Frequently Asked Questions for Business


Where can a nanotechnology start-up company learn about Government funding opportunities?

The NNI’s official website, Nano.gov, has a variety of resources in its Collaborations and Funding section, starting with the Funding Opportunities page that details various Federal Government programs to support nanotechnology, including SBIR and STTR, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and more. Nano.gov also has a Current Solicitations page dedicated to nanotechnology-related grants and other funding opportunities from the various NNI participating agencies.

In addition, Nano.gov has a Business Development section that focuses on issues important to small/ medium businesses, including Tech Transfer and Commercialization; Industry Collaborations (such as public-private partnerships); Regional, State, and Local Activities (including offices and programs in your area); and Diversity Programs (including funding programs for women- and minority-owned businesses, veterans programs, and programs for the disabled.)

The Small Business Administration also has information about starting and financing a small business.

What resources exist to help a small company focusing on research and development of nanotechnology-enabled products or services?

If your small business is engaged in scientific research and development (R&D), you may qualify for Federal grants under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. SBIR and STTR programs encourage small businesses to undertake R&D projects that meet Federal R&D objectives and/or have high potential for commercialization.

You should also consider getting in touch with regional, state, or local (RSL) nanotechnology-based economic development initiatives in your area. Many of the initiatives have information on state programs and hold training and networking events. Nano.gov maintains a list of current RSL offices.

How can a small nanotechnology business protect intellectual property?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office is the Federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks. The USPTO website has information related to applying for a patent or trademark, as well as a searchable database for currently held patents.

You might consider downloading a free Non-Disclosure Agreement from the SBA website before discussing your ideas with potential collaborators.

What U.S. Government regulatory agencies play a role in nanotechnology commercialization?

The regulatory agencies most actively involved in nanotechnology and participating in the NNI are the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the Department of Commerce, and the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC.)  See also questions 10 and 11 below.

Where would a company find a specific Government agency point of contact for nanotechnology?

Nano.gov has a section dedicated to the NSET’s participating Federal partners, which lists each agency participating in the NNI, along with that agency’s budget, research focus, links to agency specific funding pages, and key contacts for that agency. Full contact information for the agency contacts can also be found in the appendices of the annual NNI Supplement to the President’s Budget.

What meetings or workshops related to nanotechnology are scheduled in the near future?

Nano.gov hosts a page listing upcoming meetings and events . For EHS-specific meetings, visit the U.S.-E.U. nanoEHS website.

How can small nanotechnology companies find out what the Federal Government is interested in buying?

FedBizOps lists open Government solicitations and hosts resources for doing business with the Federal Government. Nano.gov also maintains a list of current solicitations related to nanotechnology.

Are Government-owned technologies available for private sector license?

The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) is the nationwide network of Federal laboratories that provides the forum to develop strategies and opportunities for linking laboratory mission technologies and expertise with the marketplace.

The Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center (NTTC) is a full-service technology-management center that helps organizations identify commercially promising discoveries, market them to American industry, and build partnerships to turn inventions into products.  NTTC has a  list of Federal Government tech transfer offices and resources.

Are there procedures for small nanotechnology companies to gain access to government-operated research facilities?

Several Federal agencies operate nanotechnology research facilities that are available to users from industry and academia; Nano.gov hosts a list of these user facilities. These user facilities are generally available both to U.S.-based researchers and to international visitors. Access rules, costs, and provisions for proprietary research are determined by the individual facilities and their funding agencies.

If a small nanotechnology company commercialized a product, are there regulations regarding selling into overseas markets?

The answer lies with the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). As part of the Department of Commerce, BIS is charged with the development, implementation and interpretation of U.S. export control policy for dual-use commodities, software, and technology. BIS has webpage devoted to guidance on how to comply with export control laws and regulations.

My company’s nanotechnology product may have military use. Are there regulations regarding export of these products?

Yes. The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) is charged with controlling the export and temporary import of defense articles and defense services covered by the United States Munitions List (USML). ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations)—the acronym most typically used when considering export of military use items—has a page detailing these laws and regulations.