Topic Name: NSET brings a new strategic plan for the work of the National Nanotechnology Initiative
Research persons: Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Research Team
Location: National Nanotechnology Initiative, United States
A new strategic plan for the work of the National
Nanotechnology Initiative has just been released by the interagency
Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the
National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Technology with support
from the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO). The 2007 NNI
Strategic Plan describes the vision, goals, and priorities of the NNI to ensure
that the United States derives growing economic benefits and improved quality of
life for its citizens and remains a global leader in nanotechnology R&D in
the years to come.
According to NNCO Director Clayton
Teague, periodic reexamination of the NNI
Strategic Plan is essential, given the dynamic nature of the field. The 21st
Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003 calls for the NNI
Strategic Plan to be updated every third year; the plan just released updates
and replaces the December 2004 plan.
“This strategic plan presents an overview of the NNI for the public and
will facilitate achievement of the NNI vision by offering guidance for agency
leaders, program managers, and the research community in their nanotechnology
R&D investments and activities,” said Dr. Teague. He noted that the new
plan reflects the consensus of the 25 NNI participating agencies as to the goals
and priorities of the NNI and provides a framework within which each agency will
carry out its own mission-related nanotechnology programs, as well as a path
that will sustain coordination of interagency activities. In addition to
specifying high-level goals, the plan identifies activities aimed at
accomplishing those goals. The plan also identifies major subject areas, or
program component areas (PCAs), in which investments are needed to ensure the
success of the initiative. Finally, the plan identifies a number of
representative high-impact application opportunities that cut across the NNI
program component areas and that align with the competencies and missions of
A number of inputs guided the Strategic Plan update, Dr. Teague noted. Among
them were independent reviews of the NNI by the President’s Council of
Advisors on Science and Technology and the National Research Council of the
National Academies, both of which have been strongly supportive of the NNI and
have offered specific recommendations for improving NNI strategies and
operations. Additional input has come from topical workshops sponsored by the
NNI, in which academic, government, and industry experts developed research
recommendations for a variety of application areas, considered societal
implications of nanotechnology, and addressed economic development strategies.
In reviewing the basic elements of the existing strategic plan, the NSET
Subcommittee found many aspects still relevant and appropriate. However, a
number of modifications have been made to reflect progress that has taken place
since 2004 and to emphasize and clarify the significance that nanotechnology
advances will have for the nation.
Among the changes in the new strategic plan is the division of the 2004
Societal Dimensions PCA into two PCAs in the updated plan, one titled
Environment, Health and Safety and one titled Education and Societal Dimensions.
This change aligns with budget reporting practices since 2006, according to Dr.
Teague. A second major change to the strategic plan is the addition of a number
of exemplary, high-impact application opportunities and critical research needs.
“The opportunities and needs are visionary, yet realistic,” Dr. Teague said,
cutting across the NNI program component areas, and aligning with the
competencies and missions of multiple participating agencies. These illustrative
examples highlight the range of cutting-edge research and the variety of areas
in which nanotechnology will transform industrial sectors and society.
Commenting on the achievements of the NNI and growth of the field, Dr. Teague
noted that although the NNI and nanotechnology itself are still young— and
translating an emerging technology into economically viable products usually
takes decades—nanotechnology innovation and product development are under way.
As evidence, he cited the more than 4800 patents identified to date under the
nanotechnology classification created by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office,
many of which draw upon NNI-supported research.
“The NNI has created a thriving nanoscale science and engineering R&D
environment within the United States,” Dr. Teague said, noting the 70 research
and user facilities established and supported by the NNI since its beginning.
“As a result, scientific understanding of nanometer-scale phenomena has
expanded enormously. An extensive network of R&D centers is already
Building on this progress, Dr. Teague noted that “exploiting the full value
that nanotechnology offers depends on sustained R&D. Barriers to innovation
and technology transfer need to be lowered. Researchers, educators, and
technicians with new skills are required. Furthermore, nanotechnology must be
developed responsibly. “
The National Nanotechnology Initiative is the program established in Fiscal
Year 2001 to coordinate Federal nanotechnology R&D. The NNI provides a
vision of the long-term opportunities and benefits of nanotechnology. By serving
as a central locus for communication, cooperation, and collaboration for all
Federal agencies that wish to participate, the NNI brings together the expertise
needed to guide and support the advancement of this broad and complex field. The
NNI creates a framework for a comprehensive nanotechnology R&D program by
establishing shared goals, priorities, and strategies, and it provides avenues
for each individual agency to leverage the resources of all participating
Note for Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology refers broadly to a field of applied science and technology whose unifying theme is the control of matter on the atomic and molecular scale, normally 1 to 100 nanometers, and the fabrication of devices within that size range. It is a highly multidisciplinary field, drawing from fields such as applied physics, materials science, interface and colloid science, device physics, supramolecular chemistry (which refers to the area of chemistry that focuses on the noncovalent bonding interactions of molecules), self-replicating machines and robotics, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. Much speculation exists as to what may result from these lines of research. Nanotechnology can be seen as an extension of existing sciences into the nanoscale, or as a recasting of existing sciences using a newer, more modern term.
Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the "bottom-up" approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition. In the "top-down" approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control. The impetus for nanotechnology comes from a renewed interest in Interface and Colloid Science, coupled with a new generation of analytical tools such as the atomic force microscope (AFM), and the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). Combined with refined processes such as electron beam lithography and molecular beam epitaxy, these instruments allow the deliberate manipulation of nanostructures, and led to the observation of novel phenomena.
Note for Quality of life
The well-being or quality of life of a population is an important concern in economics and political science. It is measured by many social and economic factors. A large part is standard of living, the amount of money and access to goods and services that a person has; these numbers are fairly easily measured. Others like freedom, happiness, art, environmental health, and innovation are far harder to measure. This has created an inevitable imbalance as programs and policies are created to fit the easily available economic numbers while ignoring the other measures, that are very difficult to plan for or assess.
Debate on quality of life is millennia-old, with Aristotle giving it much thought in his Nicomachean Ethics and eventually settling on the notion of eudaimonia, a Greek term often translated as happiness, as central. The neologism liveability (or livability), from the adjective liv(e)able, is an abstract noun now often applied to the built environment or a town or city, meaning its contribution to the quality of life of inhabitants.
Understanding quality of life is today particularly important in health care, where monetary measures do not readily apply. Decisions on what research or treatments to invest the most in are closely related to their effect on a patient's quality of life.
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