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1 Background The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a multiagency, U.S. government research and development (R&D) initiative, was established in fiscal year (FY) 2001 to accelerate R&D in the emerging field of nanotechnology: 1 The vision of the NNI is a future in which the ability to understand and control matter at the nanoscale leads to a revolution in technology and industry that benefits society. The NNI expedites the discovery, development, and deployment of nanoscale science, engineering, and technology to serve the public good, through a program of coordinated research and development aligned with the missions of the participating agencies. Starting with eight core agencies in 2001, the NNI now coordinates nanotechnology-related R&D of 26 federal agencies, focusing on four goals (see Box 1.1). The view of how to achieve the NNI vision has evolved. Starting with the 2004 Strategic Plan, general descriptions of each goal were provided along with selected individual examples. Now the NNI has qualitative, semiquantitative, and quantitative subgoals—as many as five—for each major goal. In addition, the NNI has established five interagency signature initiatives, cross-sector collaborations designed to accelerate innovation in subjects of high national priority through coordination of multiagency resources to meet specific agreed-on scientific and technologic goals; to promote development of joint research solicitations; and to engage in sponsorship of a wide variety of interagency meetings, workshops, and forums to support knowledge-sharing. The federal government has given high priority to the alignment of nanotechnology R&D with the missions of the individual agencies. For most agencies, nanotechnology R&D is not an end in itself but rather, in some cases, an enabling technologic means of accomplishing their missions. Each agency determines its budget for nanotechnology R&D as part of its overall mission R&D priorities in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Congress. The NNI is planned and coordinated by the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Committee on Technology, through which the agency members present their priorities and establish shared goals, strategies, and activities when their agency priorities align. The 2011 NSET Strategic Plan describes the agencies, their missions, how they view the NNI, and how the NNI fits into their missions. Each NNI participating agency is obliged to carry out its mission and achieve its goals while coordinating and collaborating with other agencies in subjects of mutual interest and mission need. 2 1 See National Science and Technology Council, National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan, February 2011, available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/2011_strategic_plan.pdf. Accessed April 24, 2012. 2 Department of Defense Director, Defense Research and Engineering, Defense Nanotechnology Research and Development Program, December 2009. Available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/dod- report_to_congress_final_1mar10.pdf. Accessed March 3, 2012. 3
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BOX 1.1 Goals of the National Nanotechnology Initiative The National Nanotechnology Initiative focuses on four major goals: To advance world-class nanotechnology research and development. To foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit. To develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce, and the supporting infrastructure and tools to advance nanotechnology. To support the responsible development of nanotechnology. To focus interagency collaboration in strategic fields, the NSET Subcommittee has established four cross-agency working groups: Global Issues in Nanotechnology; Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications; Nanomanufacturing, Industry Liaison, and Innovation; and Nanotechnology Public Engagement and Communications. The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) provides technical and administrative support to the NSET Subcommittee, serves as the central point of contact for federal NNI R&D activities, and reaches out to the public on behalf of the NNI. 3 The current cumulative NNI investment is now about $18 billion, which includes the president’s request for FY 2013. 4 Pursuant to Section 5 of Public Law 108-153, the director of the NNCO requested that the National Research Council conduct the second triennial review of the NNI. The statement of task for the Committee on Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative: Phase II is given in Appendix A. The overall objective of the committee’s review is to make recommendations to the NSET Subcommittee and the NNCO that will improve the value of the NNI’s strategy and portfolio for basic research, applied research, and development of applications to provide economic, societal, and national- security benefits to U.S. citizens. The statement of task reflects the broad attention to and interest in optimizing the federal government’s investments to advance the commercialization, manufacturing capability, national economy, and national security of the United States. For example, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) 2010 Report to the President and Congress on the Third Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative stated that “the NNCO must develop metrics for program outputs” and “work with the Bureau of Economic Analysis to develop metrics and collect data on the economic impacts of the NNI.” 5 The NSET 2011 Strategic Plan established the objective to “develop quantitative measures to assess the performance of the U.S. nanotechnology R&D program relative to that of other major economies, in coordination with broader efforts to develop metrics for innovation.” 6 The PCAST 2012 Report to the President and Congress on the Third Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative reiterated its earlier recommendation, calling for the NNCO to “track the development of metrics for quantifying the Federal nanotechnology portfolio and implement them to assess NNI outputs.” 7,8 3 See http://www.nano.gov/about-nni/nnco. Accessed February 21, 2013. 4 See http://www.wtec.org/nano2/Nanotechnology_Research_Directions_to_2020/chapter00-2.pdf. Accessed February 21, 2013. 5 Report to the President and Congress on the Third Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, March 2010. 6 National Science and Technology Council, National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan, February 2011, available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/2011_strategic_plan.pdf. Accessed April 24, 2012. 7 Report to the President and Congress on the Fourth Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, April 2012. 4
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The NNI has now reached a level of achievement and maturity such that its participating agencies are examining the possibility of developing better definitions of success and associated metrics that will guide the agencies individually and the NNI as a whole in expediting “the discovery, development, and deployment of nanoscale science, engineering, and technology to serve the public good” 9 to accomplish the four highly integrated NNI goals. This interim report provides the committee’s initial comments related to Task 2: to assess whether the current procedures and metrics are suitable for determining progress toward NNI goals and to suggest alternative definitions of success and their associated metrics. Recommendations related to this task and to Tasks 1 and 3 will be offered in the committee’s final report. 8 A related study on this subject is the 2012 National Research Council report Improving Measures of Science, Technology, and Innovation: Interim Report (National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2012), which examines the current status of science and technology indicators developed and published by the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) to measure (1) the condition and progress of U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce development, (2) U.S. innovation and competitiveness in science, technology, and R&D compared with other countries, and (3) whether the NCSES’s statistical activities are focused properly to produce the information that policy-makers, researchers, and businesses need for decision-making. 9 National Science and Technology Council, National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan, February 2011, available at http://www.nano.gov/sites/default/files/pub_resource/2011_strategic_plan.pdf. Accessed April 24, 2012. 5