Goal One Objectives

Goal 1: Advance a world-class nanotechnology research and development program.

As detailed in the 2014 NNI Stragegic Plan, the objectives for this goal are as follows:

1.1. Support R&D that extends the frontiers of nanotechnology and strengthens the intersections of scientific disciplines. 

1.1.1. Extend the frontiers of nanotechnology with a diverse R&D portfolio that includes basic scientific research, foundational research, use-inspired research, applications research, and technology development.

1.1.2. Strengthen the intersections of scientific disciplines by creating funding opportunities specifically targeting unique and interdependent research between disciplines.

1.1.3. Sustain a strategic and complementary research portfolio incorporating intramural and extramural programs consisting of single-investigator efforts, multi-investigator and multidisciplinary research teams, and centers and networks for focused research.

Nanotechnology offers a paradigm that crosses scientific disciplines and therefore provides a unique motivation for exploring the intersections between traditional disciplines. The broad nanotechnology R&D portfolio invests at the frontiers and intersections of many areas, including biology, chemistry, computer science, ecology, engineering, geology, materials science, medicine, physics, and the social sciences. Activities targeted toward this goal span a broad continuum, from support for basic and foundational research, through use-inspired and applications research, and into technology development. The research efforts of the NNI agencies continue to be executed through a balanced mix of funding ranging from single-investigator grants to collaborative research teams and networks, research centers, and user facilities. Research efforts also include extramural research and research within Government laboratories, each of which plays a unique and vital role in the discovery and innovation process.

1.2. Identify and support nanoscale science and technology research driven by national priorities and informed by active engagement with stakeholders.

1.2.1. Engage with academia, industry, government, and the public to gather input and feedback on federally supported research.

1.2.2. Foster stakeholder engagement and collaborations with NNI agencies via means such as matching funds, partnerships, consortia, and planning exercises.

1.2.3. Disseminate and communicate nanoscale science and technology success stories and current national priorities at public workshops and conferences.

Successful advancement and commercialization of nanotechnology (Goal 2) will depend on the scientific quality of research; better understanding of the potential environmental, health, and safety implications of nanotechnology; and cognizance of its relevance and competitiveness in the marketplace. NNI agencies will continue to work with academia and across industry sectors to gather input and feedback on Federal research. Continuous engagement will facilitate the effective transition of nanotechnology from discovery to the marketplace, and direct collaborations will establish meaningful long-term relationships to advance this field. Furthermore, given the vast body of research in nanotechnology supported by NNI agencies, it is incumbent upon these agencies, assisted by the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, to ensure that recent successes and the current national priorities are adequately communicated in national forums and scientific conferences.

1.3. Assess the performance of the U.S. nanotechnology R&D program. 

1.3.1. Identify the common attributes of successful research programs and general best practices within the NNI agencies and within other domestic and international nanotechnology R&D.

1.3.2. Develop quantitative measures of performance in coordination with existing efforts to establish metrics for innovation.

1.3.3. Explore opportunities to enhance and augment current assessment strategies.

Nanotechnology is a worldwide enterprise with significant R&D efforts underway in many countries. In order to maintain U.S. leadership, it is critical to identify the common attributes that define successful nanotechnology research programs. Additionally, NNI agencies will continue to develop clearly defined metrics to measure the U.S. R&D program against those of other major economies. Efforts to quantitatively measure innovation are already underway in other areas, and the NNI and its agencies will leverage this existing work to develop appropriate metrics. Furthermore, opportunities for rapid, focused assessments of the NNI will be explored, in order to provide dynamic information exchange to enable continual refinement of nanotechnology research programs and rapid adaptation of successful approaches. For example, directors of major nanotechnology research centers (both academic and government) could be assembled to assess the most recent nanotechnology advances, in addition to the strengths and weaknesses of the investment strategies of the NNI agencies. The NNI and its agencies could also host focused discussions around mutually identified topics of particular interest or need to refine their nanotechnology investment strategies. Similarly, these agencies could host strategic forums to address emerging topics, such as developing reliable datasets or improving the tracking of datasets for scientific impact. These opportunities would serve as a means to establish continual dialogue with a diverse range of leading scientists and engineers working at the frontiers of nanotechnology.

1.4. Advance a portfolio of Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives (NSIs) that are each supported by three or more NNI agencies and address significant national priorities.

1.4.1. Identify potential new NSIs with input from stakeholders.

1.4.2. Conduct annual assessments of the impact and progress of each NSI to determine strategic areas of focus and the value of continuing the NSI for an additional year. 

NSIs are topical areas identified by the NNI and its agencies as benefiting greatly from close and targeted interagency interactions. The NSIs spotlight key areas of national priority and provide a mechanism for enhanced collaboration to leverage R&D programs across multiple agencies. Utilizing the broad range of funding mechanisms identified in Objective 1.1, the agency activities will be coordinated within the NSIs to foster innovation and accelerate nanotechnology development. The portfolio of NSIs will be reviewed annually to determine their overall progress and the impact of the interactions catalyzed by them. These reviews will also assess each NSI relative to new opportunities to ensure that the optimum set of NSIs is supported.