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7/7/2010
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White House Seeks Nanotechnology Ideas

The OSTP has released an official RFI soliciting submissions for 2010 National Nanotechnology Initiative agenda.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy wants input on its plan to explore how the government can spur a revolution in the use of nanotechnology.

The OSTP has released a Request for Information (RFI) for ideas on the development of the 2010 Strategic Plan for its National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a 25-agency R&D program, according to a White House blog post by OSTP Policy Analyst Heather Evans and OSTP Assistant Director for Nanotechnology Travis Earles.

Nanotechnology is aimed at controlling matter on an atomic and molecular scale, generally dealing with matter between 1 to 100 nanometer in size.

The federal government established the NNI in 2001, with 25 agencies participating. Fifteen of them have budgets for nanotechnology R&D in 2011; the total proposed NNI budget for the year is $1.76 billion. Since 2001, the federal government has invested nearly $14 billion in the NNI.

Evans and Earles cited several advancements that scientists and technologists have used nanotechnology to create as the impetus for the government's interest in the field.

Among them are clean, affordable energy; stronger and more durable materials; low-cost solutions to clean drinking water; low-impact medical devices and drugs for disease-treatment and prevention; and techniques to clean up hazardous waste and chemicals in the environment.

Agencies participating in the NNI have four goals that were set in the NNI 2007 Strategic Plan, according to the post. They are to advance a world-class nanotechnology R&D program, to foster the transfer of new technologies to the commercial and public sector; to develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce and supporting infrastructure to promote nanotechnology; and support responsible development.

The last is arguably one of the most important goals, as the development of nanotechnology has risks not associated with other technology fields because researchers are dealing with structures so small they can't be seen with the human eye and have the potential to be highly volatile.

These four goals are where parties interested in responding to the RFI should start as they consider research priorities, investment, coordination, partnerships and other factors that affect their responses, according to the post.

The deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m. EDT on Aug. 15, and they should be submitted to NNIStrategy@ostp.gov, according to the post.

The Obama administration recently identified nanotechnology as one of three fields of research comprising a "golden triangle" of technologies it believes can provide optimum economic benefit to society. The other two are information technology and biotechnology.

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology -- which advises Obama on science, technology, and innovation policy - recently held an event with experts in each field to solicit ideas about how the government can best promote advancements in the three technologies.

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