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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > Alan Shalleck-NanoClarity > The Next National Nanotechnology Program?

Alan Shalleck
President
NanoClarity LLC

Abstract:
It is time to explore what the next three to five year national nanotechnology funding allocation will look like. We have already benefited from two multiple-year, multibillion-dollar Presidentially-endorsed Federal programs and those funds have been spent building a nanotechnology infrastructure. Where the next nanotechnology roadway heads is up for grabs. Let the discussion begin.

September 18th, 2007

The Next National Nanotechnology Program?

The Next National Nanotechnology Program?
By
Alan B. Shalleck
NanoClarity LLC
September 2007


It is time to explore what the next three to five year national nanotechnology funding allocation will look like. We have already benefited from two multiple-year, multibillion-dollar Presidentially-endorsed Federal programs and those funds have been spent building a nanotechnology infrastructure. Where the next nanotechnology roadway heads is up for grabs. Let the discussion begin.

We had our first nanotechnology funding tranche, the National Nanotechnology Initiative, under Clinton, for $3 billion over three years starting in 1999. We then received the second tranche when Bush re-upped in 2003 with his $3.7 billion over 4 years. Now we are at the end of that second tranche of national support for nanotechnology and clearly the current administration will not be the administration that will commit the Federal government to another three to four years of nanotechnology core funding and support. The final year of the Bush administration may include some funding extensions but there will not be a fresh look at nanotechnology progress, or a nanotech funding policy reaffirmation, until a new administration takes office in January 2008.

We, as an industry, therefore have about nine months to research, consider, discuss and decide what that next national commitment should address and include. For example, how much investment should continue to go into infrastructure and laboratories? How much should continue to go into core nanoscience? And how much more should go into the development of products and useful outputs that can generate jobs and contribute to the economy? The immediate need is for the industry and the government to explore options based on the stage of nanotech development to date, sector by sector, and to convey a consensus need to all of the possible candidates for President regardless of political affiliation.

During the first NNI three years, $1 billion/year in federal moneys were spent primarily on establishing nanotechnology laboratory facilities, outfitting these laboratories with nanotech capable instrumentation, finding and recruiting nonscientists who were fascinated by the nanotechnology opportunity and funding basic nanoscience research. The nanotech roadmap projected that no significant nanotech product output would appear until about 2005 or 2006 so investment to in facilities and nanoscience was appropriate.

During the second four years of Bush endorsed federal nanotech spending, about $1 billion a year has also been spent, along with massive state spending, continuing to build regional and local nanotech focused laboratories with heavy investment in core nanoscience. There has not yet been a federal spending emphasis on practical nanotechnology or nanotechnology based products. Should that shift occur during the next commitment? After all, we are in a worldwide competition for nanotech products and economic growth from nanotechnology. We may not be winning that race because others have emphasized useful nanoproduct outputs and those are appearing mostly from abroad, primarily from the Pacific Rim.

The world wide funding race has become more intense. Europe has now committed under an Action Plan for Nanotechnology to a Research Framework Project (RFP) or $1.8 billion Euros to 550 projects in both nanoscience and nanotechnology. Europe now claims that its RFP amounts to 33% of the total of public spending worldwide. The Russians have also made a billion dollar commitment to State supported nanoscience and nanotech investigation and research. Israel has an amazingly successful nanotechnology national program and is already exporting significant volume of product containing nanotech with much more to come.

In the Far East, Korea and Japan have recommitted to billions in national support with national goals of dominance in sectors of the nanotech based future economy. Taiwan has committed to significant electronic nanotechnology applications and has continued to build its semiconductor and electronic manufacturing sectors around nanotechnology dimensioned components in huge volume. Mainland China has a national program to dominate the worldwide nanoeconomy in 25 years and is educating masses of nanotechnology focused PhD's and funding numerous companies with "Nano" somewhere in its name. Continuing, there is major national investment in nanotech development in Singapore and now in Thailand. Last, but certainly not least, are the multiyear multibillion-dollar commitments of India seeking to match or exceed China.

Adding the non-US committed annual nationally backed funding worldwide gives a total much in excess of $12 billion dollars. (I have not included some of the energetic smaller countries that have committed national funds to dominance in specific nanotech sectors.) There is a formidable array of economic muscle worldwide aimed at preventing the US from dominating the nanotechnology industrial and commercial marketplaces in the next decades. The challenges to the US Government are clear - Jobs and economic growth are at stake - Increase the funding and increase the funding of useful, not scientific, stuff.

My preference is that the NanoBusiness Alliance should coordinate the efforts within the US to first gather sufficient data on national nanotech progress to created models for nanotech development over the next decade. (Maybe the Alliance can collaborate with the Foresight Institute or one or two other non-profits.) Second, the gathered data should be distributed to all the companies, large and small, that claim to be in the nanotechnology industry - for comments, criticisms and assessment. Last, the Alliance should gather and correlate these recommendations and distribute the concensus nanotechnology industry needs and recommendations to every surviving candidate for President with a request for endorsement before they are elected. The same information should be distributed to all existing and potential members of congress for the same purpose. The nanotech industry goal would be to create a party-independent agreement about how much the next national nanotech commitment should be and on what it needs to focus to keep this country competitively in the lead in anincreasingly nanotechnology dominated world. The time to begin this effort is today.

Alan B. Shalleck
NanoClarity LLC
www.nanoclarity.com


2007 - NanoClarity LLC. All rights reserved.


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