Finishing up all the CRS reports I have been meaning to post. This one - Nanotechnology: A Policy Primer - was authored by John F. Sargent, Jr. and released on 15 september 2016. It give a very good overview of the policy aspects and delves into foreign efforts as well.
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 particularly to three topics that may affect the realization of this hoped for potential: federal research and development (R&D) in nanotechnology; U.S. competitiveness in the field; and environmental, health, and safety (EHS) concerns. This report provides an overview of these topics and two others: nanomanufacturing and public attitudes toward nanotechnology.
The development of nanotechnology has been fostered by significant and sustained public investments in R&D. Nanotechnology R&D is directed toward the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers. (One nanometer is equal to a billionth of a meter. A human hair is 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers wide.) At this size, the properties of matter can differ in fundamental and potentially useful ways from the properties both of individual atoms and molecules, on the one hand, and of bulk matter, on the other. Since the launch of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in 2000, Congress has appropriated approximately $21.8 billion for nanotechnology R&D through FY2016. President Obama has requested $1.443 billion in NNI funding for FY2017, little changed from the FY2016 level of $1.435 billion, but down $478.2 million (25.0%) from its regular appropriation peak of $1.913 billion in FY2010.
According to one estimate, worldwide public sector investment in nanotechnology R&D in 2014 was $7.9 billion and private sector investment was an estimated $9.8 billion. The United States is estimated to account for approximately one-third of total global nanotechnology R&D funding. Data on economic outputs used to assess competitiveness in mature technologies and industries, such as revenues and market share, are also not broadly available for nanotechnology. As an alternative, data on inputs (e.g., R&D expenditures) and non-economic outputs (e.g., scientific papers or patents) may provide insight into the current U.S. position and serve as bellwethers of future competitiveness. By these criteria, the United States appears to be the overall global leader in nanotechnology, though some believe the U.S. lead may not be as large as it was for previous emerging technologies. In recent years, China and the countries of the European Union have surpassed the United States in the publication of nanotechnology papers.
Some research has raised concerns about the safety of nanoscale materials. There is general agreement that more information on EHS implications is needed to assess and manage risks to the public and the environment; and to create a regulatory environment that fosters prudent investment in nanotechnology-related innovation. Nanomanufacturing—the bridge between basic nanoscience and nanotechnology products—may require the development of new technologies, tools, instruments, measurement science, and standards to enable safe, effective, and affordable commercial-scale production of nanotechnology products. Public attitudes may also affect the environment for R&D, regulation, and market acceptance of nanotechnology products.
In 2003, Congress enacted the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (P.L. 108-153), providing a legislative foundation for some of the activities of the NNI, addressing concerns, establishing programs, assigning agency responsibilities, and setting authorized funding levels for some agencies. Certain provisions of this act authorizing specific appropriations have expired; other provisions have not expired. In the 114th Congress, Subtitle B of the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1898) would reauthorize the NNI. The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084) would modify certain NNI statutory reporting requirements. Efforts to enact comprehensive NNI reauthorization legislation in the 110th Congress, 111th Congress, and 113th Congress were unsuccessful.
The products that emerge from these efforts may bring significant economic and social benefits to the United States and to the world; however, substantial research, development, and innovation- related hurdles remain before many of these benefits might be realized. Congress may play an active role in addressing some or all of these hurdles. The issues Congress may opt to consider include budget authorization levels for the covered agencies; R&D funding levels, priorities, and balance across the program component areas; administration and management of the NNI; translation of research results and early-stage technology into commercially viable applications; environmental, health, and safety issues; ethical, legal, and societal implications; education and training for the nanotechnology workforce; metrology (the science of measurement), standards, and nomenclature; public understanding; and international dimensions.
"We're changing the world, one line of code at a time." - young Nigerian female software developer on @FareedZakaria (30 October 2016)