AUSTIN, Nov. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Scientists and engineers must become a part of "the system" if they are to wield political influence in future, according to a keynote speaker at the SEMI NanoForum 2004. "If the science and technology community is unable or unwilling to effectively become more engaged in the political process then I'm not so sure we're going to enjoy the same level of success in the future," said George Atkinson, science and technology advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State. "To make a difference you have to be in the system." Although science and technology details may not be fully understood by politicians, Atkinson made the case that technology has had a significant impact on global economies and international relations. "These advances are the pillars of national and global security," he said. "Most nations today are largely shaped by the technology available to them. Those who live in societies that have access to enormous technologies live a very different life than those who do not," he said. Atkinson noted that U.S. prowess in science and technology was being matched by other nations and going forward the field would be far more international in nature. "In many ways the rest of the world has caught up," he said. The issue of political recognition directly relates to funding, which was raised as a concern by several speakers at the SEMI NanoForum. During a panel session it was pointed out that nanotechnology funding in the U.S. has been flat for the past two years, while funding in Asia is now equal to the U.S. and would continue to rise. "We are at a major risk of losing this race in nanotechnology unless we have commitment to fund basic research," said Anantha Sethuraman, vice president of marketing for FEI Company. Robert Doering, senior fellow and technology strategy manager at Texas Instruments, said that legislators need to view science and technology funding as an investment, not a cost. "The investment in technology that can be made by the government should pay for itself many, many times over," he said. Mark Pinto, senior vice president, new business and new products group at Applied Materials Inc., said the semiconductor industry was the largest market for nanotechnology and was likely to lead the nanotechnology age. "Right now there isn't a driver of nanotechnology outside of electronics," he said. Pinto added that that the advent of nanotechnology is viewed as a renaissance by universities. "Nanotech, and the promise, has invigorated the faculty [and] young students," he said. The SEMI NanoForum 2004, which concludes with a workshop on Nov. 17, was attended by 400 registered delegates from a wide range of industries, including defense, telecommunications, biotech, automotive and semiconductor. Attendees rated the event highly. "The quality of the presentations and the presentations has been outstanding," noted Michael Parodi, president and CEO of Tegal Corp. SEMI is a global industry association serving companies that develop and provide manufacturing technology and materials to the global semiconductor, flat panel display, MEMS and related microelectronics industries. SEMI maintains offices in Austin, Beijing, Brussels, Hsinchu, Moscow, San Jose (Calif.), Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.semi.org.