The Federal government continues to play a key role in the success of the U.S. nanotechnology enterprise through the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)—as was evident throughout October. And one way to ensure the effort is well coordinated and well implemented is through strategic planning. Yesterday, the National Science and Technology Council released the 2016 NNI Strategic Plan, which describes the NNI vision and goals and the strategies by which these goals are to be achieved. The plan includes a description of the NNI investment strategy called for by the 21st Century Research and Development Act of 2003, identifies specific objectives toward collectively achieving the NNI vision, and provides an updated framework for the nanotechnology-related activities of the NNI’s Federal agencies for the next three years.
Over the life of the NNI, nanotechnology has evolved from an area of fundamental research focused on understanding and exploiting the phenomena that occur at the nanoscale to what is now a broadly enabling technology. This latest strategic plan reflects that evolution and addresses how those agencies will collaborate with each other and the broader nanotechnology community—including through activities like National Nanotechnology Day and the 100 Billion Nanometer Dash—to expand the ecosystem that supports fundamental discovery, fosters innovation, and promotes the transfer of nanotechnology discoveries from lab to market.
Most people thought October 9 was just an early autumn Sunday. But for nanotechnology enthusiasts, 10/9 was National Nanotechnology Day (#NationalNanoDay) in homage to the nanometer scale, 10–9 meters. This first of what is planned as an annual event was organized by the United States nanotechnology community to inform the public and stakeholders about nanotechnology and its benefits, including research accomplishments, commercialization successes, its role in education, and its promise for the future. National Nanotechnology Day celebrated the hard work of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs who have helped nanotechnology move from exciting laboratory discoveries to innovative products, highlighting their accomplishments in community-led events hosted by professional societies, schools, and other organizations across the country. Many participants even got some exercise during the day by running a “100 billion nanometer dash” (#100BillionNanometers)—more commonly known as a 100 meter dash—a really creative way to get people both young and old thinking about the nanoscale.
While some people were getting in shape for the 100 billion nanometer dash, others were recording their thoughts about nanotechnology in a “Nano Nugget”. These short videos feature experts, students, and visionaries discussing how nanotechnology is already creating new ways to diagnose and treat cancer, is inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers, and promises much more. You can see Paula Hammond, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT, explain that she uses “nanoparticles because they’re tiny enough to get into tumors.” You can learn why students at Madison Park Middle School in Phoenix, Arizona are excited that “nanotechnology helps us learn by providing tools that allow us to see what’s real at small scales.” And consider why nanotechnology pioneer Chad Mirkin, director of Northwestern University's International Institute for Nanotechnology, thinks “This type of technology can change almost every aspect of our lives.” Twenty Nano Nuggets have been released to date, with more to be released throughout November.
Collectively, these activities make clear that by working together the nation can realize the full potential of the nanotechnology frontier.
Lisa Friedersdorf is Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office at the White House National Science and Technology Council.