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Home > Government Funding of Nanotechnology Firms

Government Funding of Nanotechnology Firms

On November 30th, 2004, Carnegie Mellon University is hosting a panel discussion on the impact of government funding on nanotech firms.

The following 5 questions are likely to be given to the panel. We would like your responses as well - please send them by December 15th, 2004. (read one respose)

We suggest printing out the questions and using our contact form to answer them. You may also email rocky at nanotech-now.com.

Your answers will be processed and passed on to Mike Honda, and may be used at the conference.

What we are hoping for is a "yes" or "no" and a brief answer to each question.

1. At recent conferences the NSF has said that there is only money to fund 15% of nanotechnology research projects that qualify. Do you think government funding is too low, just right, too high?

2. President Bush has stressed the importance of supporting US manufacturing by Federal agencies and HR 4656 offers a path to do that for nanotechnology - is a $1 billion revolving fund for nanomanufacturing the best use of Federal money, assuming the goal is commercialization of nanotechnology?

3. Should government money be focused more on promoting a wide range and large number of nanotechnology firms or should the focus be on providing more money to fewer firms and in targeted areas?

4. Do you find it easy to locate appropriate government funding, and specifically government funding for nanotechnology companies you are engaged with, or do you find it difficult and if so, why?

5. Do you find it easy to apply for appropriate government funding, and specifically government funding for nanotechnology companies you are engaged with, or do you find it difficult and if so, why?


Government Funding of Nanotechnology Firms
Tuesday, November 30th, 7-8:30PM
Carnegie Mellon University West, NASA-Ames

Moderator, Bo Varga, Executive Director, nanoSIG

Panel:
Congressman Mike Honda,
Dr. Alexei Andreev, Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson
Dr. Larry Dubois, Vice President, Physical Sciences, SRI International
Todd Ewing, Managing Director, San Francisco Center Economic Development
Michael Pak, CEO, nanoStellar
Bill Rus, President and CEO Venture Analytics

For more information on HR 4656, see Honda Introduces Nanotechnology Bill

Click here for details of the event.



1. At recent conferences the NSF has said that there is only money to fund 15% of nanotechnology research projects that qualify. Do you think government funding is too low, just right, too high?

Just right. The NSF has not received the level of funding increases that they have asked for but the NIH has received large increases over the last few years and is placing alot of that money into nanotechnology projects. The same trend is seen in DoD and Homeland Security research funding, although these are much more targetted at actual deliverable products rather than research.

2. President Bush has stressed the importance of supporting US manufacturing by Federal agencies and HR 4656 offers a path to do that for nanotechnology. Is a $1 billion revolving fund for nanomanufacturing the best use of Federal money, assuming the goal is commercialization of nanotechnology?

The funding proposal of HR 4656 targets activities traditionally underwritten by venture capitalists, corporations, and private investors. The relative proportions of investment called for in the bill are 75% govt. and 25% private investors, yet returns on the investment are weighted in favor of the private investors. In light of the fact that approximately $100-billion in VC cash is currently uncommitted, this seems like an enormous give-away to the VC's and corporations that have lobbied for this bill. This is not the best use of Federal money, and the goals can be accomplished by shifting more existing dollars to small business from academic research.

3. Should government money be focused more on promoting a wide range and large number of nanotechnology firms or should the focus be on providing more money to fewer firms and in targeted areas?

Nanotechnology is still an emerging field that has demonstrated few if any real wins. Because so little is known about the technology and its level of development, it is impossible to pick winners and losers at this time. Government money should be broadly distributed to explore as many ideas as possible through a large number of firms, relying on competition and the normal technology evolution cycle to converge on the winners as they are revealed.

4. Do you find it easy to locate appropriate government funding, and specifically government funding for nanotechnology companies you are engaged with, or do you find it difficult and if so, why?

More and more goverment funding is available for nanotechnology, however, the lion's share is being directed to educational and research institutions rather than small companies. There are many more companies competing for this limited supply of cash, so actually obtaining the funding is more difficult. Another factor is that the small business grant/funding programs (i.e. SBIRs) will have specific fields of interest according to the mission of the granting agency (i.e. the National Institutes of Health fund biotech and healthcare research, not nanophysics research). Within each agency, finite budgets require priorities be established for areas of specialization although these shift over timescales of years. New research topics and focus areas can take several years to work through internal agency review processes, which means that there is not always synchronicity between the agency requests and technology offerings of a given company. Thus, companies usually spend enormous amounts of time searching for and applying for funding.

5. Do you find it easy to apply for appropriate government funding, and specifically government funding for nanotechnology companies you are engaged with, or do you find it difficult and if so, why?

The nebulous definitions of nanotechnology means different things to each funding agency's mission. In many cases the proposed technology has a clear overlap with this directive, but for cross-disciplinary technologies (especially those on the leading edge) there is alot of effort that must be placed into "selling the concept" to technical reviewers in different disciplines. This can be difficult within the page-limits and funding restrictions associated with the SBIR program. For these companies, more effort is necessary in preparing applications for funding, including calls to program adminstrators at the agencies and enlistment of multidisciplinary internal teams to prepare and review proposals prior to submission.

Agnes Brousseau BlabberMouth PR
512.371.9306
Visit them online at www.blabbermouthPR.com

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