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Interagency ENV Grantees Meeting
September 15-16, Washington, D.C.

The Future of the National Nanotechnology Initiative

M.C. Roco, NSF
Chair, National Science and Technology Council’s subcommittee
on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET)

Nanoscale science and engineering are providing unprecedented understanding and control over the basic building blocks of matter, leading to increased coherence in knowledge, technology and education. The main reason for developing nanotechnology is to advance broad societal goals such as improved comprehension of nature, increased productivity, better healthcare, and extending the limits of sustainable development and of human potential. The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a visionary program that coordinates 17 departments and independent agencies with a total budget of about $750 million in fiscal year 2003. The worldwide nanotechnology R&D investment made by government organizations has increased approximately seven times in the last six years between 1997 and 2003, exceeding $3 billion. At least 30 countries have initiated national activities in this field, partially inspired and stimulated by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in U.S.

An overview of the main research and development themes, outcomes in the first three years of the initiative, and plans for the future will be presented. A series of new opportunities are developing in nanomedicine, energy conversion, molecular nanosystems, realistic simulations at the nanoscale, and in agriculture. The transition from scientific discoveries to technological innovation, and the role of regional alliances in advancing nanotechnology infrastructure, commercialization and workforce preparation, is discussed. Broader societal implications, including the legal aspects, will be discussed. The NNI annual investment in research and educational with relevance to environment has increased progressively since 2000. For example, in fiscal year 2002, NSF made approximately $30 million in new awards and EPA about $6 million. Other agencies have contributions specific to their mission. NSF has announced “nanoscale processes in the environment” as one of the main themes of its NNI program since July 2000 (annual program solicitations NSF 00-119, 01-157, 02-148, 03-043), and about 100 examples of awards made in this area are posted on exit EPA


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