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December 5, 2022

NNI Reports Its Impact on the U.S. Economy

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) posted a blog item entitled “Impact of the NNI on the U.S. economy: at least $42 billion in one year!” on November 28, 2022. According to NNI, participating government agencies and departments have invested more than $38 billion over the past 20 years in nanoscale research and development (R&D), establishing the United States “as the leader in the field.” In 2014, the Executive Office of the President’s National Science and Technology Council worked with the U.S. Census Bureau to add a specific code to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) for the purpose of classifying nanotechnology-related businesses. According to NNI, data from the 2017 Economic Census reveal that over 3,700 companies — with over 171,000 employees — self-identified as primarily being in the business of nanotechnology R&D, reporting $42 billion in revenue and $20 billion in employee salaries. NNI notes that the single-year revenue figure of $42 billion in 2017 exceeds the cumulative 20-year NNI investment of $38 billion. Data from the 2022 Economic Census will be available in two to three years.

NNI states that the revenue figure of $42 billion in one year reflects only companies that categorize themselves as primarily being a nanotechnology R&D company. According to NNI, as companies can select only one NAICS code, this figure does not capture the large number of companies who benefit from nanotechnology R&D or include it among a broader portfolio of R&D activities. A company that works at the nanoscale to develop increasingly smaller microprocessors could select one of the computer or semiconductor categories and not nanotechnology R&D, despite its major investments in the field. Therefore, NNI states, the $42 billion revenue figure “likely does not include the economic impact of nanotechnology on the daily lives of U.S. residents through products such as consumer electronics, advanced computing, COVID-19 vaccines and other nanomedicines, drug delivery systems, display technologies, advanced coatings and materials, water filtration and purification systems, battery and solar technologies, and consumer goods.”