Funding Opportunities

Large industry currently supports about half of the R&D in nanotechnology in the U.S.—approximately $2 billion annually. The other half comes from small business and investors, as well as Federal, state, and local governments.

Federal Funding Programs and Partnerships

In addition to grants, the Federal Government offers special programs designed to seed commercialization activity that facilitates economic growth. These programs support small business collaboration with universities and other research institutions.

The largest of these are the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Other Federal funding opportunities include Advanced Technology Program (ATP) awards, Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers, the Manufacturing Technology (MANTECH) program, and the Technology Innovation Program (TIP).


The Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) is a highly competitive program that encourages small business to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the nation's R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated and the United States builds entrepreneurial spirit to meet specific research and development needs.

The Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) is an important small business program that expands funding opportunities in the Federal innovation R&D arena. Central to the program is expanding the public/private sector partnership to include joint venture opportunities for small business and the nation's premier nonprofit research institutions. Each year, five Federal departments and agencies are required by STTR to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for awards to small business/nonprofit research institution partnerships. Currently, the five Federal agencies participating in the STTR program are DOD, DOE, DHHS (NIH), NASA, and NSF.

Departments and agencies currently participating in the SBIR and/or the STTR program, each with their own SBIR/SRTR web sites, are the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Defense (DOD), Education (DoED), Energy (DOE), and Transportation (DOT); the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Air Force, Navy, and Army have their own SBIR/STTR sites.


The NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program focuses on increasing the competitiveness of the U.S. industrial base by bridging the productivity gap for manufacturers, identifying opportunities for growth, and encouraging technology deployment. MEP supports 59 centers in 392 locations in every state and in Puerto Rico. These centers provide manufacturers with an array of services that focus on growth, productivity, and efficiency. MEP centers are nonprofit university- or state-based organizations, with 1,600 specialists in business and manufacturing who provide direct assistance to customers throughout the United States.


The Department of Defense’s (DOD) Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) program focuses on the needs of weapon system programs for affordable, low-risk development and production. It provides the crucial link between technology invention and development, and industrial applications. It matures and validates emerging manufacturing technologies to support low-risk implementation in industry and in DOD facilities such as depots and shipyards. The program addresses production issues from system development through transition to production and sustainment. By identifying production issues early and providing timely solutions, the ManTech Program reduces risk and positively impacts system affordability by providing solutions to manufacturing problems before they occur.

National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer 

The NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer provides research and training opportunities relevant to nanotechnology and cancer. Many opportunities emphasize interdisciplinary research at the interface of the biological and physical sciences including, but not limited to, structural and computational biology, medical and bioinformatics, genomics and proteomics, tissue engineering, single molecule detection, nanotechnology, and imaging techniques.

Regional, State, and Local Government Initiatives

Facilitating business partnerships, providing state and regional funding, and creating a positive business environment are goals of regional, state, and local economic development initiatives that have formed across the country specifically for nanotechnology. Many regional, state, and local initiatives to support nanotechnology research and development are listed on the NNI's Regional, State, and Local Initiatives web page.

Special Resources for R&D

Search Engines

Tech-Net, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, is an Internet-based database of information containing SBIR and STTR awards, ATP awards, and MEP centers. It is a free service for those seeking small business partners, small business contractors and subcontractors, leading-edge technology research partners (small businesses, universities, Federal labs, and nonprofit organizations), manufacturing centers, and investment opportunities.

Scholarships, Fellowships, and Postdoctoral Positions

NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program — All six of the NIST laboratories in Gaithersburg, MD, participate in SURF programs. For example, the Materials Measurement Laboratory (MML) and the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) SURF program is designed to provide hands-on research experience in Ceramics, Metallurgy, Polymers, Condensed Matter Science, and Materials Reliability; available research opportunities in the MML/NCNR SURF program include structural and magnetic properties of nanomaterials. NIST also offers SURF research opportunities in Boulder, CO.

NSF's NanoJapan International Research Experience for Undergraduates— Recognized as a model for international education programs for science and engineering students, NanoJapan provides U.S. undergraduates with structured research opportunities in Japanese university laboratories with Japanese mentors. The strong educational portfolio of this project focuses on cultivating interest in nanotechnology among young U.S. undergraduate students, especially those from underrepresented groups, and encouraging such students to pursue graduate study and academic research in the physical sciences. 

Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program — Established in 2000 to fund basic research in areas of interest to the Intelligence Community, today, the program annually funds first- and second-year postdoctoral fellows researching topics as varied as molecular biology and robotics.

NINDS Summer Program in the Neurological Sciences Program — The National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) awards individual fellowships to academically talented high school, undergraduate, graduate, and medical students to receive first-rate training in neuroscience research. Students get hands-on experience working with leading scientists in the Institute's Division of Intramural Research Labs located in Bethesda and Rockville, MD, and Cape Cod, MA.

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering Training — NIH/NIBIB training opportunities are geared for undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral candidates. See also the NIBIB Funding page and the NIH Training and Education page.

CeNIDE Nano Summer Program takes place at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. This seven-week international academic program focuses on nanotechnology. It is designed for outstanding students from all over the world in their third to fifth academic year with a major in science or engineering.