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October 12, 2021

NNCO Releases 2021 NNI Strategic Plan

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On October 8, 2021, the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) announced the release of the 2021 National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan, which outlines the goals, objectives, and actions for National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) over the next five years.

  • Goal 1. Ensure that the United States remains a world leader in nanotechnology research and development (R&D): According to NNI, NNI agencies will continue to use their full suite of authorities and mechanisms to fund nanotechnology R&D. More deliberate mechanisms will be used to connect and build communities, both within NNI and with other initiatives and priorities. The Strategic Plan introduces National Nanotechnology Challenges to mobilize the nanotechnology community to help address global issues.
  • Goal 2. Promote commercialization of nanotechnology R&D: NNI states that it will enhance efforts to accelerate the scale-up, translation, and commercial application of nanotechnology R&D into the marketplace to ensure that economic, environmental, and societal benefits are realized and to help the country build back better with high-paying jobs. NNI will make more explicit connections to broad agency efforts that support transition of nanotechnologies to the regional ecosystems that exist within the United States. NNI will expand the Nanotechnology Entrepreneurship Network as a forum to connect innovators and share best practices.
  • Goal 3. Provide the infrastructure to support sustainably nanotechnology research, development, and deployment: According to NNI, the need for expensive, specialized tools remains a key requirement for nanotechnology R&D. NNI states that it will support the increasing role of the cyber infrastructure (g., models, simulations, and data) that is critical for nanotechnology innovation enhanced by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced design tools. NNI notes that facilities that support prototyping and early stages of the manufacturing process are also important for the development community and will be explored in collaboration with the private sector.
  • Goal 4. Engage the public and expand the nanotechnology workforce: NNCO and NNI agencies use a variety of mechanisms to support public outreach and education from “K to grey” and will emphasize opportunities and access to resources, especially for people in traditionally underserved communities. In recognition of the importance of education, workforce development, and public engagement to the entire nanotechnology enterprise, these areas are now a stand-alone goal.
  • Goal 5. Ensure the responsible development of nanotechnology: NNI states that the responsible development framework articulated in the Strategic Plan embraces new ideas that have emerged and builds upon concepts originally included in its responsible development efforts. According to NNI, a key tenet of responsible development remains the protection of human health and the environment through an understanding of both the applications of nanomaterials and the potential implications. Responsible development further includes consideration of ethical, legal, and societal implications (ELSI), as well as a new emphasis on inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA) and the responsible conduct of research.