House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on NNI Oversight

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Courtesy of Acta Group

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.'  According to the hearing charter, the purpose of the hearing was to examine the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and address the Nation's research and development priorities for the future.  More information is available at the following link.

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.

 Importantly for the nano community, Dr. Clayton Teague is stepping down as the Director of NNCO, a position he has occupied since 2003. The Subcommittee thanked Dr. Teague for his years of service and leadership.

The witnesses emphasized the need for Congress to reauthorize the NNI to ensure that the U.S. remains the global leader in nanotechnology.  The 21st Century National Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (P.L. 108-153), which was signed by then President Bush in December 2003, established a statutory framework for the NNI and authorized appropriations for nanotechnology research and development (R&D) activities through fiscal year (FY) 2008.  Since then, 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 FY 2008, the NNI has received funding through annual appropriations bills, and President Obama's FY 2012 budget request proposes $2.1 billion for the NNI, which is $200 million more than the FY 2010 enacted levels. 

The President's FY 2012 budget request for the NNI would fund three signature initiatives:  Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond; Sustainable Manufacturing:  Creating the Industries of the Future; and Nanotechnology for Solar Energy Collection and Conversion.  The budget request states the NNI's continued support for the federal role in basic research, infrastructure development, and technology transfer, while renewing an emphasis on accelerating the transition from basic R&D into innovations that support sustainable energy technologies, healthcare, and environmental protection.  Witnesses stressed the need for federal funding for basic research, which is too expensive for industry to fund on its own.  Witnesses also testified that other countries, such as the European Union (EU), Japan, China, and South Korea, have increased their investment in nanotechnology, and are offering incentives to U.S. companies to open laboratories outside the U.S.  According to witnesses, the public investment in nanotechnology will ensure that the U.S. remains at the technological forefront while also growing the U.S. economy through job creation and improved productivity and efficiency.

While the witnesses stressed the need for NNI reauthorization, there is no pending legislative vehicle to achieve this result. For all the reasons noted in an earlier article, NNI reauthorization is badly needed. The hope is the hearing will create some momentum and lead the way to a reauthorization bill and eventual passage. For detailed statements of the committee please follow this link.


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