Status of Nanotech Bills in the Lame Duck Session

Congress returned to DC on Monday 11/15/2010 to begin a "lame duck" session . Congress, in particular the Senate, will find their agendas crowed with debate on several bills that need to be voted on before adjourning sine die sometime in December. Therefore, it seemed a good time to review the status of the bills that would affect the nanotech field.

H.R. 554, the "National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2009" was introduced by Rep. Bart Gordon on 01/15/2009 and was passed without amendment by the House on 02/11/2009. After being received in the Senate, H.R. 554 was assigned to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Technology. It hasnot been reported out for debate by the full Senate.

H.R. 554, among various provisions, would have amended the reporting requirements of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, directed the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office to create a publicly accessible database, created the National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel as a distinct entity with a subpanel that would consider the social, ethical, legal, environmental and workplace impact of nanotechnolgy, required the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to designate an associate director of that office as the Coordinator for Societal Dimensions of Nanotechnology with various duties, and would have defined nanotechnology and nanoscale as

   NANOTECHNOLOGY- The term `nanotechnology' means the science and technology that will enable one to understand, measure, manipulate, and manufacture at the nanoscale, aimed at creating materials, devices, and systems with fundamentally new properties or functions.'; and


        (B) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:


      `(7) NANOSCALE- The term `nanoscale' means one or more dimensions of between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers.'.


H.R. 820, the "Nanotechnology Advancement and New Opportunities Act", was introduced by Rep. Michael Honda on 02/03/2009 and was referred to the House Committee on Science and Technology. Parts of the bill were also referred to the House Committees on Energy & Commerce, Ways and Means, and Homeland Security. H.R. 820 has not been reported out by any of these committees.

H.R. 820 would have had several significant impacts:

1) The Secretary of Commerce would have been directed to establish a "Nanomanufacturing Investment Program", using $100 million in private sector funds

2) Amended the Internal Revenue Code to allow tax credits for purchases of qualified nanotech developer stock and nanotech education and training programs

and 3) would have included commercial nanotech training providers as eligible educational institutions.

H.R. 2769 , the "Commercializing Small Business Research and Development Act", introduced by Rep, Bobby Bright on 06/09/2009, was referred to the House Committee on Small Business and the House Committee on Science and Technology. It was further referred to the Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Technology, which held a mark-up session on 06/11/2009. The Subcommittee forwarded the bill on to the full Committee. No further action has occured. H.R. 2769 would have included nanotechnology related topics within federal small business programs.

H.R. 4502 , the "Nanotechnology Education Act", introduced by Rep. David Wu on 01/26/2010, would require the Director of the National Science Foundation to establish a program to award grants to eligible secondary schools and colleges and informal educational centers

i) to acquire qualified nanotechnology equipment and software designed for teaching students about nanotechnology in the classroom;


          (ii) to develop and provide educational services, including carrying out faculty development, to prepare students or faculty seeking a degree or certificate that is approved by the State, or a regional accrediting body recognized by the Secretary of Education; and


          (iii) to provide teacher education and certification to individuals who seek to acquire or enhance technology skills in order to use nanotechnology in the classroom or instructional process.


H.R. 4502 was referred to the House Committee on Science and Technology and further referred to the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. It has not been reported out of committee.

H.R. 5116, the "America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010", was introduced by Rep. Bart Gordon on 04/22/2010, was perhaps the most important bill introduced in the 111th Congress (at least to the nanotech community) and produced unexpectedly contentious House debate, discussed on this site earlier this year. Title I, "The National Nanotechnology Initiatives Amendment Act of 2010", is a duplicate of HR 554, discussed above. H.R. 5116 was passed by the House on 05/28/2010. Received in the Senate, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The Senate version of the America COMPETES Act, S. 3605, was introduced by Senator Jay Rockefeller on 07/15/2010 and was assigned to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which reported it favourably with an amendment in the nature of a substitute. The bill has not come up for debate by the full Senate. S. 3605 differs from H.R. 5116 by not having the "National Nanotechnology Initiatives Amendment Act" as part of its language. Should the bill come up for debate, it is possible that the Senate may add that language as a further amendment.

H.R. 5786, the "Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010", was introduced by Rep. Janice Schakowsky on 07/20/2010 and was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Education and Labor. H.R. 5786 would affect nanotech by requiring

    `(e) Labeling of Nanomaterials in Cosmetics- The Secretary may require that--


      `(1) minerals and other particulate ingredients be labeled as `nano-scale' on a cosmetic ingredient label or list if not less than 1 dimension is 100 nanometers or smaller for not less than 1 percent of the ingredient particles in the cosmetic; and


      `(2) other ingredients in a cosmetic be designated with scale-specific information on a cosmetic ingredient label or list if such ingredients possess scale-specific hazard properties.


H.R. 5786 remains in committee.

S. 596, the "Nanotechnology Innovation and Prize Competition Actr of 2009", was introduced by Senator Ron Wyden on 03/ 16/2009 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, where it remains. S. 596 would have directed the National Institutes of Standards and Technology to award cash prizes and/or public recognition to eligible persons for achievement in applying nanotechnology in four areas:

1) Improvement of the environment

2) Alternative Energy Sources

3) Improvement of Human Health

4) Development of Consumer Products

S. 1482, the "National Nanotechnology Initiatives Amendments Act of 2009", was introduced by Senator John Kerry on 07/21/2009 and subsequently referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. S. 1482 would have directed the National Nanotechnology Program to involve the nanoindustry community to promote more rapid commercialization of nanotech reseach  and would have required the development of a



        `(A) IN GENERAL- The Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office shall develop and maintain a searchable keyword database of all projects funded by the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council.


        `(B) DATABASE CONTENTS- The database required by subparagraph (A) shall include the following, with respect to each project in the database:


          `(i) A description of the project.


          `(ii) The source of funding of the project, set forth by agency.


          `(iii) The funding history of the project.


Many of the provisions of S. 1482 are similiar to provisions in bills discussed above.

S. 2942, the "Nanotechnology Safety Act of 2010", introduced by Senator Mark Pryor on 01/21/2010 and referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, would have required the Secretary of HHS to establish within the FDA a program to investigate the possible toxicity of nanoscale materials and such material's affect on and interaction with biological systems. The bill remains in committee.

S. 3117, the "Promote Nanotechnology in Schools Act", introduced by Senator Ron Wyden on 03/15/2010 and referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, is essentially the Senate companion bill to H.R. 4502 discussed above. It too remains in committee.

Other House and Senate bills which focused on other subjests, have included sections relating to nanotechnology.

H.R. 2647, the "National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010", introduced by Rep. Ike Skelton on 06/22/2010, was passed in the House and Senate and signed into law as P.L. 111-84; section 242 modified the reporting requirements for nanotech defense related research and development.

H.R. 2965 and S. 1233, "The SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2009", introduced by Rep. Jason Altmire on 06/19/2009 and Senator Mary Landrieu on 06/10/2009 respectively, would have reauthorized the Small Business Inovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. H.R. 2965 was passed by the House with amendments on 07/08/2009 and forwarded on to the Senate. The Senate further amended H.R. 2965 by substituting the language of S. 1233 as amended and passed in the Senate for the language of H.R. 2965, a procedure known as an amendment in the nature of a substitute. H.R. 2965 was returned to the Senate calendar for further action. Section 206 of the bill reads as follows:



    (a) In General- Section 9 of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 638), as amended by this Act, is amended by adding at the end the following:


    `(ff) Nanotechnology Initiative- Each Federal agency participating in the SBIR or STTR program shall encourage the submission of applications for support of nanotechnology related projects to such program.'.


    (b) Sunset- Effective October 1, 2014, subsection (ff) of the Small Business Act, as added by subsection (a) of this section, is repealed.

Two other bills that would potentially impact nanotechnology, H.R. 5820, the "Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010", introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush on 07/22/2010 and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and S. 3209, the "Safe Chemicals Act of 2010" introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg and referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works", remain in committee. Both bills would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act.

S. 3117, Promote Nanotechnology in the Schools Act of 2010

While much of the media and public's attention was focused on Senator Dodd's introduction of an amended financial services reform bill and the ongoing debate over the health care reform bill, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced S. 3117, the "Promote Nanotechnology in the Schools Act of 2010" (the link is to Senator Wyden's introductory remarks; the text of S. 3117 is not available from THOMAS yet).

Noting that "nanotechnology represents an opportunity to provide long-term, well-paid employment for millions of Americans"  and "to ensure that many of the needed jobs will be created here in the U.S., it is necessary to provide our students with the tools that will provide the skills and knowledge that nanotechnology companies need", S. 3117 would direct the National Science Foundation to establish a grant program that would provide up to $400,000 to schools, community colleges and colleges and universities to cover the cost of purchasing equipment and materials to be used in instructing students in nanotechnology, with the schools receiving the grants having to provide 1/4 of the grant amount as matching funds. For example, if a college received the full $400,000 it would need to put up $100,000 of its own funds.

If this sounds familiar, a similar program of grants from the NSF is at the heart of HR 4502, the Nanotechnology Education Act introduced by Reps. Wu and Lipinski in January of this year and discussed here. HR 4502 was assigned to the House Committee on Science and Technology.

Both of these bills recognize that without a trained and educated workforce, the nanotech industry in the United States

will not be able to reach its full potential. Without a qualified workforce that will allow nanotech companies in this country to scale-up, foreign competitors will be able to fill the vacuum in the global marketplace. With the Promote Nanotechnology in Schools Act, this country will put the resources into place that will prepare our students to meet the needs of the emerging nanotech economy.

S, 3117 was assigned to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. When the text of the bill becomes available,  this entry will be updated. As with other legislation introduced in the 111th Congress that would affect Nanotechnology and Nanoindustry, we will monitor S. 3117's progress and provide updates.

Senator Wyden, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus, ended his remarks by calling upon his fellow Senators

to move quickly not only to pass this legislation but also the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act reauthorization. These important bills will help advance nanotechnology in this country, and protect the U.S.'s position at the forefront of innovation and economic opportunity.


The Nanotechnology Education Act

The Nanotechnology Education Act (H.R. 4502), was introduced early last week by Rep. David Wu (D-1st-OR) and co-sponsored by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-3rd-Ill). The bill has as it's purpose the establishment of a grant program aimed at helping secondary schools, colleges and universities to established and improve nanotechnology education programs and facilities.

The bill notes that nanotechnology "is generating scientific and technological breakthroughs that will benefit society by improving the way many things are produced" and that

Nanotechnology is likely to have a significant, positive impact on the security, economic well-being, and health of Americans as fields related to nanotechnology expand.

the bill announces its formidable goal:

In order to maximize the benefits of nanotechnology to individuals in the United States, the United States must maintain world leadership in the field, including nanoscience and microtechnology, in the face of determined competition from other nations.

To maintain that level of world leadership

the United States must make a long-term investment in educating United States students in secondary schools and institutions of higher education, so that the students are able to conduct nanoscience research and develop and commercialize nanotechnology applications.

Preparing United States students for careers in nanotechnology, including nanoscience, requires that the students have access to the necessary scientific tools, including scanning electron microscopes designed for teaching, and requires training to enable teachers and professors to use those tools in the classroom and the laboratory.

H.R. 4502 states it's purpose:

is to strengthen the capacity of United States secondary schools and institutions of higher education to prepare students for careers in nanotechnology by providing grants to those schools and institutions to provide the tools necessary for such preparation.

The Director of the National Science Foundation would be directed to "establish a nanotechnology in the schools program". To support the program, "the director shall award grants of not more than $400,000 to eligible institutions". The bill would define "eligible institutions" very broadly and would include:

1) public, private, parochial and charter schools offering one or more advanced placement science courses,

2) community colleges,

3) four year institutions of higher learning (colleges and universities), and

4) "informal learning science and technology centers". The bill does not define these informal centers any further, but this may be clarified and defined further in a committee mark-up session.

Grant funds would be used for

1) the acquisition of equipment and software for use in classrooms

2) to develop and provide educational services; that is, it would be used by teachers and other instructors to develop classes in nanotechnology

3) to pay for teacher education in nanotechnology

Equipment and software purchased with grant funds by colleges and universities would be required by the bill to be used primarily by undergraduate programs and would also be required to be mostly made in the United States.

The Director of the NSF, no later than six months following passage of HR 4502 and it's being signed into law, would need to establish the process and procedures for eligible institutions to apply for the grants. The procedures, like all other procedures for applying for government grants, would need to be published in the Federal Register and commented on by the public before going into effect. Although the bill doesn't state it, the procedures would probably also be posted to a government website for downloading. In selecting recipients for these grants, the Director would

(1) select geographically diverse institutions; grants could not all be given to institutions in one area, for example, schools in New England or California. The grants would need to be spread around the United States.

2) The Director of NSF would be required to encourage the applications of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority institutions as defined by section 365 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1067k).

3) Select recipients located in states participating in the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

Institutions receiving these grants would need to raise funds equal to 1/4 of the grant amount. And, if the grant exceeds $100,000, the institution would need to wait for 2 years before it could apply for another grant. Each institution would be required to submit a report to the Director of the NSF no later than one year after the grant was awarded regarding its use of grant funds. Every three years, the Director would, on the basis of these reports, evaluate the program, assessing both short and long term impacts of activities supported by the grants. No later than six months after the evaluation, the Director would submit a report to Congress - in its current form, the bill doesnot specify which committee or committees the report would be submitted to. Again, this is something that may be clarified in a committee mark-up session. The Director's report would contain "recommendations concerning the continued need for Federal support of the program. . . ."

HR 4502 authorizes an appropriation of $40 million for FY 2011 and necessary funds for 2012-2014. The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Science and Technology. No hearings have been scheduled.

To date, only a handful of colleges and universities offer courses or degree programs in nanotechnology, leading to a shortage of trained workers available for the jobs that are and will be created in nanoindustries. The grants that the Nanotechnology Education Act would distribute would represent an investment in preparing a trained workforce capable of stepping into those jobs.

It should be noted, however, that the bill is being introduced against the shadow of President' Obama's statement in in State of the Union speech to freeze all discretionary spending by the federal government for three years:

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years.  Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected.  But all other discretionary government programs will.  Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't.  And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will. 

As with other nanotechnology related legislation filed during the 111th Congress, we'll monitor HR 4502's progress and provide updates.