The Biden-Harris Administration is working to leverage the power of science and technology, including nanotechnology, to benefit all Americans. For example, nanoparticles called quantum dots – the subject of the recent Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2023 – have been developed over the decades with support from the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and now enable modern TVs, LED lamps, and surgical tools. To that end, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) convened a first-of-its-kind Nanotechnology Infrastructure Leaders Summit at the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building on September 11, 2023. The meeting included the leadership of 35 different user facilities, open research laboratories, and innovation institutes that take many different forms but share the mission of facilitating access to cutting-edge tools and expertise that are critical to research and development, which often occurs at the nanoscale. These organizations represent programs funded by a multitude of federal agencies that are a part of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, including the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Defense. The NNCO brought together these diverse infrastructure programs to strengthen connections and lower barriers to essential resources along the innovation pathway in order to accelerate discoveries and their successful commercialization by basic researchers, entrepreneurs, and industry.
The meeting participants discussed creating a more seamless national network, streamlining the pipeline from discovery to commercialization. The infrastructure leaders also shared lessons learned while brainstorming strategies to tackle common challenges.
Common themes of the discussions were:
- Despite different operating models, there are opportunities to share best practices across organizations. For example, the creation of more industry-friendly processes, contracts, and intellectual property agreements may benefit from a combined approach that leverages the collective expertise and a broader industry perspective.
- Better collaboration and communication can also help bridge basic science and applied research and manufacturing. For example, manufacturing institutes can provide real-life use cases to inspire exploratory efforts at basic research centers, while the research community’s knowledge of recent scientific breakthroughs ensures that industry is able to leverage the most promising technical opportunities.
- Broad understanding of the breadth and diversity of the nation’s shared infrastructure by researchers, entrepreneurs, and industry is required in order to realize the full potential of the network. With active connections between organizations, users as well as expert staff will be able to accelerate their work by utilizing multiple programs. This effort will also address workforce concerns, as staff will benefit from career opportunities both within the facilities and with partner organizations.
The Nanotechnology Infrastructure Leaders Summit served as a catalyst to expand multiagency program coordination and create a more cohesive and seamless environment for America’s innovators. Moving forward, the NNCO will work with this group of leaders to build on the collective enthusiasm for deeper collaboration. New organizations and thought leaders will be invited to join future discussions, and new tools will be created to address common challenges. To learn more about the NNCO and efforts to optimize our nation’s research and development infrastructure, please click here.