U.S. universities have trained top-level faculty for Chinese universities, and these nationals are now returning to China in a reverse brain drain.63 Moreover, even U.S. scientists are being recruited to institutions in Singapore, Korea, and Switzerland, given the abundant research resources.
Undergraduate Research and Training
As described in Chapter 2, there are opportunities to increase innovation and entrepreneurial activities at the undergraduate level that could increase the scope of STEM training. NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Centers have provided important training for undergraduates and produced a cohort that can address current key issues with tools of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Unfortunately, since the NSF REU programs were afﬁliated with the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers (NSECs), when these were sunset, the REU programs were also. However, REUs through the NNCI persist.
63 Statement of E.W. Priestap, Assistant Director, Counterintelligence Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, “Hearing Concerning China’s Non-Traditional Espionage Against the United States: The Threat and Potential Policy Responses,” presented December 5, 2018, https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/12-1218%20Priestap%20Testimony.pdf.
Along with international recruitment, STEM workforce growth, appeal, and diversity also present opportunities for the United States to cultivate and deploy nanotechnology-related expertise—and to maintain critical expertise across disciplines and sectors.64 Hispanics and blacks are underrepresented in the STEM workforce, and women are underrepresented in speciﬁc occupational clusters, such as engineering and computer science in the United States.
Expanding the Domestic STEM Pipeline
As the international component of the domestic STEM workforce declines, the need for STEM talent is expanding as high-technology manufacturing makes an increasingly vital contribution to the economy and national security of the nation. The review committee is therefore concerned that over time the supply of talent will be insufﬁcient to meet the needs of U.S. high-technology manufacturing industry in general. There is a concern that the research that underpins this will migrate overseas. The issues will need to be addressed in multiple ways but must begin with a concerted effort to show the value of a STEM education to the U.S. population and provide resources to translate the broadened public appeal of nanotechnology into a skilled workforce.
Recommendation and Implementations
The committee’s hypothesis is that an innovation ecosystem is critical to attract top talent worldwide. An effective innovation ecosystem requires (1) an appropriately trained workforce; (2) collaboration between industry, government, and academia; and (3) support for start-up enterprises. The ﬁrst requirement motivates Key Recommendation 4.
64 See Pew Research Center, “Diversity in the STEM Workforce Varies Widely Across Jobs,” https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/01/09/diversity-in-the-stem-workforce-varies-widely-across-jobs/, accessed 04/16/2020.
The previous four key recommendations address areas for the NNI to modify in its future embodiment. An overarching issue is what organization and management structure should exist to support future NNI activity. The committee ﬁnds
signiﬁcant value to coordination of diverse nanotechnology activities via the NSET interagency subcommittee and particularly the NNCO.
NNI Coordination by NNCO
There are areas where the NNCO has been particularly effective. The NNCO has provided a critical role in convening studies and workshops on emerging topics involving nanotechnology. This is an effective use of limited resources and helps to foster interdisciplinary research programs essential to realizing the full value of nanotechnology developments. The NNCO convenes coordinating meetings and provides valuable information to funding agencies in their coordination of new and ongoing programs.
It would be invaluable for the public and the R&D community to have a clearer understanding of the impact of the NNI. There is uncertainty in the research community about what the NNI is, and individual researchers are not necessarily aware whether they are “part of the NNI,” because their funding is often not speciﬁcally labeled as such. While speciﬁc projects or programs may be rolled up into the NNI activity for particular agencies, the researchers involved in this research may not be aware of this. Furthermore, few funding calls and announcements are explicitly listed as nanotechnology efforts, even though nanoscience and technology are important components of topical funding announcements. For example, the devices that will become the components of quantum computing will critically depend on nanoscale devices and fabrication technologies. Thus, more explicit awareness would be valuable for the research community and individual researchers.
The NNCO is the sole funded coordinating organization for this diversely funded activity. Funding for the NNI is distributed across the U.S. funding agencies. The NNCO, while congressionally mandated, does not have an independent funding source and draws its operational budget from the funding agencies in approximate proportion to their reported nanotechnology activity.
Constraints of the NNCO Coordination Role
The NNI does not have a mandate to direct the funding of any agency. Accordingly, the funding for the work of NSET and NNCO may vary with time in an unpredictable way. This creates challenges and limits to the scope of NSET and NNCO activity.
Alternative Coordination Models
The committee has been impressed by the focused and well-funded efforts that other nations have put in place to deliver on the societal beneﬁts that nanotechnology promises. The committee notes in particular that partnerships between government and industry in pursuit of commercialization seem stronger in all the countries/regions that were reviewed in detail. While the model for conducting a large R&D activity such as the NNI may have been appropriate in the early stages of nanoscience and technology, now 20 years after creation of the early vision, this review argues for signiﬁcant shift in NNI emphasis, and it is therefore likely that a more appropriate model would now be appropriate. The review of global nanotechnology programs (Chapter 3) indicates that many models have been used for the planning, coordination, and execution of national programs. Some appear to be highly effective at addressing workforce development and training and com-
mercialization of nanotechnology. However, the U.S. environment is very different from any of those in the nations and national groups reviewed in Chapter 3. The availability of SBIR/STTR funds, legislation that encourages protection of intellectual property created by federally funded work, and a vibrant venture capital community are all advantages that can be exploited in a new model.
A Paucity of Data
A coordinating role that requires expansion is the assimilation of unclassiﬁed and nonconﬁdential data on U.S. and international nanotechnology research and output. This would facilitate high-level assessments by government, corporations, and inventors of ongoing nanotechnology coordination, competitive positions, and strategic funding decisions. There is also a need for effective coordination of workforce training and particularly focused efforts on technology transfer.
Recommendation and Implementations
The committee is convinced of the continued value of the NNI and has considered how the administration and oversight of the NNI should be modiﬁed to adequately respond to the recommendations that are made in this report.
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