Nanotechnology: A Policy Primer
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Nanoscale science, engineering, and technology commonly referred to collectively as nanotechnology is believed by many to offer extraordinary economic and societal benefits. Congress has demonstrated continuing support for nanotechnology and has directed its attention primarily to three topics that may affect the realization of this hoped for potential federal research and development RD in nanotechnology U.S. competitiveness and environmental, health, and safety EHS concerns. This report provides an overview of these topics which are discussed in more detail in other CRS reports and two others nanomanufacturing and public understanding of and attitudes toward nanotechnology. The development of this emerging field has been fostered by significant and sustained public investments in nanotechnology RD. Nanotechnology RD is directed toward the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers. At this size, the properties of matter can differ in fundamental and potentially useful ways from the properties of individual atoms and molecules and of bulk matter. Since the launch of the National Nanotechnology Initiative NNI in 2000 through FY2013, Congress has appropriated approximately 18 billion for nanotechnology RD. President Obama has requested 1.7 billion in NNI funding for FY2014. More than 60 nations have established similar programs. In 2010, total annual global public RD investments reached an estimated 8.2 billion, complemented by an estimated private sector investment of 9.6 billion. Data on economic outputs used to assess competitiveness in mature technologies and industries, such as revenues and market share, are not available for assessing nanotechnology. Alternatively, data on inputs e.g., RD expenditures and non-financial outputs e.g., scientific papers, patents may provide insight into the current U.S. position and serve as bellwethers of future competitiveness.
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