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April 8, 2020

National Academies Publish Quadrennial Review of NNI

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (National Academies) have published a prepublication copy of A Quadrennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative:  Nanoscience, Applications, and Commercialization.  The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) asked the National Academies to form an ad hoc committee to conduct a quadrennial review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) pursuant to the 2003 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, which authorized the NNI to coordinate the nanotechnology-related research and development (R&D) of 26 federal agencies.  The statement of task was to analyze the relative position of the U.S. nanotechnology program relative to the programs of other nations, determine whether NNI coordination should continue, and if it should, identify how to improve the NNI’s R&D strategy and R&D portfolio to enhance further the economic prosperity and national security of the United States.  According to the report, the United States maintains a strong nanoscience and technology R&D program.  The report states that this program’s coordination is becoming more critical in the current era of intensifying global competition from developed nations such as Japan and those within the European Union, and from developing nations such as India and especially China.  In the latter case, the report notes that “researchers are witnessing aggressive, and in many cases effective, planning of a national R&D strategy that seeks to harvest the economic, medical, and national security benefits of nanotechnology as quickly as possible.”  This, combined with very large investments in state-of-the-art facilities and the allocation of substantial resources for the education, training, and attraction of top research international talent, “is clearly intended to result in Chinese leadership of this critically important area of technology.”  The report identifies changes to NNI intended to “promote a resurgence of the nation’s nanotechnology program and enable it to respond to the dynamic changes of the new global research environment in which it functions.”