Committee Passes Legislation to Reauthorize NNI
(Washington, DC) – Today, House Science and Technology Committee approved H.R. 5940, the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008. This legislation amends the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act to make several changes to the implementation process and priorities of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). It is based in part on recommendations from the formal reviews of NNI by the National Academy of Sciences and the NNI Advisory Panel.
"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," said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). "This Committee was instrumental in establishing the National Nanotechnology Initiative through legislation enacted in 2003."
The Committee recognized the significance of nanotechnology early on; about a decade ago the Committee held the first hearing on nanotechnology to review Federal research activities in the field. In 2003, the Committee was a key player in the development and enactment of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (P.L. 108-153), which authorized NNI. The 2003 statute established formal interagency planning, coordinating, and budgeting for NNI. Currently, twenty-six federal agencies participate in NNI, 13 of which contribute to NNI’s research and development budget.
H.R. 5940, does not substantially alter 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 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," stated Gordon. "The bill would assign responsibility to a senior official at the Office of Science and Technology Policy to oversee this planning and implementation process."
This legislation amends the statute based on the findings and recommendations of the series of hearing the Committee has held throughout the 110th Congress – regarding nanotechnology education, safety impact of nanotechnology, commercialization of nanotechnology, and to review the proposed reauthorization legislation – that reviewed the various activities and aspects of NNI. Also, the bill sets specific steps to increase the number of nanotechnology-related projects supported under the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Technology Innovation Program, established under the COMPETES Act. H.R. 5940 includes provisions to expand the use of nanotechnology facilities by companies for prototyping and proof of concept studies.
"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," added Gordon.
Lastly, the legislation also incorporates provisions that address science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce needs. One provision builds on the National Science Foundation (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.
"H.R. 5940 is an excellent, bipartisan bill that will improve and strengthen NNI, and thereby, help keep the United States at the forefront of nanotechnology," stated Gordon. "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."
H.R. 5940 passed the Committee with successful amendments by Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and now awaits further consideration by the House of Representatives.