Nanotechnology Initiative: Implementation Plan Sent to Congress Nanoscale science, engineering, and technology - the investigation, design and manipulation of materials on the scale of a few atoms - is a concept that has captured the interest of many policymakers. As a priority in his FY 2001 budget request, President Clinton announced a major new multiagency initiative which would virtually double the current federal spending in nanotechnology. While the appropriations bills so far have fallen short of Clinton's request for this field, Senate Energy and Water Development appropriators stated that they "strongly [support DOE's] role in the government-wide investment in nanotechnology," and the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate VA/HUD Appropriations Committee cited the potential of nanotechnology in a letter urging increased funding for NSF.
Clinton's National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) would provide $495 million in FY 2001 to six agencies (NSF, DOE, DOD, NASA, DOC, and NIH) to expand nanoscale R&D in areas that would support and advance their missions (see /fyi/2000/fyi00.046.htm for more details). "The Administration believes that nanotechnology will have a profound impact on our economy and society in the early 21st century, perhaps comparable to that of information technology or of cellular, genetic, and molecular biology," said presidential science advisor Neal Lane in a July 11 letter to Members of Congress. With the letter, he transmitted an implementation plan for the proposed initiative.
"Thus far," the plan says, "Federal and academic investments in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology have occurred in open competition with other research topics within various disciplines. This dynamic is one reason that U.S. nanotechnology research efforts tend to be fragmented and overlap among disciplines, areas of relevance, and sources of funding. It is important to develop a strategic research and development and implementation plan. A coordinated national effort could focus resources on stimulating cooperation, avoid unwanted duplication of efforts, capture the imagination of young people, and support of basic sciences."
Activities supported by the initiative will be coordinated by a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council, made up of White House officials and representatives of the participating agencies. According to the report, "examples of NNI coordination include identification of the most promising research directions, encouraging funding of complementary fields of research across agencies..., education and training of the necessary workforce, and establishing a process by which centers and networks of excellence are selected."
The implementation plan establishes "Grand Challenges" in such areas as smart materials, computing and memory storage, drug delivery and diagnostics, water purification and desalinization, energy conversion and storage, microspacecraft, biochemical detection and mitigation, economical and safe transportation, and national security. It lays out a timeline for the next five years and research strategies for accomplishing the objectives, and specifies infrastructure needs and the roles of the participating agencies. Each agency "will invest in those R&D projects that support its own mission as well as NNI goals" it says, and each agency will retain "control over how it will allocate resources against its proposed NNI plan based on the availability of funding. Each agency will use its own methods for inviting and evaluating proposals," but will be subject to two overriding management principles: open competition and/or peer review, and interagency coordination.
"The National Nanotechnology Initiative: The Initiative and Its Implementation Plan," runs approximately 150 pages with appendices and is now available on the Internet at http://nano.gov
Audrey T. Leath