Nanotech R&D Increasing At "Extraordinary Rate"
- NHNE News List
Current Members: 676
Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message.
U.S. NANOTECH FUNDING HEADS FOR $1 BILLION HORIZON
By Samuel K. Moore
June 1, 2002
With its request for US $710.2 million in nanotechnology research funding
for the 2003 fiscal year, the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI),
the umbrella program coordinating nanotechnology research for 10 government
agencies, is accelerating its R&D efforts at an extraordinary rate. The
program has grown more than five-fold since its formal inception in 1997,
and in the President's budget, the NNI is requesting a 17 percent increase
over fiscal year 2002.
A further increase may be imminent as well, now that the U.S House of
Representatives has stepped in, proposing a bill on 7 May that would raise
the U.S. National Science Foundation's (NSF's) contribution by almost 8
percent. But the program is still small potatoes in some ways, and Europe
and Japan are in a funding frenzy of their own.
By 2001, more than 30 countries had activities or plans in nanotechnology.
These range from broad general science programs, such as those in the United
States and France, to industry-focused programs like Taiwan's. The United
States' proposed 2003 funding would make up about 30 percent of the
estimated $2.15 billion worldwide government spending on nanotechnology.
According to NSF figures, the country is likely behind Japan by tens of
millions in research funding, but ahead of Western Europe by about $200
million. With respect to Europe and Japan, the United States does not have
the commanding lead in nanotechnology that it holds in biotechnology and
information technology, says Mihail C. Roco, the NSF's senior advisor on
nanotechnology. "In nanotechnology, it's a more balanced field."
Securing the bucks
Despite the big noise nanotechnology makes in the media, it is not a large
part of the federal R&D pie. The proposed FY2003 NNI budget would comprise
only a thin slice0.3 percent of the total. Proponents, of course, want a
bigger cut, but physical sciences, under which most of nanotechnology falls,
has not faired well in recent budgets...
William B. Bonvillian, legislative director and chief counsel to Senator
Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), suggested that those in nanotechnology look to
the grass roots support structure that biomedical science has developed for
itself, one that doubled the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) budget
in the 1990s. "Pharmaceutical and biotech companies watch out for NIH's
underlying funding," he told technologists and bureaucrats at the NNI
conference in May in Arlington, Va. "Nothing like this exists in physical
Bonvillian pressed nanotechnologists to help get Congress involved. The 7
May bill in the House of Representatives may be a good start, putting the
NSF's budget on track to double over the next five years. But nanotechnology
funding will only be sustained if the initiative is turned from a
discretionary program put forth by the executive branch of government to a
semipermanent legislated one, he says. However, he understood there might be
some trepidation about involving the legislative branch. "Congress is not
known for its rational scientific thinking," he acknowledged.
The focus of research has begun to shift from making nanoscale objects to
scaling up their manufacture and using them. The NNI is driving some of this
change by emphasizing manufacturing in its FY200203 funding. The two other
"grand challenges" for those years are the use of nanotechnology in
detection of biological, chemical, and radiological weapons and explosives
(in large part a reaction to last year's terrorist attacks), and the use of
technology for nanoscale instrumentation and metrology.
Some things haven't changed, though. While four more government agencies
have officially joined the NNI this year, the big spenders remain the same.
At a proposed $221 million, the National Science Foundation is the top
funding agency, but it is followed closely by the Department of Defense's
$201 million. Clifford Lau, deputy undersecretary of defense for
acquisitions, technologies and logistics, and an IEEE Fellow, says DOD's
work in nanotechnology began in electronics in the 1980s, and he sees
applications in new lightweight bullet-proof armors and more powerful
The bulk of NNI funding goes to public research organizations -- 75 percent
to universities and 22 percent to national laboratories. The remaining 2
percent is slated for industry. Roco would like to see greater industry
involvement, possibly through programs such as the Small Business Innovative
Research (SBIR) program, which makes grants to small businesses for
Education remains a top priority as well. "The critical aspect will be the
preparation of the workforce," says Roco. He calculates that to get to a
projected $1 trillion market in 1015 years, 2 million people worldwide will
have to be working in nanotechnology.
The importance of a trained workforce was echoed by the heads of major
university-based nanotechnology centers, each of which has an educational
component that extends as early as elementary school. "Probably the most
important contribution of a university to industry is students who know what
they're doing," said Robert Westervelt, principal investigator of the
Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center at Harvard University (Cambridge,
The National Nanotechnology Initiative's Web site is at:
NHNE News List:
To subscribe, send a message to:
To unsubscribe, send a message to:
To review current posts:
Published by NewHeavenNewEarth (NHNE)
NHNE Website: http://www.nhne.com/
Phone: (928) 282-6120
Fax: (815) 346-1492
Appreciate what we are doing?
You can say so with a tax-deductible donation:
P.O. Box 2242
Sedona, AZ 86339