Tag Archives: NNI

Competition, collaboration, and a smaller budget: the US nano community responds

Before getting to the competition, collaboration, and budget mentioned in the head for this posting, I’m supplying some background information.

Within the context of a May 20, 2014 ‘National Nanotechnology Initiative’ hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Research and Technology, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, the US General Accountability Office (GAO) presented a 22 pp. précis (PDF; titled: NANOMANUFACTURING AND U.S. COMPETITIVENESS; Challenges and Opportunities) of its 125 pp. (PDF version report titled: Nanomanufacturing: Emergence and Implications for U.S. Competitiveness, the Environment, and Human Health).

Having already commented on the full report itself in a Feb. 10, 2014 posting, I’m pointing you to Dexter Johnson’s May 21, 2014 post on his Nanoclast blog (on the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] website) where he discusses the précis from the perspective of someone who was consulted by the US GAO when they were writing the full report (Note: Links have been removed),

I was interviewed extensively by two GAO economists for the accompanying [full] report “Nanomanufacturing: Emergence and Implications for U.S. Competitiveness, the Environment, and Human Health,” where I shared background information on research I helped compile and write on global government funding of nanotechnology.

While I acknowledge that the experts who were consulted for this report are more likely the source for its views than I am, I was pleased to see the report reflect many of my own opinions. Most notable among these is bridging the funding gap in the middle stages of the manufacturing-innovation process, which is placed at the top of the report’s list of challenges.

While I am in agreement with much of the report’s findings, it suffers from a fundamental misconception in seeing nanotechnology’s development as a kind of race between countries. [emphases mine]

(I encourage you to read the full text of Dexter’s comments as he offers more than a simple comment about competition.)

Carrying on from this notion of a ‘nanotechnology race’, at least one publication focused on that aspect. From the May 20, 2014 article by Ryan Abbott for CourthouseNews.com,

Nanotech Could Keep U.S. Ahead of China

WASHINGTON (CN) – Four of the nation’s leading nanotechnology scientists told a U.S. House of Representatives panel Tuesday that a little tweaking could go a long way in keeping the United States ahead of China and others in the industry.

The hearing focused on the status of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, a federal program launched in 2001 for the advancement of nanotechnology.

As I noted earlier, the hearing was focused on the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and all of its efforts. It’s quite intriguing to see what gets emphasized in media reports and, in this case, the dearth of media reports.

I have one more tidbit, the testimony from Lloyd Whitman, Interim Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office and Deputy Director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, National Institute of Standards and Technology. The testimony is in a May 21, 2014 news item on insurancenewsnet.com,

Testimony by Lloyd Whitman, Interim Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office and Deputy Director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Chairman Bucshon, Ranking Member Lipinski, and Members of the Committee, it is my distinct privilege to be here with you today to discuss nanotechnology and the role of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in promoting its development for the benefit of the United States.

Highlights of the National Nanotechnology Initiative

Our current Federal research and development program in nanotechnology is strong. The NNI agencies continue to further the NNI’s goals of (1) advancing nanotechnology R&D, (2) fostering nanotechnology commercialization, (3) developing and maintaining the U.S. workforce and infrastructure, and (4) supporting the responsible and safe development of nanotechnology. …

,,,

The sustained, strategic Federal investment in nanotechnology R&D combined with strong private sector investments in the commercialization of nanotechnology-enabled products has made the United States the global leader in nanotechnology. The most recent (2012) NNAP report analyzed a wide variety of sources and metrics and concluded that “… in large part as a result of the NNI the United States is today… the global leader in this exciting and economically promising field of research and technological development.” n10 A recent report on nanomanufacturing by Congress’s own Government Accountability Office (GAO) arrived at a similar conclusion, again drawing on a wide variety of sources and stakeholder inputs. n11 As discussed in the GAO report, nanomanufacturing and commercialization are key to capturing the value of Federal R&D investments for the benefit of the U.S. economy. The United States leads the world by one important measure of commercial activity in nanotechnology: According to one estimate, n12 U.S. companies invested $4.1 billion in nanotechnology R&D in 2012, far more than investments by companies in any other country.  …

There’s cognitive dissonance at work here as Dexter notes in his own way,

… somewhat ironically, the [GAO] report suggests that one of the ways forward is more international cooperation, at least in the development of international standards. And in fact, one of the report’s key sources of information, Mihail Roco, has made it clear that international cooperation in nanotechnology research is the way forward.

It seems to me that much of the testimony and at least some of the anxiety about being left behind can be traced to a decreased 2015 budget allotment for nanotechnology (mentioned here in a March 31, 2014 posting [US National Nanotechnology Initiative’s 2015 budget request shows a decrease of $200M]).

One can also infer a certain anxiety from a recent presentation by Barbara Herr Harthorn, head of UCSB’s [University of California at Santa Barbara) Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS). She was at a February 2014 meeting of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (mentioned in parts one and two [the more substantive description of the meeting which also features a Canadian academic from the genomics community] of my recent series on “Brains, prostheses, nanotechnology, and human enhancement”). II noted in part five of the series what seems to be a shift towards brain research as a likely beneficiary of the public engagement work accomplished under NNI auspices and, in the case of the Canadian academic, the genomics effort.

The Americans are not the only ones feeling competitive as this tweet from Richard Jones, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Sheffield University (UK), physicist, and author of Soft Machines, suggests,

May 18

The UK has fewer than 1% of world patents on graphene, despite it being discovered here, according to the FT –

I recall reading a report a few years back which noted that experts in China were concerned about falling behind internationally in their research efforts. These anxieties are not new, CP Snow’s book and lecture The Two Cultures (1959) also referenced concerns in the UK about scientific progress and being left behind.

Competition/collaboration is an age-old conundrum and about as ancient as anxieties of being left behind. The question now is how are we all going to resolve these issues this time?

ETA May 28, 2014: The American Institute of Physics (AIP) has produced a summary of the May 20, 2014 hearing as part of their FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News, May 27, 2014 (no. 93).

US Dept. of Agriculture wants to commercialize cellulose nanomaterials

Lynn Bergeson in an April 7, 2014 posting on the Nanotechnology Now website announced an upcoming ‘nano commercialization’ workshop (Note: A link has been removed),

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) will hold a May 20-21, 2014, workshop entitled “Cellulose Nanomaterial — A Path Towards Commercialization.” See http://www.nano.gov/ncworkshop The workshop is intended to bring together high level executives from government and multiple industrial sectors to identify pathways for the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials and facilitate communication across industry sectors to determine common challenges.

You can find out more about the Cellulose Nanomaterial — A Path Towards Commercialization workshop here where you can also register and find an agenda, (Note: Links have been removed),

The primary goal of the workshop is to identify the critical information gaps and technical barriers in the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials with expert input from user communities. The workshop also supports the announcement last December by USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack regarding the formation of a public-private partnership between the USDA Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities to rapidly advance the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials. In addition, the workshop supports the goals of the NNI Sustainable Nanomanufacturing Signature Initiative/

The workshop is open to the public, after registration, on a first-come, first-served basis.

There is an invitation letter dated Feb. 7, 2014, which provides some additional detail,

The primary goals of the workshop are to identify critical information gaps and technical barriers in the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials with expert input from user communities. We plan to use the outcome of the workshop to guide research planning in P3Nano and in the Federal Government.

The Cellulose Nanomaterial — A Path Towards Commercialization workshop agenda lists some interesting names. The names I’ve chosen from the list are the speakers from the corporate sectors, all eight of them with two being tentatively scheduled; there are 22 speakers listed in total at this time,

Tom Connelly – DuPont (Tentative)
Travis Earles, Technology Manager, Lockheed Martin
Beth Cormier, Vice President for R&D and Technology, SAPPI Paper
Ed Socci, Director of Beverage Packaging, PepsiCo Advanced Research
Mark Harmon, DuPont (tentative)
Kim Nelson, Vice President for Government Affairs, API
Jean Moreau, CEO, CelluForce
Yoram Shkedi, Melodea

For the most part the speakers will be academics or government bureaucrats and while the title is ‘cellulose nanomaterials’ the speaker list suggests the topic will be heavily weighted to CNC/NCC (cellulose nanocrystals, aka, nanocrystalline cellulose). Of course, I recognize the Canadian, Jean Moreau of CelluForce, a Canadian CNC production facility. I wonder if he will be discussing the stockpile, which was first mentioned here in my Oct. 3, 2013 posting,

I stumbled across an interesting little article on the Celluforce website about the current state of NCC (nanocrystalline cellulose aka CNC [cellulose nanocrystals]) production, Canada’s claim to fame in the nanocellulose world. From an August 2013 Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Spotlight series article,

The pilot plant, located at the Domtar pulp and paper mill in Windsor, Quebec, is a joint venture between Domtar and FPInnnovations called CelluForce. The plant, which began operations in January 2012, has since successfully demonstrated its capacity to produce NCC on a continuous basis, thus enabling a sufficient inventory of NCC to be collected for product development and testing. Operations at the pilot plant are temporarily on hold while CelluForce evaluates the potential markets for various NCC applications with its stockpiled material. [emphasis mine]

I also recognized Melodea which I mentioned here in an Oct. 31, 2013 posting titled: Israeli start-up Melodea and its nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) projects.

A couple of final notes here, NCC (nanocrystalline cellulose) is also known as cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) and I believe the second term is becoming the more popular one to use. As for the final of these two notes, I had an illuminating conversation earlier this year (2014) about CNC and its accessibility. According to my source, there’s been a decision that only large industry players will get access to CNC for commercialization purposes. I can’t verify the veracity of the statement but over the last few years I’ve had a few individual entrepreneurs contact me with hopes that i could help them access the materials. All of them of them had tried the sources I was to suggest and not one had been successful. As well, I note the speaker list includes someone from PepsiCo, someone from Dupont, and someone from Lockheed Martin, all of which could be described as large industry players. (I’m not familiar with either API or SAPPI Paper so cannot offer any opinions as to their size or importance.) Melodea’s access is government-mandated due to research grants from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7).

I’m not sure one can encourage innovation by restricting access to raw materials to large industry players or government-funded projects as one might be suspected from my back channel experience, the conversation as reported to me, and the speaker list for this workshop.

US National Nanotechnology Initiative’s 2015 budget request shows a decrease of $200M

A March 27, 2014 news item on Nanowerk highlights the US National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) document titled “NNI Supplement to the President’s 2015 Budget” (86 pp. PDF; Note: A link has been removed),

This document (pdf) is a supplement to the President’s 2015 Budget request submitted to Congress on March 4, 2014. It gives a description of the activities underway in 2013 and 2014 and planned for 2015 by the Federal Government agencies participating in the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), primarily from a programmatic and budgetary perspective.

The March 25, 2014 NNI announcement provides more details about the current request and funding over the years since the NNI’s inception,

The President’s 2015 Budget provides over $1.5 billion for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a continued investment in support of the President’s priorities and innovation strategy. Cumulatively totaling nearly $21 billion since the inception of the NNI in 2001 (including the 2015 request), this support reflects nanotechnology’s potential to significantly improve our fundamental understanding and control of matter at the nanoscale and to translate that knowledge into solutions for critical national issues. The NNI investments in 2013 and 2014 and those proposed for 2015 continue the emphasis on accelerating the transition from basic R&D to innovations that support national priorities, while maintaining a strong base of foundational research, to provide a pipeline for future nanotechnology-based innovations.

The President’s 2015 Budget supports nanoscale science, engineering, and technology R&D at 11 agencies. Another 9 agencies have nanotechnology-related mission interests or regulatory responsibilities. The NNI Supplement to the President’s 2015 Budget documents progress of these NNI participating agencies in addressing the goals and objectives of the NNI. (See the Acronyms page for agency abbreviations.)

Courtesy: NNI [downloaded from http://www.nano.gov/node/1128]

Courtesy: NNI [downloaded from http://www.nano.gov/node/1128]

One significant change for the 2015 Budget, which is reflected in the figures provided in this document for 2013 and 2014, is a revision in the Program Component Areas (PCAs), budget categories under which the NNI investments are reported. Note that this represents an update of how NNI investments by the Federal Government are tabulated, but not a change in the overall scope of the Initiative. As outlined in the 2014 NNI Strategic Plan, the new PCAs are more broadly strategic, fully inclusive, and consistent with Federal research categories, while correlating well with the NNI goals and high-level objectives. Of particular note is the creation of a separate PCA for the Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives (NSIs), reflecting the high priority placed on NSIs in the 2015 OMB/OSTP R&D Priorities Memo.

The 2014 budget for the NNI was $1.7B (as per the NNI Supplement to the President’s 2014 Budget),

The President’s 2014 Budget provides over $1.7 billion for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a sustained investment in support of the President’s priorities and innovation strategy. Cumulatively totaling almost $20 billion since the inception of the NNI in 2001 (including the 2014 request), …

So this year’s request represents a decrease of $200M. Coincidentally, the US BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) initiative (originally named BAM for brain activity map) is going to have its budget doubled from $100M in 2014 to $200M in 2015 (as per David Bruggeman’s March 25, 2014 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog),

The President’s Fiscal Year 2015 (which starts on October 1, but likely won’t get funded until next February) budget rollout includes doubling support for the BRAIN (Brain Research though Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative.  The $100 million multi-agency (National Institutes of Health, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and National Science Foundation) public-private effort will have some of its first funding awards later this year.

Interesting, non?

For anyone interested in more specifics about the 2015 NNI budget request but who doesn’t want to read the supplementary document, you can visit this page.

2014 strategic plan for the US National Nanotechnology Initiative

Every few years the US government releases a strategic plan for its nanotechnology efforts and the latest is the 2014 National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) Strategic Plan. A Feb. 28, 2014 news item on Nanowerk offers some information about this latest one (Note: A link has been removed),

The 2014 National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan (pdf) updates and replaces the prior NNI Strategic Plan released in February of 2011. As called for in the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (Public Law 108-153, 15 USC §7501), the NNI Strategic Plan describes the NNI vision and goals and the strategies by which these goals are to be achieved, including specific objectives within each of the goals. Also as called for in the Act, the Plan describes the NNI investment strategy and the investment categories, known as the program component areas (PCAs), used in the annual NNI budget crosscut.

You can access the 2014 strategic plan and other related documents from here. I was not able to find an executive summary either on the site or in the place but here are the 2014 NNI goals from the2014  plan (pp. 15-6 PDF; pp. 5-6 print version),

Vision and Goals
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. In order to realize the NNI vision, the NNI agencies are working collectively toward the following four goals:

Goal 1: Advance a world-class nanotechnology research and development program.

The NNI enables U.S. leadership in nanotechnology R&D by stimulating discovery and innovation. The Initiative expands the boundaries of knowledge and develops technologies through a comprehensive program of R&D. The NNI agencies invest at the frontiers and intersections of many disciplines, including biology, chemistry, engineering, materials science, and physics. The interest in nanotechnology arises from its potential to significantly impact numerous fields, including aerospace, agriculture, energy, the environment, healthcare, information technology, homeland security, national defense, and transportation systems.

Goal 2: Foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit.

Nanotechnology contributes to U.S. competitiveness and national security by improving existing products and processes and by creating new ones. The NNI agencies implement strategies that maximize the economic and public benefits of their investments in nanotechnology, based on understanding the fundamental science and responsibly translating this knowledge into practical applications.

Goal 3: Develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce, and a dynamic infrastructure and toolset to advance nanotechnology.

A skilled science and engineering workforce, leading-edge instrumentation, and state-of-the-art facilities are essential to advancing nanotechnology R&D. Educational programs and resources are required to inform the general public, decision makers, and other stakeholders (including regulators, managers, insurers, and financiers), and to produce the next generation of nanotechnologists—that is, the researchers, inventors, engineers, and technicians who drive discovery, innovation, industry, and manufacturing.

Goal 4: Support responsible development of nanotechnology.

The NNI aims to responsibly develop nanotechnology by maximizing the benefits of nanotechnology while, at the same time, developing an understanding of potential risks and the means to assess and manage them. Specifically, the NNI agencies pursue a program of research, education, collaboration, and communication focused on the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) implications of nanotechnology—informed by the interagency 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy9—and on broader societal dimensions of nanotechnology development. In addition, NNI agency efforts are guided by two memoranda from the Emerging Technologies Interagency Policy Coordination Committee (ETIPC)10 that outline broad principles for regulation and oversight of emerging technologies and, more specifically, nanotechnology.11,12 Responsible development requires engagement with universities, industry, government agencies (local, regional, state, and Federal), nongovernmental organizations, and other communities.

The plan’s concluding comments include information about how the 2014 versions differs from the others (pp. 67-8 PDF; pp. 57-8 print version; Note: A link has been removed),

This fourth NNI Strategic Plan, developed by the Nanoscale, Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee, addresses evolving scientific, technological, and societal priorities, as well as the needs of the broader nanotechnology community. The same NNI foundational principles and practices on which the three earlier strategic plans were built are embodied in this consensus plan:

• A common vision—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.
• A framework that provides context for NNI agencies in the formulation of their intramural and extramural research portfolios and allocation of their resources in support of their agencyspecific missions.
• Collective and concerted efforts of the NNI agencies to achieve the four goals through the stated objectives, via individual agency and multi-agency collaborative initiatives and activities.
• Continuous needs assessments via outreach to myriad stakeholders by means ranging from informal interactions to webinars and stakeholder workshops.
• Open, transparent communication with the general public regarding the benefits and potential risks of nanotechnology to human health and the environment.
• Strong, proactive engagement with international organizations.

Several aspects of this current strategic plan differ significantly from the prior plans. The program component areas (PCAs) were revised to better represent the current state of nanotechnology; the revisions addressed, among other things, substantial advances in applications and commercialization, expanded interagency collaborations, and broader participation of agencies in non-R&D activities. Finally, the revised PCA descriptions are better aligned with the goals and objectives of the current plan. Some of the objectives were changed to reflect nanotechnology advances and evolving stakeholder needs and to hone the language to facilitate clearer communication and comprehension of the objectives. Improved consistency among the goals was achieved by assigning sub-objectives to each objective and by making the level of specificity of the text for the objectives more uniform.

In the past three years, extensive progress has been made by the NNI agencies in addressing the goals and associated objectives in the 2011 NNI Strategic Plan, as detailed in the agency updates available in the annual NNI Supplement to the President’s Budget.42 Several notable achievements illustrate such progress. The three Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives (NSIs) initiated in 2010 are models of successful interagency collaborations that leverage the strengths, resources, and investments of the NNI agencies. Two new NSIs were established in 2012 that cut across many nanotechnology application areas and are aligned with the plans and activities of the agencies participating in each of these NSIs. To foster technology transfer and business creation, the NNI held a Regional, State, and Local Initiatives in Nanotechnology Workshop in 2012 to discuss Federal resources available to regional, state, and local (RSLs) organizations, as well as RSL best practices. The functionality and content of the NNI website www.nano.gov have been greatly expanded to establish a robust hub for nanotechnology information dissemination aimed at a multitude of stakeholder groups. For example, there are comprehensive webpages devoted to addressing common concerns of nanotechnology start-up companies and providing education and training resources for K–12 students and teachers, as well as compilations of educational institutions with nanotechnology-focused programs at the associate, bachelor, and doctoral levels. The website contains over 150 publications and resources on scientific, educational, and societal dimensions workshops; current and historical NNI budget documents; and the research strategies of individual NNI agencies. Interagency collaborations are widespread and varied in nature; since the launch of the Initiative, its annual budget supplements and other documents have identified well over a hundred concrete efforts involving multiple agency collaboration, including joint and parallel solicitations, interagency agreements, memoranda of understanding, co-sponsored workshops, and jointly operated facilities.

Since the inception of the NNI in 2000, nanotechnology has been increasingly relied upon across broad areas of national importance, enabling revolutionary advances in diverse areas such as cancer treatment, renewable energy, and information processing. Building on these advances and future developments, it is expected that new nanotechnology-enabled applications, products, and systems will emerge with novel and improved functionality and performance. These innovations are enabled by ongoing support from NNI agencies and by the insight and expertise of the entire stakeholder community, including academic researchers, industry representatives, and the public. The NNI and its agencies are committed to sustaining and enhancing the role of the Federal Government in assuring that all aspects of nanotechnology—R&D, commercialization, infrastructure (education, workforce, and research facilities), and responsible development—are strengthened to benefit society, the U.S. economy, and international competitiveness.

Personally, I’m most interested in how they will balance goal no. 2: commercialization with goal no. 4: responsible development.

‘Valley of Death’, ‘Manufacturing Middle’, and other concerns in new government report about the future of nanomanufacturing in the US

A Feb, 8, 2 014 news item on Nanowerk features a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) publication announcement (Note:  A link has been removed),

In a new report on nanotechnology manufacturing (or nanomanufacturing) released yesterday (“Nanomanufacturing: Emergence and Implications for U.S. Competitiveness, the Environment, and Human Health”; pdf), the U.S. Government Accountability Office finds flaws in America’s approach to many things nano.

At a July 2013 forum, participants from industry, government, and academia discussed the future of nanomanufacturing; investments in nanotechnology R&D and challenges to U.S. competitiveness; ways to enhance U.S. competitiveness; and EHS concerns.

A summary and a PDF version of the report, published Jan. 31, 2014, can be found here on the GAO’s GAO-14-181SP (report’s document number) webpage.  From the summary,

The forum’s participants described nanomanufacturing as a future megatrend that will potentially match or surpass the digital revolution’s effect on society and the economy. They anticipated further scientific breakthroughs that will fuel new engineering developments; continued movement into the manufacturing sector; and more intense international competition.

Although limited data on international investments made comparisons difficult, participants viewed the U.S. as likely leading in nanotechnology research and development (R&D) today. At the same time, they identified several challenges to U.S. competitiveness in nanomanufacturing, such as inadequate U.S. participation and leadership in international standard setting; the lack of a national vision for a U.S. nanomanufacturing capability; some competitor nations’ aggressive actions and potential investments; and funding or investment gaps in the United States (illustrated in the figure, below), which may hamper U.S. innovators’ attempts to transition nanotechnology from R&D to full-scale manufacturing.

[downloaded from http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-181SP]

[downloaded from http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-181SP]

I read through (skimmed) this 125pp (PDF version;  119 pp. print version) report and allthough it’s not obvious in the portion I’ve excerpted from the summary or in the following sections, the participants did seem to feel that the US national nanotechnology effort was in relatively good shape overall but with some shortcomings that may become significant in the near future.

First, government investment illustrates the importance the US has placed on its nanotechnology efforts (excerpted from p. 11 PDF; p. 5 print),

Focusing on U.S. public investment since 2001, the overall growth in the funding of nanotechnology has been substantial, as indicated by the funding of the federal interagency National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), with a cumulative investment of about $18 billion for fiscal years 2001 through 20133. Adding the request for fiscal year 2014 brings the total to almost $20 billion. However, the amounts budgeted in recent years have not shown an increasing trend.

Next, the participants in the July 2013 forum focused on four innovations in four different industry sectors as a means of describing the overall situation (excerpted from p. 16 PDF; p. 10 print):

Semiconductors (Electronics and semiconductors)

Battery-powered vehicles (Energy and power)

Nano-based concrete (Materials and chemical industries)

Nanotherapeutics (Pharmaceuticals, biomedical, and biotechnology)

There was some talk about nanotechnology as a potentially disruptive technology,

Nanomanufacturing could eventually bring disruptive innovation and the creation of new jobs—at least for the nations that are able to compete globally. According to the model suggested by Christensen (2012a; 2012b), which was cited by a forum participant, the widespread disruption of existing industries (and their supply chains) can occur together with the generation of broader markets, which can lead to net job creation, primarily for nations that bring the disruptive technology to market. The Ford automobile plant (with its dramatic changes in the efficient assembly of vehicles) again provides an historical example: mass – produced automobiles made cheaply enough—through economies of scale—were sold to vast numbers of consumers, replacing horse and buggy transportation and creating jobs to (1) manufacture large numbers of cars and develop the supply chain; (2) retail new cars; and (3) service them. The introduction of minicomputers and then personal computers in the 1980s and 1990s provides another historical example; the smaller computers disrupted the dominant mainframe computing industry (Christensen et al. 2000). Personal computers were provided to millions of homes, and an analyst in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Freeman 1996) documented the creation of jobs in related areas such as selling home computers and software. According to Christensen (2012b), “[A]lmost all net growth in jobs in America has been created by companies that were empowering—companies that made complicated things affordable and accessible so that more people could own them and use them.”14 As a counterpoint, a recent report analyzing manufacturing today (Manyika et al. 2012, 4) claims that manufacturing “cannot be expected to create mass employment in advanced economies on the scale that it did decades ago.”

Interestingly, there is no mention in any part of the report of the darker sides of a disruptive technology. After all, there were people who were very, very upset over the advent of computers. For example, a student (I was teaching a course on marketing communication) once informed me that she and her colleagues used to regularly clear bullets from the computerized equipment they were sending up to the camps (memory fails as to whether these were mining or logging camps) in northern British Columbia in the early days of the industry’s computerization.

Getting back to the report, I wasn’t expecting to see that one of the perceived problems is the US failure to participate in setting standards (excerpted from p. 23 PDF; p. 17 print),

Lack of sufficient U.S. participation in setting standards for nanotechnology or nanomanufacturing. Some participants discussed a possible need for a stronger role for the United States in setting commercial standards for nanomanufactured goods (including defining basic terminology in order to sell products in global markets).17

The participants discussed the ‘Valley of Death’ and the ‘Missing Middle’ (excerpted from pp. 31-2 PDF; pp. 25-6 print)

Forum participants said that middle-stage funding, investment, and support gaps occur for not only technology innovation but also manufacturing innovation. They described the Valley of Death (that is, the potential lack of funding or investment that may characterize the middle stages in the development of a technology or new product) and the Missing Middle (that is, a similar lack of adequate support for the middle stages of developing a manufacturing process or approach), as explained below.

The Valley of Death refers to a gap in funding or investment that can occur after research on a new technology and its initial development—for example, when the technology moves beyond tests in a controlled laboratory setting.22 In the medical area, participants said the problem of inadequate funding /investment may be exacerbated by requirements for clinical trials. To illustrate, one participant said that $10 million to $20 million is needed to bring a new medical treatment into clinical trials, but “support from [a major pharmaceutical company] typically is not forthcoming until Phase II clinical trials,” resulting in a  Valley of Death for  some U.S. medical innovations. Another participant mentioned an instance where a costly trial was required for an apparently low risk medical device—and this participant tied high costs of this type to potential difficulties that medical innovators might have obtaining venture capital. A funding /investment gap at this stage can prevent further development of a technology.

The term  Missing Middle has been used to refer to the lack of funding/investment that can occur with respect to manufacturing innovation—that is, maturing manufacturing capabilities and processes to produce technologies at scale, as illustrated in figure 8.23 Here, another important lack of support may be the absence of what one participant called an “industrial commons”  to sustain innovation within a  manufacturing sector.24 Logically, successful transitioning across the  middle stages of manufacturing development is a prerequisite to  achieving successful new approaches to manufacturing at scale.

There was discussion of the international scene with regard to the ‘Valley of Death’ and the ‘Missing Middle’ (excerpted from pp. 41-2 PDF; pp. 35-6 print)

Participants said that the Valley of Death and Missing Middle funding and investment gaps, which are of concern in the United States, do not apply to the same extent in some other countries—for example, China and Russia—or are being addressed. One participant said that other countries in which these gaps have occurred “have zeroed in [on them] with a laser beam.” Another participant summed up his view of the situation with the statement: “Government investments in establishing technology platforms, technology transfer, and commercialization are higher in other countries than in the United States.”  He further stated that those making higher investments include China, Russia, and the European Union.

Multiple participants referred to the European Commission’s upcoming Horizon 2020 program, which will have major funding extending over 7 years. In addition to providing major funding for fundamental research, the Horizon 2020 website states that the program will help to:

“…bridge the gap between research and the market by, for example, helping innovative enterprises to develop their technological breakthroughs into viable products with real commercial potential. This market-driven approach will include creating partnerships with the private sector and Member States to bring together the resources needed.”

A key program within Horizon 2020 consists of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which as illustrated in the “Knowledge Triangle” shown figure 11, below, emphasizes the nexus of business, research, and higher education. The 2014-2020 budget for this portion of Horizon 2020 is 2.7 billion euros (or close to $3.7 billion in U.S. dollars as of January 2014).

As is often the case with technology and science, participants mentioned intellectual property (IP) (excerpted from pp. 43-44 PDF; pp. 37-8 print),

Several participants discussed threats to IP associated with global competition.43 One participant described persistent attempts by other countries (or by certain elements in other countries) to breach information  systems at his nanomanufacturing company. Another described an IP challenge pertaining to research at U.S. universities, as follows:

•due to a culture of openness, especially among students, ideas and research are “leaking out” of universities prior to the initial researchers having patented or fully pursued them;

•there are many foreign students at U.S. universities; and

•there is a current lack of awareness about “leakage” and of university policies or training to counter it.

Additionally, one of our earlier interviewees said that one country targeted. Specific research projects at U.S. universities—and then required its own citizen-students to apply for admission to each targeted U.S. university and seek work on the targeted project.

Taken together with other factors, this situation can result in an overall failure to protect IP and undermine U.S. research competitiveness. (Although a culture of openness and the presence of foreign students are  generally considered strengths of the U.S. system, in this context such factors could represent a challenge to capturing the full value of U.S. investments.)

I would have liked to have seen a more critical response to the discussion about IP issues given the well-documented concerns regarding IP and its depressing affect on competitiveness as per my June 28, 2012 posting titled: Billions lost to patent trolls; US White House asks for comments on intellectual property (IP) enforcement; and more on IP, my  Oct. 10, 2012 posting titled: UN’s International Telecommunications Union holds patent summit in Geneva on Oct. 10, 2012, and my Oct. 31, 2011 posting titled: Patents as weapons and obstacles, amongst many, many others here.

This is a very readable report and it answered a few questions for me about the state of nanomanufacturing.

ETA Feb. 10, 2014 at 2:45 pm PDT, The Economist magazine has a Feb. 7, 2014 online article about this new report from the US.

ETA April 2, 2014: There’s an April 1, 2014 posting about this report  on the Foresight Institute blog titled, US government report highlights flaws in US nanotechnology effort.

Final report on joint OECD/NNI report on assessing nanotechnology’s economic impact

In March 2012, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) held a symposium on assessing the economic impacts of nanotechnology, which was hosted by American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC.  Lynn Bergeson announced the release of the symposium’s final report in her Sept. 16, 2013 posting on the Nanotechnology Now website.

The title of the final report published by the OECD is Symposium on Assessing the Economic  Impact of Nanotechnology: Synthesis Report. I have excerpted some information including this introductory paragraph from the executive summary of this 81 pp report,

Governments have a fiscal and social responsibility to ensure that limited research and development resources are used wisely and cost-effectively in support of social, economic, and scientific aspirations. As a result of significant public and private investments in nanotechnology during the past decade and an expanding array of commercial applications, the field of nanotechnology has matured to the point of showing significant potential to help societies achieve the shared goal of improving efficiencies and accelerating progress in a range of economic sectors, including medicine, manufacturing, and energy. Countries that wish to promote the continued responsible development of nanotechnology will, however, need quantitative data on the economic impact of nanotechnology to guide further investment and policy decisions. Few widely accepted economic impact assessments have been conducted, however, and there are many questions regarding the best methodologies to be used. (p. 4)

The attendees considered the challenges associated with evaluating the impact of nanotechnology, some of which are common to emerging technologies in general and some or which are specific to nanotechnology (from the report),

The attendees also considered the question of a definition for nanotechnology. While operational definitions are developed at national or regional levels, e.g. for statistical or regulatory purposes, there are relatively few internationally agreed upon definitions or classifications for nanotechnology or its products and processes. Such definitions are essential for developing a methodology for an economic impact assessment and/or to facilitate data collection. Participants mentioned that definitions should be flexible so that they facilitate the development and valuation of the technology; they also noted that definitions might vary in different contexts or sectors.

Additional issues were raised:

 Its multipurpose, enabling nature makes measuring the impact of nanotechnology difficult. It can be fundamental to a product’s key functionality (e.g. battery charge time or capacity) but ancillary to the value chain (E.g. represent a small portion of the final product or process). Nanotechnology is also likely to have a range of incremental impacts on goods and services as well as existing manufacturing techniques. This requires understanding the value added at different stages of the production chain.

 Nanotechnology’s impact is often intermingled with that of many other interventions and technologies so that determining its precise role can be difficult.

 The large and varied amount of data linked to nanotechnology development may lead to difficulties in cleaning and manipulating the data meaningfully.

 Confidential business information and the proprietary nature of products and services may make it difficult to obtain information from industry. Moreover, it is not clear how a nanotechnology company or a company using nanotechnology is defined or defines itself or to what extent companies, universities and associate institutions are involved in exploiting and developing nanotechnology.

 For now, data are mainly collected through surveys. It is important to weigh the benefits against the additional workload that surveys place on administrations, research institutes and industries. Information should be obtained efficiently, focusing on the data of greatest interest for assessing the value of the technology.

 The nanotechnology policy landscape is evolving. It is important to consider non-specific, rather than nanotechnology-specific, funding strategies and policies when assessing economic impacts such as return on investment.

While certain issues may be resolved through improvements and over time, some restrict the ability to conduct valid nanotechnology impact assessments, such as the complex relationship between science, innovation and the economy; the interaction between public and private actors; the role of other factors in technology development and innovation; and the time lag between investments and their returns. (p. 8)

Of course the main issue being addressed was the development of tools/instruments to assess nanotechnology’s economic impact (from the report),

Some steps have been taken towards assessing the impact of nanotechnology. Examples mentioned during the symposium include the U.S. STAR METRICS database, which uses an input/output approach to determine the outputs of federal funding of science and technology, and Brazil’s Lattes system, in which researchers, students and institutions share information about their interests and backgrounds to facilitate information sharing and collaboration. The Lattes system is also intended to aid in the design of science, technology and innovation policies and to help understand the social and economic impacts of previous investments. DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, United Kingdom) values a given nanotechnology product in monetary terms against an incumbent and thus calculates additional value added over current technology.

Other valuation methods mentioned included the “traditional” cost/ benefit analysis (often accompanied by scenario development for immature technologies such as nanotechnology) and life cycle assessment (LCA). LCA addresses the impact of nanotechnology along the entire product value chain. It is important to conduct LCAs as early as possible in product development to define the full value of a product using nanotechnology. Value chain assessments can also help address the challenge of determining the role of nanotechnology in a final product, where economic value is most commonly assessed. (p. 9)

Participants recognised the difficulty of developing a “one size fits all” methodology. The data collected and the indicators and the methodologies chosen need to fit the situation. Precisely defining the objectives of the impact assessment is critical: “What do we want to measure?” (e.g. the impact of a specific nanotechnology investment or the impact of a nano-enabled replacement product on environmental performance). “What outcomes do we want from the analysis?” (e.g. monetary value and GDP growth or qualitative measures of environmental and social benefits).

Input indicators (e.g. R&D investment, infrastructure) are the easiest to collect; they provide information on the development of a technology in a given region, country or globally. Output indicators, such as patents and publications, provide information on the trajectories of a technology and on key areas of innovation. The most useful for policy makers are indicators of impact, but high-quality data, especially quantitative data, are difficult to collect. Indicators of impact provide a basis for assessing direct (market share, growth of companies, new products, wealth creation) and indirect impacts (welfare gains, consumer surplus). The economic and social impact of nanotechnology goes beyond what can be measured with existing statistics and traditional surveys. A pilot survey by the Russian Federation plans to examine nanotechnology issues that are not necessarily covered by traditional statistical surveys, such as technology transfer and linkages between different segments of the national innovation system. The OECD Working Party of National Experts on Science and Technology Indicators is also working on the development of a statistical framework for the measurement of emerging, enabling and general purpose technologies, which includes the notion of impact.
While quantitative measures may be preferable, impact assessments based on qualitative indicators using methods such as technology assessment scenarios and mapping of value chains can also provide valuable information.

I haven’t read the entire report yet but the material after the executive summary bears a similarity to field notes. Generally in reports like this everything is stated in an impersonal third person with the speaker being mentioned only in the header for the section  so the contents have an  authority associated with holy books. While I haven’t seen any quotes, the speakers here are noted as having said such and such, e.g., “Mr. Tassey suggested a “technology-element” model as an alternative means of driving policy and managing the R&D cycle.” (p. 15) It’s not unheard of, just unusual.

For anyone interested in the earlier reports and/or in the Canadian participation in this 2012 symposium, there’s an interview with Vanessa Clive, Industry Canada, Nanotechnology Policy Advisor in my July 23, 2012 posting where she discusses the symposium and offers links to documents used as background material for the symposium.

2013 US National Nanotechnology Initiative stakeholder workshops

I found a May 20, 2013 news blurb about an upcoming 2013 US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) workshop on the OH&S (Occupational Health Safety magazine website,

Nanotechnology experts will gather in Washington, D.C., on June 11-12 [2013] for workshops and discussions to inform the 2013 strategic plan for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). …

More details about the workshop (2013 NNI Strategic Planning Stakeholder Workshop), which is limited to 120 people, can be found in the agenda here (a few items have been excerpted),

AGENDA: Tuesday, June 11, 2013
8:00 – 8:30 Registration and Coffee Session
1: Setting the Scene
Moderator: Anthony Green, Vice President of Technology Commercialization: Life
Sciences, Ben Franklin Technology Partners; Director, The Nanotechnology Institute

8:30 – 8:45
Welcome, NNI Overview, & Charge to Participants
Altaf Carim, Assistant Director for Nanotechnology, Office of Science and TechnologyPolicy, Executive Office of the President, United States

8:45 – 9:10
Synergies with Other Federal Initiatives
Thomas Kalil , Deputy Director for Policy, Office of Science and Technology Policy,
Executive Office of the President, United States

9:10 – 9:35
Bridging Technologies
Paul Braun, Ivan Racheff Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

9:35 – 10:00
Commercializing Nanotechnology
Christopher Schuh, Head of Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Danae
and Vasilios Salapatas Professor of Metallurgy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

10:00 – 10:25
Infrastructure Needs
Julia Phillips, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Sandia National Laboratories

Apparently you can still register. Here’s more from the nano.gov homepage (scroll down),

REGISTER NOW!

Date: June 11 – 12, 2013

Location: USDA Patriot Plaza Conference Center, 355 E Street, SW, Washington, DC

Scope: The 2013 NNI Stakeholder Workshop will obtain input outside the U.S. Government on the future directions of the NNI. The recommendations of this one-and-a-half day workshop will inform the development of the 2013 NNI Strategic Plan.

Objectives: The goal of this workshop is to obtain input from stakeholders – both those new to nanoscale science, engineering, and technology and those already familiar with these fields and with the NNI – regarding revisions to the NNI Strategic Plan that will be proposed in advance of the workshop.

Participants will be invited to suggest additions to and provide feedback on wording and emphasis areas in the NNI goals, the objectives that support these goals, and the Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives. Comments will also be solicited on the relationship between these topics and the revised Program Component Areas, which will be presented at the event.

Registration: This workshop is free and open to the public with registration on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is now open and will be capped at 120 people.

Wish I could go.

‘Safe’ nano, a report covering US National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety activities from 2004 to 2011

The Nov. 9, 2012 news item on Nanowerk lists the report title as “Filling the Knowledge Gaps for Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace“,

In 2007 and 2009, NIOSH [US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health] published progress reports detailing the accomplishments of the NTRC [Nanotechnology Research Center], including the results of ongoing laboratory and field research and the publication of technical and other guidance documents on the safe handling of engineered nanomaterials (see Progress Toward Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace, www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nanotech/pubs.html).

This 2012 update presents the program accomplishments of the NTRC from its inception in 2004 through 2011. It includes an analysis of the progress made toward accomplishing the goals and objectives of the NIOSH Strategic Plan for Nanotechnology Research and toward addressing the goals and research needs identified in the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) research strategy.

The report  is approximately 400 pp. most of which are devoted to descriptions of various projects, both completed and currently underway. The actual report comes in at roughly 65 pp.  I find the cover art to be particularly interesting given my interest in data visualization,

“Filling the Knowledge Gaps for Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace” cover: A graphical representation of the reach of a highly cited NIOSH journal article specific to nanomaterials. The scatter plot illustrates the initial publication (red dot) surrounded by the number of times it was directly cited in other papers (primary citations are yellow dots) and then the number of times the primary citation papers were cited by other papers (secondary citations are white dots). This diagram was developed using Cytoscape, an open source platform for complex network analysis and visualization.

For those who don’t fancy reading the report, here’s a list of the accomplishments from the report’s Executive Summary (p. 8-9 PDF version),

Summary of NTRC Program Outputs and Impacts

Among the many program outputs and impacts, the NTRC researchers:

■ Developed some of the earliest guidance on the design and conduct of nano­toxicology studies.

■ Identified pulmonary and cardiovascular hazards of some types of carbon nano­tubes in animals.

■ Determined that the dispersion of ultrafine carbon black nanoparticles in the lungs of rats following intratracheal instillation results in an inflammatory response that is greater than agglomerated ultrafine carbon black.

■ Determined that ultrafine TiO2 or carbon black is more inflammogenic than fine TiO2 or carbon black on a mass-dose basis.

■ Developed a system to generate nanoparticle aerosols for inhalation toxico­logic studies.

■ Conducted over 40 field assessments in nanomaterial manufacturer and user facilities.

■ Produced more than 400 peer-reviewed scientific publications, resulting in over 5,000 primary and 82,000 secondary citations.

■ Provided over 650 invited presentations.

■ Published a framework for conducting workplace emission testing.

■ Developed innovative sampling methods for engineered nanomaterials.

■ Contributed to the development of a bio-mathematical model in rats to describe clearance, retention, and translocation of inhaled nanoparticles throughout the body.

■ Developed recommended exposure limits (RELs) for TiO2 and carbon nano­tubes (CNTs) and carbon nanofibers (CNFs).

■ Developed interim guidance for medical screening and hazard surveillance.

■ Identified what research will be needed to ensure the health of workers han­dling nanomaterials.

■ Established formal partnerships and collaborations with private, governmen­tal and academic centers in the U.S. and globally.

■ Co-chaired the NNI Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group and contributed significantly to the development of the 2011 NEHI environmental health and safety (EHS) strategy.

■ Chaired the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials Steering Group 8 on exposure measurement and exposure mitigation for manufactured nanomaterials.

■ Provided widely used guidance on responsible development of nanotechnology.

■ Helped to establish the U.S. and international position that a precautionary approach to controlling exposures to engineered nanoparticles is warranted.

■ Have shown how responsible nanotechnology development and worker safety and health can be achieved.