Brussels, 20 May 2005
Although the US remains the world leader in nanotechnology research and development (R&D), a new White House report warns that US nanotech dominance is under threat as other countries improve their own programmes.
The report, released by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) on 18 May, says that the US, through its National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), must do more to address societal concerns and the potential risks - both environmental and health - of this developing technology.
'The approximately USD one billion [790 million euro] the Federal government will spend on nanotechnology R&D this fiscal year is roughly one-quarter of the current global investment by all nations. Total annual US R&D spending (Federal, State, and private) now stands at approximately USD three billion [2.4 billion euro], or one-third of the estimated USD nine billion [7.1 billion euro] in total worldwide spending by the public and private sectors combined' states the PCAST report.
'In addition, the United States leads in the number of start-up companies based on nanotechnology, and in research output as measured by patents and publications. The US leadership position, however, is under increasing competitive pressure from other nations as they vamp up their own programs,' it adds.
Although the US spends a third of total nanotechnology R&D spending worldwide, this is mainly due to state spending. Federal spending on nanotechnology R&D is approximately the same as that of the EU and Japan. Thus it is only when state-sponsored nanotech R&D is added that the US is the top nanotech research sponsor.
'The rest of the world is very, very interested in the subject of nanotech so the [US] percentage leads are shrinking as time goes on because of that relative interest,' states Floyd Kvamme, PCAST co-chair. 'It's pretty clear that a number of other places in the world are seeking to emulate some of the programs we have because of the cross-cutting nature of nanotechnology.'
The report therefore recommends a series of measures in order to strengthen the NNI. These include encouraging technology transfer from the lab to the market place; increasing coordination between the federal and state level to increase practical application of NNI-funded research results, improve workforce development and achieve other national benefits. The reports also calls on the NNI to continue to study the environmental and health implications of nanotechnology and 'where harmful human or environmental effects are proven, appropriate regulatory mechanisms should be utilised by the pertinent Federal agencies.'
Strong international coordination to ensure that efforts are not duplicated unnecessarily and to guarantee that information is shared widely should be encouraged, adds the report, which also recommends the establishment of an infrastructure capable of training an adequate number of researchers and teachers in this field. To read the full PCAST report, please visit: http:///www.ostp.gov/pcast/PCASTreportFIN AL5-17-05.pdf