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July 18, 2008

Bill to Reauthorize NNI Introduced in Senate

Lynn L. Bergeson

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.