A July 6, 2016 posting by Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton for the (US) National Law Review makes the announcement of a nanotechnology policy primer for the US government,
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) prepared a June 28, 2016, report, Nanotechnology: A Policy Primer. The report provides an overview of federal research and development (R&D) in nanotechnology, U.S. competitiveness in the field, environmental, health, and safety (EHS) concerns, nanomanufacturing, and public understanding of and attitudes toward nanotechnology.
You can find Nanotechnology: A Policy Primer by Joseph F. Sargent Jr. here. For those who need their appetite whetted before reading through 22 pp., here are a few excerpts from the summary,
Since the launch of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in 2000, Congress appropriated approximately $21.8 billion for nanotechnology R&D through FY2016. President Obama has requested $1.4 billion in NNI funding for FY2017, up $8.7 million (0.6%) from the FY2016 level and down $469.4 million (24.5%) from its regular appropriation peak of $1.913 billion in FY2010.
While more than 60 nations established similar programs after the launch of the NNI, it appears that several have moved away from centralized, coordinated nanotechnology-focused programs (e.g., the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia), some in favor of market- or application-oriented topic areas (e.g., health care technologies). By one estimate, in 2012, total annual global public R&D investment was $7.5 billion, down from $8.3 billion in 2010; corporate nanotechnology R&D spending in 2012 was an estimated $10 billion. Data on economic outputs used to assess competitiveness in mature technologies and industries, such as revenues and market share, are not broadly available for assessing nanotechnology. As an alternative, data on inputs (e.g., R&D expenditures) and non-financial outputs (e.g., scientific papers or patents) may provide insight into the current U.S. position and serve as bellwethers of future competitiveness. By these criteria, the United States appears to be the overall global leader in nanotechnology, though some believe the U.S. lead may not be as large as it was for previous emerging technologies. In recent years, China and the countries of the European Union have surpassed the United States in the publication of nanotechnology papers.
Some research has raised concerns about the safety of nanoscale materials. There is general agreement that more information on EHS implications is needed to protect the public and the environment; to assess and manage risks; and to create a regulatory environment that fosters prudent investment in nanotechnology-related innovation. Nanomanufacturing—the bridge between nanoscience and nanotechnology products—may require the development of new technologies, tools, instruments, measurementscience, and standards to enable safe, effective, and affordable commercial-scale production of nanotechnology products. Public understanding and attitudes may also affect the environment for R&D, regulation, and market acceptance of products incorporating nanotechnology. (p. 2 PDF)
The overview provides this,
Most current applications of nanotechnology are evolutionary in nature, offering incremental improvements to existing products and generally modest economic and societal benefits. For example, nanotechnology is being used in microchips to improve speed and energy use while reducing size and weight; in display screens to improve picture quality, provide wider viewing angles, and longer product lives; in automobile bumpers, cargo beds, and step-assists to reduce weight, increase resistance to dents and scratches, and eliminate rust; in clothes to increase resistance to staining, wrinkling, and bacterial growth and to provide lighter-weight body armor; and in sporting goods, such as baseball bats and golf clubs, to improve performance.3
In the longer term, proponents of nanotechnology believe it may deliver revolutionary advances with profound economic and societal implications. The applications they discuss involve various degrees of speculation and varying time-frames. …
The report trots out a number of fields where nanotechnology is expected to have a great (possibly transformative) impact:
- Detection and treatment technologies for cancer and other diseases. [sometimes called nanomedicine]
- Renewable power.
- Water treatment.
- High-density memory devices, faster data access.
- Higher crop yields and improved nutrition.
- Self-healing materials.
- Toxin and pathogen sensors.
- Environmental remediation.
The descriptions are not comprehensive but this is a primer not an in-depth analysis. What follows is a set of interesting tables (not reproduced here) which breakdown the NNI funding and graphs which accompany a discussion of US competitiveness.
For anyone looking for a more comprehensive analysis (125 pp.) of the situation regarding US commercialization of its nanotechnology R&D, there’s the US Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) “Nanomanufacturing: Emergence and Implications for U.S. Competitiveness, the Environment, and Human Health.”