White Paper: A Federal Vision for Future Computing: A Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenge

Subject Area:
NNI Publications and Reports
Author: NNI/OSTP
Publication Date: Jul. 29 2016

Description:

This white paper presents a collective vision from the collaborating Federal agencies of the emerging and innovative solutions needed to realize the Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenge for Future Computing. It describes the technical priorities shared by multiple Federal agencies, highlights the challenges and opportunities associated with these priorities, and presents a guiding vision for the research and development needed to achieve key near-, mid-, and long-term technical goals. By coordinating and collaborating across multiple levels of government, industry, academia, and nonprofit organizations, the nanotechnology and computer science communities can look beyond the decades-old approach to computing based on the von Neumann architecture and chart a new path that will continue the rapid pace of innovation beyond the next decade.

Background
On October 20, 2015, the White House announced “A Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenge” to develop transformational computing capabilities by combining innovations in multiple scientific disciplines. The Grand Challenge addresses three Administration priorities—the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), and the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative to:

         "Create a new type of computer that can proactively interpret and learn from data, solve unfamiliar problems using           what it has learned, and operate with the energy efficiency of the human brain."

While it continues to be a national priority to advance conventional digital computing—which has been the engine of the information technology revolution—current technology falls far short of the human brain in terms of the brain’s sensing and problem-solving abilities and its low power consumption. Many experts predict that fundamental physical limitations will prevent transistor technology from ever matching these characteristics.


Nanotechnology Fact

Although federally-funded R&D yields hard-to-quantify benefits such as students educated, degrees conferred, companies started, patents and copyrights granted, developmental partnerships formed, and private sector investment inflows, there are many indicators of the impact of this ­­­­­investment.

For example, there are over 1,900 U.S.-based companies conducting R&D, manufacturing, or product sales in nanotechnology in 2016. Of these companies engaged in the nanotechnology sector, over 36% have participated in the Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer programs funded by the Federal agencies that participate in the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The most recent Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS) conducted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) found approximately 1,500 companies engaged in nanotechnology with approximately 1,100 of these classified as small businesses (less than 500 employees). The difference in the number of companies cited above can be attributed to the year the data was collected and other methodologies.

A noteworthy impact of the NNI has been the focused investment by NNI-participating agencies in the establishment and development of multidisciplinary research and education centers devoted to nanoscience and nanotechnology. NNI agencies have developed an extensive infrastructure of nearly 100 major interdisciplinary research and education centers and user facilities across the United States. This cutting-edge fabrication and characterization equipment provides state-of-the-art nanoscience tools and expertise for research by non-profit or business organizations, whether small or large, for use-inspired research and some of the user facilities are available free-of-charge for non-proprietary work if the user intends to publish the research results in the scientific literature.

In December 2015, Lux Research estimated that nanotechnology-enabled products generated $1.6 trillion in global revenues in 2014; and that figure is anticipated to increase to $3.5 trillion in 2018.

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