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Full Committee Markup - H.R. 5940

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - 12:00am
Washington D.C.
National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008

Opening Statement By Chairman Bart Gordon

H.R. 5940 is a bipartisan bill which I and Ranking Member Hall jointly introduced, along with 23 additional Democratic and Republican Members of the Committee.

I want to thank Ranking Member Hall for working with me in a cooperative way to develop this legislation and to bring it before the Committee today.

This Committee was instrumental in establishing the National Nanotechnology Initiative – or the NNI as it is usually called – through enactment of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act in 2003. 

H.R. 5940 amends that statute based on findings and recommendations from four hearings during the current Congress that examined various aspects of the NNI.

The bill also reflects recommendations from formal reviews of the NNI by the National Academy of Sciences and the NNI Advisory Panel.   And, finally, we circulated the draft bill widely to the various communities of interest and have incorporated many of the suggestions we received.

H.R. 5940 does not substantially alter the NNI, but makes adjustments to some of the priorities of the program and strengthens one of the core components – environmental and safety research.

With regard to risk reduction research, a key provision of the bill is to require that the NNI develop a plan for the environmental and safety research component, and a roadmap for implementing it, which includes explicit near-term and long-term goals and the funding required, by goal and by agency. 

The bill also assigns responsibility to a senior official at the Office of Science and Technology Policy to oversee this planning and implementation process.

And, finally, the bill requires accountability by establishing a publicly accessible database containing information on the content and funding for each environmental, health and safety research project supported. 

Another important area addressed by the legislation involves ways to capture the economic benefits of nanotechnology.

We need to ensure that this nation successfully capitalizes on the commercial developments that will flow from the new discoveries resulting from our substantial investment in research.

It is now time to give increased consideration to rebalancing NNI investments toward activities to foster the transfer of new discoveries to commercial products and processes.

To that end, H.R. 5940 specifies steps for increasing the number of nanotechnology related projects supported under the Small Business Innovation Research Program and by the Technology Innovation Program, established under the COMPETES Act.

It includes provisions to encourage and expand the use of nanotechnology facilities by companies for prototyping and proof of concept studies.

Also, the bill authorizes large-scale, focused, multi-agency research and development initiatives in areas of national need.

For example, these efforts could explore development of nanotechnology-based devices for harvesting solar energy more cheaply, or perhaps nanoscale sensors for detecting cancer and drug delivery devices for treating the disease. 

Finally, I want to highlight some provisions of the bill that address another key issue – future STEM workforce needs.

One provision builds on the NSF Math and Science Partnership program to use nanotechnology education activities as a vehicle to raise the interest of secondary school students in possible STEM careers.

A key component of these new partnerships is involvement by nanotechnology companies in offering hands-on learning opportunities at their facilities for students and teachers.

Another education provision supports the development of undergraduate courses of study in nanotechnology fields to help prepare future technicians, scientists and engineers, who will be needed to meet the demands of industry as nanotechnology commercialization continues to expand.

H.R. 5940 is an excellent, bipartisan bill that will improve and strengthen the NNI, and thereby, help keep the United States at the forefront of nanotechnology.

To date, we have received letters of support for the bill from the Semiconductor Industry Association, the NanoBusiness Alliance, the American Chemical Society, and the National Science Teachers Association.

I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 5940 and to continue to work with me to ensure passage by the House and final enactment during this Congress.

Bill Number Legislative Report Markup Transcript
H.R. 5940

Reported, as amended

110th Congress