An Interview with Senator Ron Wyden

The New Haven Independent regularly covers the nanotech field, from the latest experiment in using nanoparticles to deliver medications more efficently to discussions of how nanoindustry will affect the national and regional economies. Recently the New Haven Independent posted an edited transcript of an internview with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a long time advocate of Nanotech research and Nanoindustry in the US Senate and one of the Co-chairs of the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus.

Topics covered in the interview ranged from Wyden's work on reauthorizing the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI):

I very much want reauthorization before the end of the year. I think the Commerce Committee, Chairman [Jay] Rockefeller and others, have felt strongly about this and have watched this sort of bump up against the schedule again and again and again …

If ever there was a bipartisan fit for the Senate right now, and a chance to put us on the right side in terms of taking bolder action in a tough international competition with Europe and Asia, this is the time, and that’s the case I’m going to be making.

I consider the 21st Century bill that I wrote nine years ago one of the most important things I’ve done in my time in public service. 

to training a workforce that will be able to fill the good paying jobs that nanoindustry is and will be offering now and in the future.

2012 Regional, State and Local Initiatives in Nanotechnology Workshop

Today's issue of the Federal Register carries a "Notice of Public Meeting", announcing the 2012 Regional, State and Local (RSL) Initiatives in Nanotechnology workshop, to be held 1-2 May in Portland, Oregon.

This workshop will bring together leaders of regional, state, and local
organizations to engage in dialog with the Federal government; economic
development groups; investors and entrepreneurs; technology leaders;
and scientists and engineers from industry, business, government, and
academia. The discussion will address a wide range of resource,
organizational, and policy issues impacting RSL nanotechnology

Principal themes addressed in the workshop will include:

  • Current landscape of U.S. RSL nanotechnology initiatives and their health

  • Current Federal resources available for RSLs

  • RSL best practices, business models, and opportunities for partnering; and

  • Role of nanotechnology RSLs in future U.S. economic growth and job creation.


The workshop is cosponsored by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and theOregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institutes (ONAMI).

Anyone planning to attend the workshop is required to register, either online, via e-mail ( ) or via regular US mail (  RSL 2012 Workshop, c/o NNCO, 4201 Wilson Boulevard,  Stafford II, Suite 405, Arlington, VA 22230). Registration is on a "first come, first served" basis and runs from today, March 5, 2012 until 5PM April 27, 2012. Those interested in presenting 3-5 minutes of public comments at the meeting should also register at Written or  electronic comments should be submitted by email to  until April 27, 2012. The workshop will include an opportunity for any
regional, state, or local nanotechnology initiative or related  organization to present a poster explaining the activity.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information regarding this Notice,
please contact James Kadtke or Halyna Paikoush at the National
Nanotechnology Coordination Office by telephone (703-292-8626) or email

A draft agenda has not yet been posted to the website. Once the agenda for the workshop is available, a link to it will be posted.

International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology to be held March 2012

The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, in a "Notice of Public Meeting" published in the Federal Register of 02/02/2012, announced that on March 27-28 of this year, it would be holding an "International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology". The symposium, organized by the National Nanotechnology Initiative and theOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The symposium will be hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC on March 27th and 28th from 8:30AM to 6PM.

The symposium will focus on

the scope of economic impacts of nanotechnology, input and output factors, metrics for other technological assessments, and consideration of the appropriateness of these metrics for nanotechnology materials and products. Topics addressed will include the role of research funding portfolios, intellectual property frameworks, venture capital, public-private partnerships, state and local initiatives, international cooperation, and metrics such as private sector and industry investments, patents and publications, and the development of a technologically-educated workforce as metrics for nanotechnology.

Confirmed as speakers at the symposium are:
    • Françoise Roure, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

    • Gregory Tassey, National Institute of Standards and Technology, United States

    • Mark Morrison, Institute for Nanotechnology, United Kingdom

    • Adalberto Fazzio, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Brazil

    • Kazunobu Tanaka, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Japan

    • Altaf Carim, Office of Science and Technology Policy, United States

    • Herbert von Bose, European Commission

    • Joseph Molapisi, Department of Science and Technology, South Africa

    • GV Ramaraju, Department of Information Technology, India

    • Tom Crawley, Spinverse

    • Philip Shapira, Georgia Institute of Technology

    • Francis Peters, Michelin Worldwide

    • Travis Earles, Lockheed Martin

    • Lawrence Tamarkin, CytImmune Sciences, Inc.

    • Joerg Vienken, Fresenius Medical Care

    • Hilary Flynn, Lux Research

    • Reinhold Crotogino, ArboraNano

    • Peter Kruger, Bayer

    • Kalpana Sastry, National Academy of Agricultural Research Management, India

    • Victor Berucci Neto, The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation

    • Mike Roco, National Science Foundation, United States

    • Ajit Jillavenkatesa, National Institute of Standards and Technology, United States

    • Douglas Robinson, teQnode

    • Diana Bowman, University of Michigan

    • Tateo Arimoto, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Japan

    • Julia Lane, National Science Foundation, United States

    • Esper Cavalheiro, Center for Strategic Studies and Management Science, Technology and Innovation

    • Leonid Gokhberg, National Research University 'Higher School of Economics'

    • Ben Walsh, Oakdene Hollins

    • Bertrand Loubaton, GE Healthcare Europe

    • Richard Clinch, University of Baltimore

    • Bertrand Loubaton, GE Healthcare

    • Eunmi Jung, Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, Korea

    • Oleg Karasev, National Research University 'Higher School of Economics'

    • Kristen Loughery, Environmental Protection Agency, United States

    • Rosalie Ruegg, TIA Consulting


A draft verion of the symposium agenda may be found here.

Due to space limitations pre-registration for the symposium is required and begins on Friday 02/10/2012. Pre-registration is on a "first come, first served" basis and continues until capacity is reached or until 03/23/2012.

Those wishing to attend can register online at, via e-mail to or via snail mail at the following address:

International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology,

c/o NNCO,

4201 Wilson Blvd.,

Stafford II, Suite 405,

Arlington, VA 22230

Anyone who would like to present 3-5 minutes of public comments at the symposium should register online. Written comments may be submitted to until 03/23/2012..

Request for Public Comment on Draft NNI Strategy for Nanotechnology Related Environmental, Health and Safety Research

On 01/13/2011, the Office of Science and Technology Policy published a notice in the Federal Register extending the time for filing comments for the Draft NNI Strategy for Nanotechnology Related Environmental, Health and Safety Research to 01/21/2011. The 2011 Draft Strategy is designed to replace and update  the 2008 Strategy and is the product of a series of stakeholder workshops, responses to a request for information published in the Federal Register on 07/06/2010 and comments filed online in response to questions posted on the NNI Strategic Portal.

The Draft Strategy, dated 12/06/2010, notes NNI's EHS "Research Strategy provides guidance to the federal agencies as they develop their agency specified nanotechnology EHS research priorities implementation plans, and timelines." Added to that guidance

. . . is the inclusion of ethical, legal and societal implications (ESLI) of EHS research. . . .How nanotechnology research and applications are introduced into society, how transparent decisions are; how sensitive and responsible policies are to the needs and perceptions of the full range of stakeholders; and how ethical, legal and social issues are address will determine public trust and the future of innovation driven by nanotechnology.

Chapter 1 of the draft is introductory. Chapter 2 discusses the need to develop "A Comprehensive Measurement Infrastructure Consisting of a Suite of Complementary Tools", defined here as protocols, standards (reference materials), instruments, models and Data (further defined as "benchmark data that have been measured using validated protocols and reference materials  . . . or other well-characterized test materials . . .for accurate. precise and reproducible measurements . . . ." and identifies five "Research Needs" for the development of measurement tools:

1 - Determination of physico-chemical properties of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) and nanotecnhology enable products (NEPs) in relevant media and during the lifecycles of ENMs and NEPs

2 - Detection and Monitoring of ENMs in realistic exposure media and conditions during the life cycles of the ENMs and NEPs

3 - Evaluation of transformations of ENMs in relevant media and during the life cycles of ENMs and NEPs

4 - Evaluation of biological responses to ENMs and NEPs in relevant media and during the life cycles of ENMs and NEPs

5 - Evaluation of response mechanisms in ENMS and NEPs in relevant media and during the life cycles of NEPs

Chapter 3. "Human Exposure Assessments" notes that

"The number of products in commerce and development that contain nanomaterials has grown rapidly . . . .Hence, research on potential exposure must evaluate whether, and to what degree, exposure will occur for each nanomaterial or NEP at each stage of its life cycle. . . .As the likelihood for exposure for key population segments is determined, care should be taken in determining what constitutes a "key segment" of the population, who is empowered to define groups of people, and what implications may arise from placing people in particular categories. In addition, subpopulations among the "general population" that are disproportionally exposed or more vulnerable to impacts from exposure should be identified."

"Because of the relative newness of nanotechnology" there is little reliable data regarding exposure to NEPs in the workplace (typically, in manufacturing facilities) or by consumers purchasing, handling, using, or wearing NEPs (for example, socks with nanosilver woven into them). Chapter 3 Identifies four research needs:

1- Understanding of the  processes and factors that determine exposures to nanomaterials

2- Identify population groups exposed to ENMs and NEPs

3- Characterization of individual exposures to nanomaterials

4- Conduct health surveillance of exposed populations

While Chapter 3 focused on populations and subpopulations, Chapter 4, "Human Health", focuses on the individual. Chapter 4, as did previous chapters, notes the lack of "Critical data sets needed to understand fully the rise of exposure and develop science based" health and safety guidelines.

Six research needs are identified in this chapter:

1- Identify or develop appropriate, reliable, and reproducible in vitro and in vivo assays and models to predict in vivo human responses to ENMs

2 - Quantify and characterize ENMs in exposure matrices and biological matrices

3 - "Understand the relationship between the physio-chemical properties of engineered nanomaterials and their transport, distribution, metabolism, excretion and body burden in the human body"

4 - Understand the relationship between the physico-chemical properties of ENMs and their uptake through "port of entry" tissues in the human body

5 - Determine the "modes of action" beneath human biological response to ENMs at levels ranging from the molecular to that of the whole body

6 - Determine the extent to which life stages and/or susceptibility factors modulate health effects associated with ENMs/NEPs exposure

Chapter 5, "Environment", focuses on what, after the potential effects of nanomaterials on the human body, may be the most controversial aspect of nanotechnology and the growth of nanoindustry, the potential effect on ENMs and NEPs on the environment. As the draft notes:

Understanding . . . potential environmental implications is critical to implementing good product stewardship and to instilling public confidence in the safety of nanomaterials and nano-enabled products that could benefit society. . . .Fundamental studies of the potential hazards from nanomaterials . . .should be guided by a view of how nanomaterials behave in environmental systems. To Understand ecosystem-wide effects, the sources (production/use/disposal), the pathways, and the key environmental receptors need to be understood.


Chapter 5 identifies five Research Needs:

1-  Understand environmental exposures through identification of principal sources of exposure and exposure routes

2 - Determine factors affecting the environmental transport of nanomaterials

3 - Understand the transformation of nanomaterials under different environmental conditions

4 - Understand the effects of engineered nanomaterials on individuals of a species and the applicability of testing schemes to measure effects

5 - Evaluate the effects of ENMs/NEPs at the population, community. and ecosystem levels

Chapter 6 is focused on "Risk Assessment and Risk Management Methods", defined here as (1) ". . . the application of analytical tools, data, and expert knowledge to the evaluation of potential exposures of humans and the environment to nanomaterials and the hazards . . . exposure might engender" and (2) the use of risk management methods to identify and implement strategies to address potential hazards. The draft report notes that while there are "A number of national and international activities relevant to RA and RMM. . . . most projects are in early stages" of information collection and evaluation.

Chapter 6 discusses five Research Needs:

1 - Incorporate relevant risk characterization information, hazard identification, exposure science, and risk modeling and methods into the safety evaluation of nanomaterials

2 - Understand, characterize, and control workplace exposures to nanomaterials

3 - Integrate life cycle considerations into risk assessment and risk management

4 - Integrate risk assessment into decision making frameworks for risk management

5 - Integrate and standardize risk communication within the risk management framework

Chapter 7, "Informatics and Modeling for NanoEHS Research" discusses the need to (1) improve the quality and availability of data, (2) expand theory, modeling, and simulation capabilities, and (3) build a collaborative informatics infrastructure.

Chapter 8, " The Path Forward", focuses on "near-term opportunities to target and accelerate progress in NanoEHS R&D, to maintain close accord with the overall goals and objectives of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, and effectively coordinate agency research activities and share their result."

Details on filing comments may be found in the FR notice. Comments need to be filed no later than 11:59PM on 01/21/2011.


Senate Amends and Passes H.R. 5116 America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010


The House agreed to the Senate amendment to HR 5116 on 12/21/2010. We'll discuss the implications of this in more detail after the Xmas holiday.

The Senate unanimously passed H.R. 5116 on Friday 12/17/2010, after first adopting an amendment in the nature of a substitute. As opposed to the version of H.R. 5116 that was passed in the House, the language of the amended version contains no provisions to reauthorize the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). As amended and passed by the Senate, the language of H.R. 5116 contains no references to nanotechnology at all.

The amended bill, basically a reduced version of S. 3605 as reported out of committee on 12/10/2010, reduces the amounts appropriated for various agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, from $84 billion to $43 billion over a three year period.

Having been passed by the Senate in an amended version, H.R. 5116 must now go back to the House for another vote to accept the Senate's amendment. If this happens, then the bill will go to President Obama to be signed into law. However, if the House disagrees with the amendment, the bill would be sent to a Conference Committee, composed of Senators and Representatives appointed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, charged with the task of creating a comprise version that would be acceptable to both the House and Senate. It is possible that an amendment reauthorizing NNI could be adopted during House debate or in a Conference Committee; however, considering that the House is approaching adjournment, and that Rep. Bart Gordon, chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee and author of the House version of H.R. 5116,  has endorsed the bill, stating that "It keeps our basic research agencies on a doubling path, it continues to invest in high-risk, high-reward energy technology development, it will help improve STEM education, and it will help unleash American innovation", it is likely that the House will vote to agree to the Senate's amendment.

Rep. Ralph Hall, currently the Ranking Member of the Committee, stated that ". . . the bill that passed today spends too much money, authorizes duplicative programs, and shifts focus away from the bill's original intent." Rep. Hall will be Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee in the 112th Congress.

Not having been reauthorized in this bill, the future of NNI is unclear.

Request for Public Comments on the 2010 NNI Strategic Plan

Monday's Federal Register carried a notice from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Nanoscience, Engineering and Technology Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council inviting the public to comment on the 2010 National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan.

The NNI Strategic Plan

 is the framework that underpins the nanotechnology work of the NNI
member agencies. It aims to ensure that advances in nanotechnology
research and development (R&D) and their applications to agency
missions and the broader national interest continue unabated in this
still-young field. Its purpose is to facilitate achievement of the NNI
vision by laying out targeted guidance for agency leaders, program
managers, and the research community regarding planning and
implementation of nanotechnology R&D investments and activities.

The NNI Strategic Plan represents the consensus of the
participating agencies as to the high-level goals and priorities of the
NNI and specific objectives for at least the next three years. It
describes the four overarching goals of the NNI, the major Program
Component Areas established in 2004 to broadly track the categories of
investments needed to ensure the success of the initiative, and the
near-term objectives that will be the concrete steps taken toward
collectively achieving the NNI vision and goals. Finally, the plan
describes collaborative interagency activities, including three
Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives that are a new model of
specifically targeted and closely coordinated interagency, cross-sector
collaboration designed to accelerate innovation in areas of national

The 2010 Strategic Plan is the result of reviews by the President's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology, the National Research Council, a stakeholders workshop held earlier in July 2010 and comments filed in response to a Federal Register notice published in the issue of July 6, 2010.

The four overarching goals of the NNI refered to above are

1) Advance a world class nanotechnology research and development program

2) Foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public (non-commercial) benefit

3) Develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce, and the supporting infrastructure and tools to further advance nanotechnology

4) Support responsible development of nanotechnology

Each of these goals is further broken down into four objectives and in some case these objectives are further broken down, with a short paragraph describing the objective and how that objective is to be accomplished.

Other sections of the NNI Strategic Plan examine "The Path Forward", discussing future initiatives and activities, and "Program Component Areas", which includes a chart showing where each federal agency taking part in the NNI fits in.

Members of the public who want to file comments on the 2010 Draft NNI Strategic Plan are encouraged to register online at Comments should be only one page or less and should be filed by November 30, 2010. More details on filing comments may be found at the website.


NNI at 10

In an article in the September issue of Nature ("Nanotechnology: Small wonders"), Corie Lok reviews the beginnings and accomplishments of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) over the last ten years.

The article attributes the creation of the NNI to four factors:

- A booming US economy, particularly in the high tech sector

- Support from the Clinton administration as it entered its last year in office

- Developments within the then emerging science of nanotechnology that caught the public's attention

- Visionary scientists and engineers who could clearly and in terms everyone could understand communicate what this new field of science was about and how it would benefit everyone. The late Dr. Richard Smalley and Mihail Roco are noted by Ms. Lok for their work in getting NNI started.

NNI's success in creating research centers and legitimizing nanotech in the eyes of the general public, leading  to a flow of venture capital to start-up companies that planned to commercialize the results of nanotech research, is offset by what Lok and others consider its biggest flaw, a lack of focus on the possible adverse effects of nanomaterials on the environment and human health. NNI is now beginning to fund research in these areas.

As the article notes, NNI deserves a great deal of the credit for nurturing nanotechnology over the past decade. But as nanotech has begun to mature, expectations of returns on the investments of both public and private capital in the form of practical and commercial applications and products have risen. In many ways, nanotech and nanoindustries are still at a beginning stage and applications of nanotech in such fields as medicine are still being developed and explored.

NNI faces an uncertain future, with bills that would reauthorize and continue funding for NNI, such as HR 554, the "National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act", passed in the House in February 2009  and HR 5116, the "America COMPETES Reauthorization Act", passed in the House in June 2010 awaiting action in the Senate. S. 1482, the Senate version of the "National Nanotechnology Initiatives Amendment Act" - despite the same title, they are not companion bills - remains stuck in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.  As Congress returns from the August recess, these bills may be brought up for debate before Congress adjourns so members may run for re-election.  It is also possible that the bills may be brought up for debate in a "lame-duck" session following the elections.

Nanotechnology A Policy Primer

The Congressional Research Service, in March of this year, released a report, "Nanotechnology: A Policy Primer", written by John F. Sargent, Jr., a specialist in Science and Technology Policy. The primer's first section focuses on a review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). A table showing funding from various government agencies and departments for NNI shows that from FY 2006 to FR 2010, the Department of Defense (DOD) has been the largest single source of funding. However, this is about to change. In FY 2011, DOD will fall to 4th place, preceded by the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). This shifting of the majority of funding from DOD  may reflect a normal path of evolution; DOD has long been a source of funding for new technologies that eventually develop non-military uses. It may also reflect that future DOD budgets will not be as robust as they have been in the last few years.

Noting that "In the longer term, nanotechnology may deliver revolutionary advances with profound economic and societal implications", Part 2 of the CRS report considers briefly area that may be most affected by nanotech:

Detection and treatment technologies for cancer

"Clean, inexpensive, renewable power through energy creation, storage and transmission technologies"

Universal Access to clean water supplies, both in the US and less developed nations:  " Nanotechnology water desalination and filtration systems may offer affordable, scalable and portable water filtration systems".

"High density memory devices", improving the performance of computers and other devices.

Improved, more abundant crop yields and nutrition: " Higher crop yields might be achieved using nanoscale sensors that detect the presence of a virus or disease infecting particle . . . . Nanotechnology also offers the potential for improved nutrition. Some companies are exploring the development of nanocapsules that release nutrients targeted at specific parts of the body at specific times".

Self-healing materials

"Sensors that can warn of minute levels of toxic and pathogens in air, soil, or water."

Remediation of contaminated sites: ". . .  nanoscale particles . . . may offer more effective and less costly solution to environmental contamination."

The report also discusses other selected issues, primarily US competitiveness with other nations in the  nanotech area, using public and private investment, scientific papers published and cited, and patents issued as measurement parameters. The report notes that while the United States still leads all other nations in these areas, that lead has diminished over the last few years, with Japan, Germany and the People's Republic of China (PRC) poised to assume the lead. In these areas, the potential loss of US competitiveness is reflected in the debates in the media and Congress over free trade agreements (FTAs) and government policy towards the manufacturing sector and how best to aid it.

The report concludes with brief considerations of (1) environmental, health and safety implications of nanotechnology, (2) nanomanufacturing, and (3) public attitudes toward and understanding or misunderstanding of nanotech issues, noting that public support for nanotech tends to be greatest among those with advanced degrees and higher incomes.


President's Council Evaluates National Nanotechnology Initiative

This article originally appeared on the National Nanomanufacturing Network's InterNano website earlier today. It is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

Maxine Savitz[1] and Ed Penhoe[2] provided a recent presentation summarizing the highlights of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)[3] report on the status of the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) at a public meeting held at the National Academics on March 12, 2010.

Ms. Savitz provided a brief review at the beginning of the presentation regarding how, when, and why NNI was formed; its history from 2000 - 2010; and some of the participants in the PCAST review process. Participants included representatives from DuPont, IBM, A123 Systems, Nanocomp Technologies, Rice, Harvard, Caltech, Sandia National Labs, and the Woodrow Wilson Institute. Ms Savitz also explained that the group held two prior working meetings to solicit input from government agencies, the legislative and executive branches, as well as outside stakeholders. Finally, she explained that PCAST’s report has three major thematic areas: NNI program management; NNI output and work product; and NNI environmental, health, and safety programs and strategies.

Ed Penhoet then provided an update regarding NNI’s continued successes. He noted that the US is currently the world leader in nanotechnology and commercialization, but that other nations are gaining fast -- particularly in Asia and Europe. He further noted that NNI has had a substantial impact on the US nanotechnology industry over the past ten years, which can be seen in the larger number of nanotechnology patents filed, nano-related publications, and nano-related products hitting the commercial market during that period.

Mr. Penhoet further explained that while NNI is being effectively managed, there is still room for some improvement and greater coordination.

For an example, Mr. Penhoet pointed out that there is a lack of basic underlying data from which to analyze the economics of nano-related research, development, and commercialization in the US. Thus, it is difficult to precisely quantify the economic effectiveness of the NNI in measurable terms.

As another example, Mr. Penhoet also mentioned the need to identify and understand potential nano-related risks -- both for purposes of fundamental science, and also to provide a clear regulatory environment and path for commercialization. While undoubtedly a significant portion of PCAST’s written report touches on these issues, the topic was only briefly mentioned in passing during the presentation.

Mr. Penhoet then spent the majority of his presentation explaining the five major recommendations embodied in PCAST’s written report:

  • Increase NNI funding for manufacturing research while maintaining support for basic research.
  • Strengthen the NNCO, the NNI coordinating entity, with additional funds and a broader mandate.
  • Require that metrics be developed to track benefits of nanotechnology such as job creation.
  • Develop a cross agency strategy that links EHS research and knowledge gaps and decision making needs.
  • Expedite the citizenship review process for those receiving advanced degrees in science and engineering.

The presentation closed with comments by several PCAST members regarding (i) potential methods for developing the underlying economic data needed to properly evaluate nano-related job creation and return on investment; and (ii) potential methods for increasing retention rates of foreign students obtaining advanced nano-related degrees in the US by reducing and/or streamlining citizenship restrictions.

PCAST voted to accept and approve the report after it is amended to reflect the comments discussed during the presentation.


[1] Director of the Washington Advisory Group, an LECG Company. Ms. Savitz is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Conservation, US Department of Energy. Prior to her DOE service, she was program manager for Research Applied to National Needs at the National Science Foundation. Following her government service, she served in executive positions in the private sector, including: President of Lighting Research Institute, assistant to the vice president for engineering at The Garrett Corporation, and General Manager of Allied Signal Ceramic Components. She recently retired from the position of General Manager for Technology Partnerships at Honeywell.

[2]President of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Mr. Penhoet is the former dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, prior to which he cofounded and managed the Chiron Corporation. Prior that he was a faculty member of the Biochemistry Department of U.C. Berkeley. Mr. Penhot currently serves as the vice chairman of the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee which oversees the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine created by the passage of Proposition 71, the stem cell initiative.



Nanotechnology Insurance Issues

For anyone who might be interested, I will be speaking on nano-related insurance issues at the opening plenary of the National Nanotechnology Initiative's upcoming Oct. 6 -7 conference and workshop on Nanomaterials and the Environment & Instrumentation.  The draft agenda for the conference can be found here, and the plenary is also supposed to be broadcast on the web.  I will post the information for the simulcast as we get closer to the conference date.  Cost, location, and registration info. is here.

Private Spending on Nano Exceeds Government Spending for First Time

Chemical Business NewsBase recently published an article comparing global private funding to government funding for nanotechnology research, development, and commercialization. The article cites Lux Research figures indicating that private funding for nanotechnology reached $9.6 billion in 2008, while government investment was $8.6 billion. According to the article, this was the first year that private spending exceeded public spending. Lux also estimates that nanotechnology-enabled products will constitute a $3.1 trillion market by 2015.

It is interesting to remember that a decade ago, advocates for dramatically increased federal funding of nanotechnology efforts argued that once nanotechnology is firmly established as a field of commerce, federal investment would be dwarfed by private research and development which was estimated would be 10% of ultimate sales revenues. Advocates of the National Nanotechnology Initiative took the position that the federal government should stimulate and support basic nanotechnology research until such time as private commercialization takes root at this level. Annual global government research, development, and commercialization was then estimated at a mere $432 million.


Spheres of Influence

The April issue of Environmental Health Perspectives carried an interesting article by Charles W. Schmidt,  "Nanotechnology Related Environment, Health, and Safety Research: Examining the National Strategy". The article looks at what could be a disturbing development, that

Experts in nanotoxicity and risk assessment have become increasingly polarized, represented on one side by the National Research Council (NRC) and on the other by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI).

Schmidt's article notes that this polarization began after the Nanotechnology Environmental And Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group, part of NNI, released Strategy for Nanotechnology Related Environmental Health and Safety Research in February 2008. The report presented the then Bush Administration's agenda for studying nanoparticle hazards and was developed and written after "extensive consultations with regulatory agencies, research organizations, the business community and non-governmental organizations". The report reflected the concerns of the established stakeholders in nanotechnology.

In February 2009, an NRC assembled panel released its own report

. . .  describing what it calls serious short comings in the strategy document. According to the NRC panel . . . the strategy exposes weaknesses in the government's understanding of potential nanotechnology risks today and doesnot adequately address how they will be assessed in the future.

. . . NRC panelists would like to see a National Health based Strategy for nanotechnology research with defined goals, milestones, and mechanisms for assessing progress. . . . The need isn't just to insure the safety of nano-enabled products, but also to avert a public backlash against the technology, which could grow if health risks aren't seen as adequately addressed.

. . . The NNI strategy document - NRC panelists claim - is simply a compendium of federally funded projects without any unifying vision or sense of shared purpose.

An advance copy of the NRC report leaked out to the press in December 2008, leading NNI to post a rebuttal on its website , presenting the strategy document not an implementation plan, "But rather a higher-level description of the inter-agency approach to nanotechnology related EHS research."

One can only hope that the growing divide can be bridged. Both sides have much to contribute to the future growth of nanotechnology and a split into opposing camps serves neither side very well.

The final part of this article turns toward a different, in many ways more worrisome, topic. In January 2008, the EPA launched its nanoscale materials voluntary stewardship program, which urged companies to report information to EPA about their use, manufacture, import, etc of nanoparticles; according to the article, as of January 2009, only 29 companies had responded.

While companies might fear that their trade secrets might be revealed to competitors, it is more likely that what companies are afraid of are potential product liability lawsuits, legitimate or not, that would keep them in court for years (the shadow of asbestos again) and giving information to groups that would use the general public lack of understanding of nanotechnology - to most people, this is still science fiction - to create a climate of fear. At this stage in its development, the nanoindustry might be compared to the nuclear industry from 1950 until the mid-1980s. For the general public in that period, nuclear power was a mysterious thing beyond the non-scientist's ability to understand. For most people, nuclear energy meant only one thing: the power to destroy, personified in the form of Godzilla. Interest groups opposed to the further development of nuclear energy were able to use companies involved in the construction and running of nuclear power plants unwillingness to provide the public with information to create an effective climate of fear and opposition to the point where the industry nearly shut down after 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl.

To avoid this fate

. . .  nanoparticle toxicity data need to be made more widely available to insure public support for the technology.

rather than burying the information in annual reports or SEC filings, such as a 10K or a 10Q, which, while they are great sources of information, are also usually great cures for insomnia.

In an age of calls for greater transparency in both government and business, one can only hope that the nanoindustry will seize the moment and release more information in a form and language that the general public can understand. As someone once observed, sunshine is the best disinfectant.



Nanotechnology Law Report -- Spring 2009

NNI Reauthorization in Senate

The NNI Reauthorization bill is officially in the Senate, and housed in the Committee on Science Commerce and Transportation.

NNI Reauthorization in Senate

The NNI Reauthorization bill is officially in the Senate, and housed in the Committee on Science Commerce and Transportation.

NNI Reauthorization--Here we go again

Earlier today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed its version of the National Nanotechnology Initiative reauthorization amendments, H.R. 554.  The passage was by "voice vote," meaning there is no record of who may have voted for or against the reauthorization.  This is the next step towards complete reauthorization of the NNI.

According to the House Science and Technology Committee: "H.R. 554 requires that the NNI agencies develop a plan for the environmental and safety research component of the program that includes explicit near-term and long-term goals, specifies the funding required to reach those goals, identifies the role of each participating agency and includes a roadmap for implementation.
... H.R. 554 also includes provisions aimed at capturing the economic benefits of nanotechnology. In 2007, $60 billion in nano-enabled products were sold; and it is predicted that the number will rise to $2.6 trillion by 2014. To encourage commercialization in the U.S.—and the corresponding economic benefit—the bill strengthens public-private partnerships by encouraging the creation of industry liaison groups to foster technology transfer and to help guide the NNI research agenda. The bill also promotes the use of nanotechnology research facilities to assist companies in the development of prototypes."

Recall that we've been down this road once before.  In the 110th House also passed the identical reauthorization language, H.R. 5490, only to have it expire at the end of the Senate's term last year.  Hopefully the Senate takes up its version of the bill more quickly this time, and completes the reauthorization process.  The companion bill has not been introduced in the Senate as yet.

NNI Reauthorization Reintroduced

Yesterday, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology introduced H.R. 554, the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2009.  This is a bill identical to the 110th Congress's H.R. 5490, which passed the House by a 407 to 6 vote, but stalled in the Senate.  According to the Committee's press release the NNI Amendments Act of 2009 will "require[ ] the agencies participating in the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) to develop a plan for the environmental and safety research, and a roadmap for implementing it, which includes explicit near-term and long-term goals and the funding required, by goal and by agency. The bill also seeks to leverage private sector investments in nanotechnology and facilitate technology transfer by strengthening public/private partnerships."

You'll recall that we did several posts concerning the 2008 version of the bill and the importance of reauthorizing the NNI.  While each federal agency will continue to pursue its own agenda for nanotechnology research and regulation, it s important to have an umbrella organization that is aware of all of the different efforts in order to make connections and avoid duplication when possible.  Hopefully Congress can see its way to reauthorizing the NNI before the bill expires, again.  Stay tuned for hearing announcements and bill markups.

UPDATE: NNI Bill in Senate

The saga of the status of the NNI Reauthorization Bill in the Senate, S. 3274, continues.  Remember we provided information previously about the status of reauthorization and the dangers involved in letting the legislation lapse.

The NanoBusiness Alliance is reporting that the markup for the bill is now scheduled for September, but no further information is given.  Keep an eye out for movement (hopefully) next month on NNI reauthorization legislation.

Nanotechnology Law Report -- July 2008

Nanotechnology Law Report -- July 2008

NNI Reauthorization Stalling in Senate

Today's lesson is: never count your chickens before they hatch.  You'll remember a few months back, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation reauthorizing the National Nanotechnology Initiative, and slightly modifying some of the work they do.  At the time, I surmised (to myself) that passage through the Senate was likely to be quick.  Perhaps not.

It turns out, the NNI re-authorization bill on the Senate side, S.3274, is getting bogged down and is in danger of not passing before the end of the term later this year.  This bill has been slow to be introduced (as in yesterday), and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee may not get to consider it until next week at the earliest.

Some environmentalists are seeing this as an opportunity to try and get the 10% funding increase for EHS research back into the bill, but attempting such an effort may endanger its passage by the full Senate, which is needed to keep the NNI going.  If the full Senate doesn't pass the bill before the end of the session, the whole process will have to be restarted and approved by both chambers.  Given that a markup hasn't happened yet, passage by the end of this Congress is already looking to be tight on the calendar.  We'll have to keep an eye on the progress to see what happens between now and the end of the year. 

UPDATE: NNI Reauthorization Passed by House

We previously discussed the pending National Nanotechnology Initiative re-authorization here, and we're back today to let you know that the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bill.

On June 5, the House, by a 407-6 vote, passed H.R. 5490: National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008.  The bill now heads to the Senate for its consideration and vote

As reported earlier in the Committee Stage, "H.R. 5940, does not substantially alter NNI, but makes adjustments to some of the priorities of the program and strengthens one of the core components – environmental and safety research."  There was 40 minutes of debate on the House floor, upon which the motion was called for and passed by a wide margin.

My only question is: Why did the 6 Congressmen and women who voted against it, vote against it?  Unfortunately the Congressional Record for this debate is not yet available.  If you're curious who those people are, the roll-call vote is here.

House Committee Passes NNI Reauthorization

On May 7, 2008 the House Committee on Science and Technology unanimously approved H.R. 5940, the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008.  The bill now moves onto the full House, and then Senate for full consideration.  As stated by the Committee, "H.R. 5940, does not substantially alter NNI, but makes adjustments to some of the priorities of the program and strengthens one of the core components – environmental and safety research."

The full text of the bill can be found here, and we now wait to see what the full House will do with the bill.  However, the fact that H.R. 5940 is receiving bi-partisan support in committee, and was referred back to the full House so quickly (the bill was originally introduced on May 1, 2008), is positive for future action.

The National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008

The House Science and Technology Committee will hear testimony on the NNI Amendments Act of 2008 on April 16, 2008.  Those scheduled to speak before the committee include:

  • Floyd Kvamme, co-chairman of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology;
  • Sean Murdock, executive director of the NanoBusiness Alliance;
  • Joseph Krajcik, associate dean for research and professor of education at the University of Michigan;
  • Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor for the Woodrow Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies;
  • Raymond David, manager of toxicology for the BASF Corporation;
  • Robert Doering, senior fellow and research strategy manager at Texas Instruments

This full-committee hearing will begin at 10:00 AM in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.

Budget Numbers

The 2009 budgets for the US Environmental Protection Agency and National Nanotechnology Initiative have been released, and the numbers are interesting.  Both agencies have funds available for nano research, however note that NNI's numbers are to help that office coordinate efforts among 26 federal agencies while EPA's portion is only a small piece of the full pie. 

Key points from the $1.5 billion NNI budget include:

  • increased support for research on fundamental nanoscale phenomena and processes, from $481 million in 2007 to $551 million in 2009.
  • substantial ongoing growth in funding for instrumentation research, metrology and standards (from $53 million in 2007 to $82 million in 2009) and in nanomanufacturing research (from $48 million in 2007 to $62 million in 2009).
  • Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) R&D funding in 2009 ($76 million) is more than double the level of actual funding in 2005 ($35 million) - the first year this data was collected.
  • The steady growth in EHS R&D spending follows the NNI strategy of expanding the capacity to do high-quality research in this field.

Similarly, EPA's budget also provides funding for nano research and development, and in fact addresses nano in the context of the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA): "the primary objective is to determine the physicochemical properties controlling the movement of nanomaterials through soil and aquatic ecosystems. Research questions include the identification of system parameters that alter the surface characteristics of nanomaterials through aggregation (e.g. pH effects), complexation (e.g., surface complexation by dissolved organic carbon) or changes in oxidation state (e.g., chemical- or biological-mediated electron transfer)." 

EPA's total budget is $7.1 billion for fiscal year 2009, and nano-specific funding comes in at $14.9 million (or 0.21% of the total budget).  The funding is part of EPA Goal 4 of 5, "Communities and Ecosystems."

The fact that nanotechnology research funding is increasing is an encouraging sign, however, I'm concerned at the length of time it will take to complete the learning curve given the proportionally small amounts of federal investment into this increasingly important area.

Federal Nanotechnology "Roadmap"

In a strange twist of bureaucratic overkill, Congress directed EPA to contract with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to develop a federal strategy for researching the environmental, health, and safety risks of nanotechnology.  Did you get that?  Congress is telling EPA to tell NAS to develop the research strategy.

What makes this direction curious, included in the 2008 omnibus appropriations bill signed into law in late December, is that is appears on its face to repeat work being conducted by both EPA and the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI).  Congress appropriated EPA $1.9 million to contract with NAS to "develop and monitor implementation of a comprehensive, prioritized research roadmap for all federal agencies on environmental, health, and safety issues for nanotechnology."  Congress would like the contract in place by the end of March.

However, the NNI released its general strategic plan on December 31, in which it provides the broad goals and priorities of the multi-agency conglomerate.  Additionally, a second strategic plan is expected from NNI by the end of January that focuses on specifically on health and safety research.  Then, sometime in March, EPA is expected to release its nanotechnology priorities as they relate to health and environmental issues.

Finally, the NAS study was called for by a coalition of industry, trade groups, and nonprofit organizations, including the American Chemistry Council, DuPont, Environmental Defense, Dow, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.  While successfully lobbying Congress for EPA's marching orders, one unnamed coalition member defended the call for NAS involvement by saying that the NNI's work is not as "robust as what we would expect from NAS." 

This last statement may be the most telling--its not exactly a ringing endorsement of NNI's work or efforts.  Clearly the various stakeholders are unhappy with the efforts and answers being provided by NNI and EPA, or they would not have gone directly to Congress for what will be the fourth study released on strategic research priorities since December 31, 2007.  My read is that the stakeholders are getting anxious for direction from federal regulators as the continuing development of nanotechnology in the absence of information is becoming unnerving to them.  And rightfully so.  I'm concerned, however, that NNI was pushed closer to the brink of irrelevance because of the vote of no confidence from the coalition.  Between that, and the duplicative work seemingly being undertaken by no less than three organizations, I'm curious to see where we'll be when the dust all settles.  I hope the four reports do not conflict with each other, thereby adding fuel to the uncertainty fire.

NNI To Testify Before Congress (Again)

E. Clayton Teague of the National Nanotechnology Initiative is scheduled to testify before the House subcommittee on Research and Science Education on October 31 to address the NNI's development of its "risk research strategy."  NNI has been criticized by several organizations including the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, the American Chemistry Council, and DuPont for its delayed development of the strategy. 

The primary complaint of stakeholders is the speed at which NNI is developing its risk research priorities.  Many complain that the process is taking too long to accomplish while nanotechnology development moves further ahead.  Other comments on the program include the lack of authority over NNI member agency to dictate action, and an observation by Nanotechnology Law Report commenter Dr. Kristen Kulinowski, director of the International Council on Nanotechnology, that government could lean more heavily on non-governmental resources, including industry and research universities, for information.

The speed at which NNI is developing its risk framework is a ponderous given the concerns raised about the potential hazards or risks associated with free nanoparticles in the environment.  And the fact that the concerns over NNI's actions are being voiced by all facets of the nanotechnology community only adds to the confusion.  And, this is not the first time NNI has been questioned in this regard.  Co-author John Monica reported on prior criticism of NNI's work here, and I posted thoughts even earlier here.  Consequently, NNI's deliberate actions cannot be wholly denied.  However, we must keep in mind that NNI is undertaking a huge project in an extremely complex intersection of science, policy, and regulation.  Further NNI is tasked with overseeing the work of 26 federal agencies, none of which it has complete authority over.  Deliberate action is certainly understandable, however, at what point does the deliberateness transform into foot-dragging?  After all, this will be NNI's third appearance in front of Congress.