PCAST Releases First Report on Nanotechnology R&D

Report Finds U.S. to be Global Leader in Nanotechnology

Research and Development

May 18, 2005, 01:00 ET from Office of Science and Technology Policy

    WASHINGTON, May 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The President's Council of Advisors on
 Science and Technology (PCAST) today released the report, The National
 Nanotechnology Initiative at Five Years: Assessment and Recommendations of the
 National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel.  The report is PCAST's first
 assessment of the Federal Government's nanotechnology research efforts in its
 role as the National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel (NNAP).  President Bush
 designated PCAST as the NNAP by Executive Order in July 2004, thereby
 fulfilling the requirement in the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and
 Development Act of 2003 (the Act) to name an outside advisory body.  The Act
 calls upon the NNAP to report on the Federal nanotechnology program at least
 every two years.
     "This report is a thoughtful and highly informative assessment on the
 current status of the United States' research programs for nanotechnology,"
 said John H. Marburger III, Science Advisor to President George W. Bush and
 Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy.  "The U.S. is currently the
 world leader in nanotechnology, but our international competitors are
 aggressively developing their own programs in this area.  PCAST and its
 Technical Advisory Group are performing an important service in monitoring
 Federal programs in this exciting field."
     "The approach PCAST took in this report was to answer what we felt were
 the most pressing questions the President, the Congress and the American
 public wanted answered," said PCAST Co-chair Floyd Kvamme.  "This report
 confirms that we have a nanotechnology R&D infrastructure that is the envy of
 the world.  And State, local and regional governments have been particularly
 active in promoting nanotechnology development."
     In assessing the multi-agency National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and
 its work coordinating the Federal research enterprise for nanotechnology,
 PCAST addressed four key questions that they identified as areas of primary
     Where do we stand?
     PCAST found that the United States is the acknowledged leader in
 nanotechnology research and development (R&D).  The approximately $1 billion
 the Federal government will spend on nanotechnology R&D this fiscal year is
 roughly one-quarter of the current global investment by all nations.  Total
 annual U.S. R&D spending (Federal, State, and private) now stands at
 approximately $3 billion, or one-third of the estimated $9 billion in total
 worldwide spending by the public and private sectors combined.  In addition,
 the United States leads in the number of start-up companies based on
 nanotechnology, and in research output as measured by patents and
 publications.  The U.S. leadership position, however, is under increasing
 competitive pressure from other nations as they ramp up their own programs.
     Is this money well spent and the program well managed?
     The report finds that the money the United States is investing in
 nanotechnology is money very well spent, and that continued robust funding is
 important for the Nation's long-term economic well-being and national
 security.  Nanotechnology holds tremendous potential for stimulating
 innovation and thereby enabling or maintaining U.S. leadership in industries
 that span all sectors.  The NNI appears well positioned to maintain United
 States leadership going forward, through both its coordinated interagency
 approach to planning and implementing the Federal R&D program and its efforts
 to interact with industry and the public.
     Are we addressing societal concerns and potential risks?
     The PCAST report finds that the NNI recognizes the societal implications
 of nanotechnology -- including environmental and health effects -- must be
 taken into account and that the NNI is moving deliberately to identify,
 prioritize, and address such concerns.  In the FY2006 budget, $82 million (8
 percent of the total NNI budget) will be dedicated to addressing these
     How can we do better?
     The report praises the NNI for organizing Federal nanotechnology research
 and establishing a strong national research infrastructure across more than 20
 different Federal agencies, each with its own distinct mission.  The members
 of PCAST concur with the Administration's assessment of the potential for
 economic benefit from investments in nanotechnology R&D and believe it is
 critical that the United States maintain a leadership position in
 nanotechnology.  PCAST therefore recommends continued robust funding for the
     In addition, the report offers the following recommendations aimed at
 further strengthening the NNI.
     Technology Transfer -- The NNI needs to take further steps to communicate
 with and establish links to U.S. industry to further facilitate technology
 transfer from the lab to the marketplace. PCAST calls attention to two areas
 that would augment the existing suite of activities and enhance
 commercialization of research results.
     * Federal-State coordination should be increased -- The States perform a
       vital role in fostering economic development through business assistance
       programs, tax incentives, and other means. In addition, collectively the
       States are spending substantial amounts in support of nanotechnology R&D
       and commercialization. The report recommends improving Federal-State
       coordination in order to increase practical application of NNI-funded
       research results, to improve workforce development, and to achieve other
       national benefits.
     * Improve knowledge management and access to NNI assets -- This would
       include assets such as user facilities and instrumentation available to
       outside researchers, research results, and derivative intellectual
       property.  Through mechanisms such as publicly available and searchable
       databases, the NNI can -- and should -- improve infrastructure
       utilization and the transfer of technology to the private sector.
     Environmental and Health Implications -- The NNI should continue its
 efforts to understand the possible toxicological effects of nanotechnology
 and, where harmful human or environmental effects are proven, appropriate
 regulatory mechanisms should be utilized by the pertinent Federal agencies.
 PCAST encourages the Government regulatory agencies to work together to ensure
 that any regulatory policies that are developed are based on the best
 available science and are consistent among the agencies.  The report also
 recommends strong international coordination to ensure that efforts are not
 duplicated unnecessarily and information is shared widely.
     Education/Workforce Preparation -- A key to realizing the economic
 benefits of nanotechnology will be the establishment of an infrastructure
 capable of educating and training an adequate number of researchers, teachers,
 and technical workers. PCAST recommends that the NNI establish relationships
 with the Departments of Education and Labor to develop education and training
 systems to improve the Nation's technical proficiency in areas related to
     Societal Implications -- The NNI must support research aimed at
 understanding the societal (including ethical, economic, and legal)
 implications and must actively work to inform the public about nanotechnology.
     The report is based in part on input from a Technical Advisory Group
 (TAG), made up of nanotechnology experts representing diverse disciplines
 within government, industry and academia.  In addition, PCAST convened panels
 of experts to discuss advancements and opportunities in science and technology
 as well as the potential environmental, health, and safety implications of
 nanotechnology.  PCAST also met with members of the Nanoscale Science
 Engineering and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and
 Technology Council (NSTC) throughout the review process to discuss the NNI R&D
 programs and thereby understand how the initiative is organized and managed.
 PCAST members also attended a number of the workshops organized by the NNI
 over the past two years to gain a better understanding of the broad research
 and application opportunities.  These activities, along with numerous informal
 interactions by PCAST members with a range of nanotechnology stakeholders
 around the country and worldwide, have provided the basis for this report.
     For more information on PCAST and to view the full report, please visit
     About PCAST
     On September 30, 2001, President Bush signed Executive Order 13226 to form
 the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). PCAST
 was originally established by President George Bush in 1990 to enable the
 President to receive advice from the private sector and academic community on
 technology, scientific research priorities, and math and science education.
 Co-chaired by the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the
 council's 23 members consist of distinguished individuals appointed by the
 President, and are drawn from industry, education, and research institutions,
 and other nongovernmental organizations. For more information visit
     About the Office of Science and Technology Policy
     Congress established OSTP in 1976 with a broad mandate to advise the
 President and others within the Executive Office of the President on the
 impacts of science and technology on domestic and international affairs. The
 1976 Act also authorizes OSTP to lead an interagency effort to develop and to
 implement sound science and technology policies and budgets and to work with
 the private sector, state and local governments, the science and higher
 education communities, and other nations toward this end. The Director of OSTP
 serves as co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and
 Technology and oversees the National Science and Technology Council on behalf
 of the President. For more information visit http://www.ostp.gov.
     CONTACT:  Bob Hopkins of the Office of Science and Technology Policy,
 +1-202-456-6098, or rhopkins@ostp.eop.gov.

SOURCE Office of Science and Technology Policy