"Challenges and Opportunities for Businesses Engaged in Nanotechnology" Workshop Proceedings Now Available

Presentations from the September 25, 2012, workshop entitled “Challenges and Opportunities for Businesses Engaged in Nanotechnology” are now available online. The workshop, organized by the California Nanotechnology Industry Network (CalNIN) and hosted by the University of California Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology, brought together experts and critical thinkers within the industry. Highlights of the workshop included Dr. Sally Tinkle, Deputy Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination, who described how the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is contributing to America’s economic recovery by implementing its programs fostering the advancement of nanotechnology; and Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Principle of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C), who walked participants through federal and international regulations and their impact on the business of nanotechnology. Kathleen M. Roberts, B&C Consortia Management, L.L.C. (BCCM), closed the workshop by highlighting opportunities for collaboration among nanotech businesses within California.

Nanotechnology is poised to be a key driver of economic growth in California in the next decade according to the scientists, government specialists, and international business leaders who spoke at the workshop. The workshop presented current research and science, both federal and non-governmental programs to support nanotechnology, business development opportunities, and venture capital availability. Attendees of the workshop, who represented academia, government, non-governmental organizations, private industry, and venture capital, rated the information presented as “compelling,” “useful,” and “timely.” For more information, contact Jake Vandevort.

NIOSH Publishes Progress Report from Nanotechnology Research Center

On November 7, 2012, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) posted a document entitled Filling the Knowledge Gaps for Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace: A Progress Report from the NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center, 2004–2011. NIOSH established NTRC in 2004 to address occupational safety and health concerns associated with nanotechnology. The progress report summarizes program accomplishments from the inception of NTRC in 2004 through 2011. It includes an analysis of the progress made toward accomplishing the goals and objectives of the NIOSH Strategic Plan for Nanotechnology Research and toward addressing the goals and research needs identified in the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) environmental, health, and safety (EHS) research strategy. The progress report states that NTRC “continues to support and promote the responsible development of nanotechnology through its ongoing research program and its contributions to the development of guidelines for hazard identification, exposure assessment, and risk characterization that can be used to develop and implement effective risk management practices.”

International Symposium Slides and Videos of the Plenary Presentations Are Now Available

On March 27-28, 2012, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in collaboration with the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), and hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held an International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology. The objective of the symposium was to explore systematically the need for and development of a methodology to assess the economic impact of nanotechnology across whole economies, factoring in many sectors and types of impact, including new and replacement products and materials, markets for raw materials, intermediate and final goods, and employment and other economic impacts. Lynn L. Bergeson was on the Steering Committee and presented at the symposium. The presentation slides and plenary videos are now available online.

NNI Agencies Announce New Nanotechnology Signature Initiative

On May 14, 2012, the agencies participating in the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) announced the fourth Nanotechnology Signature Initiative, “Nanotechnology Knowledge Infrastructure:  Enabling National Leadership in Sustainable Design” (NKI). According to a press release issued by the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), this signature initiative will stimulate the development of models, simulation tools, and databases to enable the prediction of specific properties and characteristics of nanoscale materials.  This will then accelerate commercialization of nanotechnology innovations that maximize benefits to humans and the environment while minimizing risks. NKI identifies four areas that will benefit from focused attention:

  1. A diverse collaborative community of scientists, engineers, and technical staff to support research, development, and applications of nanotechnology to meet national challenges;
  2. An agile modeling network for multidisciplinary intellectual collaboration that effectively couples experimental basic research, modeling, and applications development;
  3. A sustainable cyber-toolbox to enable effective application of models and knowledge to nanomaterials design; and
  4. A robust digital nanotechnology data and information infrastructure to support effective data sharing, collaboration, and innovation across disciplines and applications.

PCAST Releases Fourth Assessment of the NNI

On April 27, 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released the Report to the President and Congress on the Fourth Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which is a Congressionally mandated biennial review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). PCAST found that the NNI, which has provided $16 billion to date in investments by 26 federal agencies, “has had a ‘catalytic and substantial impact’ on the growth of the U.S. nanotechnology industry and should be continued.” PCAST states that, in large part due to the NNI, the U.S. “is today, by a wide range of measures, the global leader in this exciting and economically promising field of research and technological development.” The Obama Administration has proposed $1.8 billion in funding for fiscal year 2013 for 15 agencies with budgets dedicated to nanotechnology research and development (R&D).

According to the report, the federal agencies in the NNI made substantial progress in addressing many of PCAST’s 2010 recommendations that were aimed at maintaining U.S. leadership in nanotechnology. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) states that one of NNI’s primary goals “is to stay ahead of heavily-investing competitors such as China, South Korea, the European Union, and Russia.” PCAST found that the U.S. federal government “continues to invest more in nanotechnology R&D than any other single country.” Overall, PCAST concluded that the NNI remains a successful cooperative venture that is supporting high-quality research, facilitating the translation of discoveries into new commercial products, and ensuring the Nation’s continued global leadership in this important field. PCAST “applauds the increased efforts of the National Nanotechnology Coordinating Office [(NNCO)] in the area of commercialization and coordination with industry and in the release of a focused research strategy for addressing environmental, health, and safety (EHS) implications of nanotechnology.” 

PCAST noted that additional efforts are needed in four areas: strategic planning; program management; metrics for assessing impact; and increasing support for research on EHS issues associated with nanotechnology. According to PCAST, continued lack of attention to these concerns will make it harder for the U.S. to maintain its leadership role in the commercialization of nanotechnology.

Background Papers Available from the International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology

On March 27-28, 2012, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in collaboration with the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), and hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held an International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology. The objective of the symposium was to explore systematically the need for and development of a methodology to assess the economic impact of nanotechnology across whole economies, factoring in many sectors and types of impact, including new and replacement products and materials, markets for raw materials, intermediate and final goods, and employment and other economic impacts. Lynn L. Bergeson was on the Steering Committee and presented at the symposium. NNI has posted the following background papers:

  • Challenges for Governments in Evaluating Return on Investment from Nanotechnology and its Broader Economic Impact;
  • Finance and Investor Models in Nanotechnology;
  • The Economic Contributions of Nanotechnology to Green and Sustainable Growth; and
  • Models, Tools and Metrics Available to Assess the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology.

Dr. Robert Pohanka Appointed as Director of the NNCO

On March 20, 2012, the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) announced the appointment of Dr. Robert Pohanka as the Director of the NNCO. The NNCO provides technical and administrative support to the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee, serves as a central point of contact for federal nanotechnology research and development activities, and provides public outreach on behalf of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). Dr. Pohanka previously served as the Director of the Defense Venture Catalyst Initiative (DeVenCI), where he led and directed the strategy for finding private sector technologies, developed independently of the Department of Defense (DoD), and transitioned them to DoD Research, Development, and Acquisition. Prior to leading the DeVenCI program, Dr. Pohanka served as the Head of the Materials and Physical Sciences Department at the Office of Naval Research, where he was responsible for leading and directing the strategy for planning and executing a broad range of science and technology investments from basic physics and chemistry at the nanometer scale to engineering solutions for aircraft carriers.  During this period, Dr. Pohanka also served as Director for the Materials Science and Technology Division and as Director for the Ship, Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical Division.

NRC Publishes A Research Strategy for Environmental, Health, and Safety Aspects of Engineered Nanomaterials

On January 25, 2012, the National Research Council (NRC) posted the pre-publication version of its report entitled A Research Strategy for Environmental, Health, and Safety Aspects of Engineered Nanomaterials. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked NRC to perform an independent study to develop and monitor the implementation of an integrated research strategy to address the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) aspects of engineered nanomaterials (ENM). NRC convened the Committee to Develop a Research Strategy for Environmental, Health, and Safety Aspects of Engineered Nanomaterials, which concluded that there is need for a research strategy that is independent of any one stakeholder group, has human and environmental health as its primary focus, builds on past efforts, and is flexible in anticipating and adjusting to emerging challenges.

To help guide research, the Committee noted the following four research categories, which it states should be addressed within five years:

  • Identify and quantify the nanomaterials being released and the populations and environments being exposed;
  • Understand processes that affect both potential hazards and exposure;
  • Examine nanomaterial interactions in complex systems ranging from subcellular to ecosystems; and
  • Support an adaptive research and knowledge infrastructure for accelerating progress and providing rapid feedback to advance research.

The Committee acknowledged a gap between funding and the level of activity required to support its strategy. The Committee concluded that any reduction in the current funding level of approximately $120 million per year over the next five years for health and environmental risk research by federal agencies would be a setback to nanomaterials risk research. Moreover, according to the Committee, additional “modest resources” from public, private, and international initiatives are needed in critical areas -- informatics, nanomaterial characterization, benchmarking nanomaterials, characterization of sources, and development of networks for supporting collaborative research -- to derive maximum strategic value from the research investments.

The Committee states that implementation of the strategy should also include the integration of domestic and international participants involved in nanotechnology-related research, including the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), federal agencies, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and the academic community. The Committee noted that the current structure of the NNI, which has no top-down budgetary or management authority to direct nanotechnology-related EHS research, hinders its accountability for effective implementation. In addition, according to the Committee, there is concern that dual and potentially conflicting roles of the NNI, such as developing and promoting nanotechnology while identifying and mitigating risks that arise from its use, impede application and evaluation of health and environmental risk research. The Committee concluded that, to carry out the research strategy effectively, a clear separation of management and budgetary authority and accountability between promoting nanotechnology and assessing potential environmental and safety risks is essential.

 

NNI Releases 2011 EHS Research Strategy

On October 20, 2011, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) released its 2011 Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Strategy (Strategy), which is intended to provide guidance to the federal agencies that produce scientific information for risk management, regulatory decision-making, product use, research planning, and public outreach. The Strategy lists the following core research areas providing this information: (1) nanomaterial measurement infrastructure; (2) human exposure assessment; (3) human health; (4) environment; (5) risk assessment and risk management methods; and (6) informatics and modeling. The Strategy also considers the ethical, legal, and societal implications (ELSI) of nanotechnology. NNI held a webinar on October 20, 2011, to announce the release of the Strategy, and Lynn L. Bergeson served on the panel. The Strategy, fact sheet, brochure, and webinar are available online.  NNI will post the panelist materials.

NNI Will Hold Webinar to Announce 2011 EHS Research Strategy

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) will hold a webinar on October 20, 2011, to announce the release of the 2011 NNI Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Research Strategy, and to discuss the development of the Strategy and its key focus areas. Dr. John Howard, Co-Chair of the Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group, will serve as the moderator. Panelists will include:

  • Dr. Treye Thomas, NEHI Working Group Co-Chair;
  • Dr. Shaun Clancy, Evonik DeGussa Corporation;
  • Dr. Janet Carter, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); and
  • Lynn L. Bergeson, Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

The webinar will include a 20-minute question-and-answer segment following the presentations.

 

Presentations Available from US-EU Workshop: Bridging NanoEHS Research Efforts

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) has posted the presentations from the March 10-11, 2011, workshop entitled “US-EU: Bridging NanoEHS Research Efforts,” which was intended to continue the robust dialogue between the U.S. and European Union (EU) on issues of shared concern pertinent to nanotechnology research initiatives. The workshop covered the following areas:

  • Significant discussion about environmental, health, and safety (EHS) questions for nanotechnology-enabled products;
  • Hands-on participation in joint programs of work that will better leverage resources; and
  • Development of communities of practice areas, including identification of key points of contact, interest groups, themes between key U.S. and EU researchers, and key U.S. and EU funding sources for near-term and future collaborations.

 

NNI Releases Reports from EHS Workshops

On July 19, 2011, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) announced the release of four reports from a series of workshops focusing on issues in the nanotechnology environmental, health, and safety (EHS) arena. According to NNI, the workshops were a part of an ongoing strategy to coordinate nanotechnology-related EHS research by convening experts from industry, academia, and the federal government to share the latest information and newest developments, to discuss the current state-of-the-science, and to identify research gaps in the nanotechnology-related EHS field. NNI states that “knowledge gleaned from the nanoEHS workshop series was critical to the development of the soon-to-be-released, updated NNI EHS Research Strategy.”

Through four separate workshops, experts examined the following areas:

  • Nanomaterials and Human Health and Instrumentation, Metrology, and Analytics;
  • Nanomaterials and the Environment and Instrumentation, Metrology, and Analytics;
  • Human and Environmental Exposure Assessment; and
  • Risk Management Methods and Ethical, Legal, and Societal Implications of Nanotechnology.

 

Senate Subcommittee Will Hold Hearing on Nanotechnology Investment

Today Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, announced that the Science and Space Subcommittee will hold a hearing on July 14, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. (EDT) on national nanotechnology investment. According to Rockefeller’s July 1, 2011, press release, as the Commerce Committee considers a reauthorization of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), the hearing will examine the potential of nanotechnology, federal initiatives to coordinate research investments, barriers to commercialization, possible environmental and health risks, and steps Congress can take to improve the return on federal nanotechnology investments.

Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus Seeks Members

In a May 2011 letter, Representatives Ralph M. Hall (R-TX) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) ask Congressional members to join the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus. The Caucus was formed over ten years ago and is intended to inform legislators about nanotechnology issues, including the effect of nanotechnology on job creation and other economic benefits to the U.S. The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), which was codified by Congress in 2003, coordinates the federal nanotechnology research and development of 25 federal agencies. Since enactment, the House has passed bills in the 110th (H.R. 5940) and 111th (H.R. 554 and H.R. 5116) Congresses to amend and reauthorize the NNI, but the Senate did not act in either Congress. Since fiscal year 2008, the NNI has received funding through annual appropriations bills. Nanotechnology stakeholders are urged to use this template letter to let their representatives and senators know of the importance of nanotechnology issues to their constituents and urge them to participate in the Caucus.

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on NNI Oversight

On April 14, 2011, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a hearing entitled “Nanotechnology: Oversight of the National Nanotechnology Initiative and Priorities for the Future.” Witnesses included:

  • Dr. Clayton Teague, Director, National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO);
  • Dr. Jeffrey Welser, Director, Nanoelectronics Research Initiative, Semiconductor Research Corporation;
  • Dr. Seth Rudnick, Chairman of the Board, Liquidia Technologies;
  • Dr. James Tour, Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, Rice University; and
  • Mr. William Moffitt, President and Chief Executive Officer, Nanosphere, Inc.

The witnesses emphasized the need for Congress to reauthorize the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) to ensure that the U.S. remains the global leader in nanotechnology. Other countries, such as Japan, China, and South Korea, have increased their investment in nanotechnology. Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), Chair of the Subcommittee, thanked Dr. Teague for his service as Director of the NNCO. Dr. Teague’s last day will be April 15, 2011.

 

President Obama Requests Additional Funding for NNI

Under the fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget request submitted by President Obama to Congress on February 14, 2011, funding for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) would increase by $201 million, to $2.1 billion. According to an Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) fact sheet, agencies participating in the NNI have developed three signature initiatives in areas ready for advances through close and targeted program-level interagency collaboration: Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond; Sustainable Manufacturing: Creating the Industries of the Future; and Nanotechnology for Solar Energy Collection and Conversion. Participating agencies will continue to support nanoscience and nanotechnology development through investigator-led research; multidisciplinary centers of excellence; education and training; and infrastructure and standards development. In addition, OSTP states, agencies will still maintain a focus on the responsible development of nanotechnology, with attention to potential human and environmental health impacts, as well as ethical, legal, and other societal issues. At a February 14, 2011, news briefing for reporters, OSTP Director John Holdren said budget reductions proposed by Republicans in Congress could be damaging if applied to federal research funding.

NNI Releases 2011 Strategic Plan

This week the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released the 2011 NNI Strategic Plan. According to NNI, the Plan retains the “overall vision,” four goals, and eight program component areas outlined in the previous edition of the Plan, which was released in December 2007. For the first time, the Plan includes specific objectives under each goal, outlining concrete steps that NNI member agencies will take toward collectively achieving the NNI vision and goals.  NNI member agencies will use the Plan to guide the coordination of their research, training programs, and resources. NNI states that the Plan incorporates a broad rage of stakeholder input obtained through NNI-sponsored workshops, a formal Request for Information published in the Federal Register, and the NNI Strategy Portal website.

NNI Announces Release of Regional, State, and Local Initiatives Workshop Report

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) has announced the release of the report for its April 2009 regional, state, and local (RSL) initiatives. According to NNI, the goals of the workshop and the report are “to advance development of nanotechnology research, education, infrastructure, commercialization, and positive societal outcomes by exploiting synergies between the various regional, state, and local initiatives; by promoting the sharing of information and resources; and by developing mechanisms for cross-sector interactions.” With stakeholder input from government, academia, industry, and RSL initiatives across the country, the workshop report outlines mechanisms for information exchange and improved collaboration among all sectors engaged in nanotechnology.

America COMPETES Reauthorization Act Presented to President for Signature

On December 28, 2010, the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010 (H.R. 5116) was presented to President Obama for signature. The bill, as unanimously passed by the Senate on December 17, 2010, does not include reauthorization of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). The House passed similar legislation on May 28, 2010, by a vote of 262-150. The House bill would have reauthorized the NNI. The Senate version, on the other hand, contains no reference to nanotechnology.

B&C Attends Nanotechnology Innovation Summit

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C) is pleased to announce that it attended the first day of the “Nanotechnology Innovation Summit,” which celebrated the tenth anniversary of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), to meet with many of our clients who showcased their products. The Summit was held December 8-10, 2010, at the Gaylord National Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. The Summit provided attendees an opportunity to meet with key federal government leaders and directors of many NNI agencies, as well as leaders and innovators from industry and academia.

Draft NNI EHS Research Strategy Available for Comment

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council request comments regarding the draft National Nanotechnology Initiative 2011 Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Strategy (Strategy). The draft Strategy describes the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) environmental, health, and safety (EHS) vision and mission, the state of the science, and the research needed to achieve the vision.  It represents the consensus of the participating agencies on how to promote the responsible development of nanotechnology by providing guidance to federal agencies as they develop their agency-specific research priorities, strategies, and implementation plans to achieve this vision.  It describes the goals and research needs for five science topics that shape EHS research (nanomaterial measurement infrastructure, human exposure assessment, human health, environment, and risk assessment and risk management methods) and evaluates the state of the science for each of these topics.  The draft Strategy also includes an analysis of the fiscal year 2009 federal EHS research portfolio and identifies concepts and approaches to accelerate the pace of research in this crucial area.  The 2011 plan will update and replace the 2008 NNI EHS Research Strategy. Comments are due January 6, 2011.

NNI Draft Strategic Plan Available for Comment

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) draft Strategic Plan is available for comment until November 30, 2010. The Strategic Plan is the framework that underpins the work of the 25 NNI member agencies.  The Strategic Plan is intended to ensure that advances in nanotechnology research and development (R&D) and their applications to agency missions and the broader national interest continue. The purpose of the Strategic Plan is to facilitate achievement of the NNI vision by providing guidance for agency leaders, program managers, and the research community regarding planning and implementation of nanotechnology R&D investments and activities.

OSTP Issues Request for Information on the NNI

On July 6, 2010, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) published a Request for Information (RFI) on the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). According to OSTP, the purpose of the RFI is to enhance the value of the NNI “by reaching out to the nanotechnology stakeholder community for specific input for the next NNI Strategic Plan to be published in December 2010.  The RFI refers to the NNI goals identified from the 2007 Strategic Plan as a starting point for questions covering themes such as research priorities, investment, coordination, partnerships, evaluation, and policy. OSTP states that it is interested in responses that address one or more of its questions, which are broadly categorized under goals and objectives; research priorities; investment; coordination and partnerships; evaluation; and policy, as related to the NNI.  Responses are due August 15, 2010.  OSTP states that submissions prior to the July 13-14, 2010, NNI Strategic Plan Stakeholder Workshop “may also inform dialogues” at the Workshop. OSTP intends to hold an “online public comment eventJuly 13-August 15, 2010, to solicit input on the NNI Strategic Plan.

House Bill Would Reauthorize NNI

On May 28, 2010, the House passed, by a vote of 262-150, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (H.R. 5116), which would authorize funding for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), as well as the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science activities. The bill includes language from H.R. 554, the NNI Amendments Act of 2009, which the House passed in February 2009. H.R. 5116 would require NNI to work toward developing “standards related to methods and procedures for detecting, measuring, monitoring, sampling, and testing engineered nanoscale materials for environmental, health, and safety impacts.” The bill would fund research on “green nanotechnology” by creating research centers that would focus on methods and approaches to develop environmentally benign nanoscale products and nanoscale manufacturing processes; foster the transfer of the results of such research to industry; and provide for the education of scientists and engineers through interdisciplinary studies in the principles and techniques for the design and development of environmentally benign nanoscale products and processes. The bill would create a position, within the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), for a Coordinator for Societal Dimensions of Nanotechnology. The Coordinator would ensure that a research plan for the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) research activities is developed, updated, and implemented.

New OSTP Group Will Address Nanotechnology Issues

During the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) March 30-31, 2010, conference regarding “Risk Management Methods & Ethical, Legal, and Societal Implications of Nanotechnology,” Tom Kalil, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), announced that the OSTP would create a new interagency group on emerging technologies, including nanotechnology. Kalil’s announcement is reported in an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) policy alert, which notes that OSTP intends the group to provide agencies a forum in which to discuss emerging policy issues.

ECOS Wants to Participate in NSET Subcommittee Working Groups

In an August 7, 2009, letter to the White House Office of Science Technology and Policy (OSTP), the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) expressed its interest in working with OSTP and other federal agencies regarding the “human health and ecological impacts and lifecycle consequences of intentional and unintentional releases of engineered nanoparticles into the environment.” According to ECOS, state environmental agencies want to participate in national efforts to develop best assessment and management practices. ECOS suggests that one option is for ECOS to join one or more of the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee Working Groups within the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) framework. ECOS asked OSTP for a meeting, “preferably this summer,” to obtain feedback on its key areas of interest and to discuss the best opportunities for its involvement in national efforts.

NNCO Responds to NRC Report on Nanotechnology Research Strategy

On February 13, 2009, the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) released a statement regarding the National Research Council’s (NRC) December 10, 2008, report regarding its review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) Strategy for Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Research.  According to the statement, NNI member agencies noted the report’s “substantial and important recommendations for further progress on EHS research,” and “look forward to working with the NRC on achieving the vital and shared goals of clearly, proactively assessing the potential benefits and risks that may be associated with specific nanomaterials in specific applications.”  NNCO notes that it “do[es] not believe that the NRC evaluation recognized the breadth and depth of the NNI commitment to EHS research. . . .  Furthermore, the report drew a number of conclusions with which the NNI member agencies respectfully disagree.” NNCO provided detailed comments to the NRC in a January 5, 2009, letter. On February 24-25, 2009, NNCO held a workshop regarding the science related to EHS aspects of engineered nanoscale materials in the area of human and environmental exposure assessment, one of the five EHS research categories identified in the Strategy for Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health, and Safety Research.

NNI Reauthorization Legislation Introduced In House Committee

On January 15, 2009, Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), Chair of the House Science Committee, introduced the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) Amendments Act of 2009 (H.R. 554). The bill is identical to H.R. 5940, which passed the House in the previous Congress with a 407-6 vote. The legislation would reauthorize the multi-agency research program that Congress established in 2003 through the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003 (Pub. Law 108-153). Under the Act, federal agencies would be required to develop a research plan and implementation strategy that specifies near- and long-term goals, sets milestones and time frames for meeting near-term goals, clarifies agencies’ roles in implementing the plan, and allocates sufficient resources to accomplish those goals. The bill would authorize funding for research in areas of national need, such as research to develop renewable energy and batteries that could store energy more efficiently, and would direct agencies to take steps to help private companies commercialize nanotechnology applications.

Bill to Reauthorize NNI Introduced in Senate

On July 17, 2007, Senators Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), Chair of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, John Kerry (D-MA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) introduced the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008. The bill would reauthorize the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and amend aspects of the program to prioritize better research and development activities.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Establish the National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel, which would be responsible for recommending an appropriate funding level for the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) program component area. The bill would also establish a subpanel focused on the societal, ethical, legal, environmental, and workforce issues related to nanotechnology;
  • Provide consistent funding for the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) through the participating federal agencies;
  • Require the NNCO to establish a publicly available database of the projects funded in the EHS program component area, the educational and societal dimensions program component area, and the nanomanufacturing program component area;
  • Require an Office of Science and Technology Policy official to serve as the Coordinator for Societal Dimensions of Nanotechnology. The Coordinator would be required to develop and annually update a research plan for the EHS program component area;
  • Support the development of standards, metrology, and characterization tools for nanotechnology;
  • Promote technology transfer through the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program, and make federally funded nanotechnology facilities available to companies to assist in the development of prototypes of nanoscale products, devices, or processes;
  • Promote nanotechnology research and development in areas of national importance, including nano-electronics, energy efficiency, health care, water remediation, instrumentation and characterization, and rapid production nanomanufacturing;
  • Require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive study of federal codes, standards, and regulations as they relate to the safe production, use, and disposal of engineered nanomaterials and products containing nanomaterials; and
  • Require the NNCO to engage the public by convening a national discussion on nanotechnology. This national discussion would include diverse participation and incorporate the views of academia, nongovernmental organizations, and industry to identify priorities and concerns related to nanotechnology research and development, products, and regulatory policy.

GAO Testifies Before Senate Subcommittee on the Accuracy of Data Concerning Federally Funded EHS Research

On April 24, 2008, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled Nanotechnology: Accuracy of Data on Federally Funded Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Could Be Improved, which contains the testimony of Robert A. Robinson, Managing Director, Natural Resources and Environment, before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Innovation. Robinson provided a summary of GAO’s findings as reported in its March 31, 2008, report entitled Nanotechnology: Better Guidance Is Needed to Ensure Accurate Reporting of Federal Research Focused on Environmental, Health, and Safety Risks. GAO was asked to focus on: (1) the extent to which selected agencies conducted environmental, health, and safety (EHS) research in fiscal year (FY) 2006; (2) the reasonableness of the agencies’ and the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) processes to identify and prioritize EHS research; and (3) the effectiveness of the agencies’ and the NNI’s process to coordinate EHS research. According to NNI, in FY 2006, federal agencies devoted $37.7 million -- or three percent of the $1.3 billion total nanotechnology research funding -- to research primarily focused on the EHS risks of nanotechnology, according to the NNI. GAO found that about 20 percent of this total could not actually be attributed to this purpose, however. GAO states that 22 of the 119 projects identified as EHS in FY 2006 were not primarily related to understanding the extent to which nanotechnology may pose an EHS risk. Instead, many of the projects focused on how to use nanotechnology to remediate environmental damage or detect hazards not related to nanotechnology. GAO states that, at the time of its review, federal agencies and NNI were in the process of identifying and prioritizing EHS risk research needs, and the overall process they were using appeared reasonable. NNI also was engaged in an iterative prioritization effort through its Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) working group. NEHI identified five general research categories as a priority for federally funded research. GAO found that most of the research projects that were underway in FY 2006 were generally consistent with agency and NEHI priorities. NEHI released its new EHS research strategy on February 13, 2008. According to GAO, agency and NNI processes to coordinate activities related to potential EHS risks of nanotechnology have been generally effective. In its March 2008 report, GAO recommended better guidance to improve the accuracy of data reported by NNI. Although the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) asserted that it provides extensive guidance, it agreed to review how the agencies respond to the current guidance. Robinson made no new recommendations in his statement before the Subcommittee.

Senate Committee Will Hold NNI Reauthorization Hearing

On April 24, 2008, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing entitled “National Nanotechnology Initiative: Charting the Course for Reauthorization.” The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) currently receives approximately $1.5 billion. The hearing will examine the five-year period since the NNI was initially authorized in 2003 and explore issues the Committee should consider for the next reauthorization.  

Witnesses scheduled to speak at the hearing include:

  • Panel 1
  • The Honorable Richard M. Russell
    Associate Director and Deputy Director for Technology
    Executive Office of the President 
  • Mr. Robert A. Robinson
    Managing Director, Natural Resources and Environment Team
    U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • Panel 2
  • Mr. Matthew M. Nordan
    President
    Lux Research Incorporated 
  • Mr. David Rejeski
    Director, Foresight and Governance Project and Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
    Woodrow Wilson Center  
  • Dr. P. Lee Ferguson
    Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
    University of South Carolina 
  • Dr. Anita Goel
    Nanobiosym Incorporated
  • Dr. Jim Heath
    Director
    NSB Cancer Center

NSET Releases Strategy for Nanotechnology-Related EHS Research

On February 14, 2008, the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Technology released a final document entitled Strategy for Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health, and Safety Research, which describes the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) strategy for addressing priority research on the environment, health, and safety (EHS) aspects of nanomaterials. The NNI EHS Strategy assigns priority to research and information needs identified by the NSET Subcommittee. NNI released an interim version of the EHS Strategy in August 2007, entitled Prioritization of Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Needs for Engineered Nanoscale Materials: An Interim Document for Public Comment. NNI incorporated public comments in preparing the final EHS Strategy. The Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group developed the EHS Strategy “to accelerate progress in research to protect public health and the environment, and to fill gaps in, and -- with the growing level of effort worldwide -- to avoid unnecessary duplication of, such research.”

NNI Releases Strategic Plan

On January 2, 2008, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) released its Strategic Plan, which describes NNI’s investment strategy and the program component areas called for by the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003. Under the Act, NNI must update its Strategic Plan every three years, and this plan updates and replaces the December 2004 plan. The Strategic Plan outlines the goals and priorities of NNI and describes approaches for achieving them. NNI states that the Plan supports “leading edge research, sustains the extensive infrastructure of facilities, seeks to facilitate technology transfer, and addresses environmental, health, and societal concerns.”

Environmental Defense Suggests Potential Model for Restructuring NNI

On November 19, 2007, Environmental Defense (ED) issued a press release that states that the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is not effectively addressing the potential risks of nanotechnology, and that a potential model for resolving the conflict between NNI’s dual charges to both promote and oversee the technology could be drawn from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Like the NNI, the AEC, first established in 1946, was tasked with both encouraging the development and use of nuclear power and regulating its safety. Concerns about this dual charge led Congress to abolish the AEC in 1975, and to assign its risk research and oversight functions to a new entity, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In the press release, ED suggests that an entity within NNI, “either newly formed or significantly elevated in status,” could be given independent budgetary and management authority, responsibility, accountability, and resources to develop and direct the overall federal nanomaterial risk research strategy.

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Relationship Between Environmental and Health Policy and Nanotechnology

On October 31, 2007, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Research and Science Education Subcommittee held a hearing on the relationship between environmental and health policy and nanotechnology. The Subcommittee examined how the U.S. can stay at the forefront of scientific research and development, while at the same time establishing priorities and a detailed plan for research on the potential environmental and health risks of engineered nanomaterials. The Science and Technology Committee held two previous hearings on this issue -- one in 2005 and another in 2006 -- with the objective of reviewing the importance of risk research for achieving the potential benefits of nanotechnology and the efforts of the interagency National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) to put in place a research strategy. Progress in developing the research strategy has been slow, however. The hearing explored the status of the planning efforts and received suggestions from outside witnesses on ways to improve the process.

Witnesses at the hearing included:

NNI Releases Brochure Entitled "Big Things from a Tiny World"

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) recently released a brochure entitled “Big Things from a Tiny World.” The brochure is intended for general readers rather than scientists, and describes what nanotechnology is, what nanotechnology-related products are available now, and the potential contributions of nanotechnology to address issues such as clean, renewable energy, clean water, and medical devices and drugs. The brochure also describes potential technological impacts and the research that is under way to identify those impacts.

Senate Requests GAO Review of NNI

In a March 15, 2007, letter, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), which was created to accelerate the discovery, development, and deployment of nanoscale science and technology. For fiscal year 2006, NNI received $1.2 billion in research and development funding, and 22 federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), participate in NNI. According to the letter, one key expectation for NNI was “to ensure that adequate attention and research funding was made available to gain a better understanding of the potential environmental, health, and safety (EHS) risks associated with nanomaterials.” The letter states that the Committee and Caucus “are extremely concerned that this has not happened and that there is a lack of transparency with regard to how much federal attention and funding this important aspect of the initiative is receiving.”

To determine the extent to which federal agencies have undertaken EHS research and how they are prioritizing and managing this research, the Committee and Caucus ask GAO to:

  •  Review the extent to which NNI-related resources have been devoted to study the EHS risks of nanomaterials;
  • Identify the key areas of research for which this EHS funding has been used;
  • Determine what processes the Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications Working Group uses to prioritize and coordinate these various EHS research efforts; and
  • Review and identify any EHS-related research and regulatory activities, independent of the NNI, that EPA, FDA, CPCS, and OSHA have undertaken, the amount of funding made available for these efforts, and the extent to which information about these efforts has been communicated to the Working Group to ensure that they are considered in the overall research planning processes for the NNI.