Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking examples of commercialization-success stories arising from Federal investments in nanotechnology research & development since the inception of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in 2001. Under the NNI, the U.S. government has invested more than $22 billion in fundamental and applied research in nanotechnology; the development of world-class user facilities for fabrication, characterization, and modeling/simulation of nanomaterials; and the responsible development of nanotechnology. The purpose of the RFI being released today is to gather information to better understand how these investments and resources have been utilized to successfully transition nanotechnology-based products from the lab to the market.
In his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama said, “Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smart phones” and can “unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel”. Nanotechnology researchers and entrepreneurs are making these innovations—plus many others—a reality. For example, pioneering nanotechnology research by two 2015 National Medal of Science and one National Medal of Technology and Innovation recipients has found its way into multiple commercial products. Quantum dots, developed by Dr. Armand Paul Alivisatos, can now be found in energy-efficient solid-state lighting and high-resolution video displays and televisions. Novel nanofabrication techniques developed by Dr. Joseph DeSimone are being put to work producing highly effective platforms for the controlled delivery of vaccines and therapeutics. Fin-FETs, which are 3D, nanometer-scale transistors co-invented by Dr. Chenming Hu, are used extensively in the latest computer chips. And there are dozens of companies involved in creating products that take advantage of the incredible electrical and mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes and graphene, such as data cables that are up to 70% lighter than traditional copper cables, and fibers that have more than 20 times the specific strength of steel.
While not every nanotechnology lab-to-market success can be recognized by the President, we are sure that there are many exciting examples out there that we have yet to learn about. And we suspect that many of these have been supported or helped along by Federal investments under the NNI. Have you been involved in the successful commercialization of a nanotechnology-enabled product? Was this success aided by Federal funding through a research grant or contract, collaboration with a scientist or engineer at a Federal lab, access to one of the many nanotechnology-user facilities, or based, in some way, on intellectual property arising from Federally-funded R&D? If so, tell us your story by responding to today’s RFI.
Michael Meador is the Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office at the White House National Science and Technology Council.
Lloyd Whitman is Assistant Director for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.