NNCO Director Lisa Friedersdorf highlighted NNI efforts to ensure responsible development of nanotechnology and emphasized ongoing efforts to share information about the advancements in nanotechnology environmental, health, and safety knowledge with the broader scientific community. Continued engagement with experts to identify and raise awareness of the state of the science in this important area will be a priority in the coming months.
For World Water Day, we highlighted ways in which nanotechnology is being used to address some of the critical issues surrounding water. Highlights included an oleo sponge that can help clean up oil spills, a nanoscale catalyst that can transform nitrates into water and air in one step, and nanomaterials that help remove toxic cadmium from freshwater systems. Advanced sensors that utilize nanotechnology are being developed to detect contaminants in water, areas of focus for both the Water and Sensors signature initiatives. Nanotechnology is also being used in cheap point-of-use water filters and in off-the-grid water treatment systems, as the two most recent “Stories from the NNI” podcasts discuss. These are just a few examples of how nanotechnology research is transitioning into applications that solve challenging issues.
Innovative research developments can only address challenging issues if they are able to transition to the marketplace, and fostering the transfer of nanotechnology research into applications and products for commercial and public benefit is a key goal of the NNI. To facilitate this transfer, the NNCO has a number of activities planned. As a follow-up to the Technology Development Pathways: Case Studies from the NNI workshop, a panel discussion at the TechConnect meeting in May, co-located with the SBIR/STTR Spring Innovation Conference, will provide additional case studies illustrating the paths taken by companies to transition their technologies. The discussion will provide an opportunity to share best practices and identify key remaining technical challenges, such as characterization methods required for quality control. An entrepreneurship session is also being planned as part of the Student Leaders Conference, where students that have started emerging technology companies will share their experiences.
In addition to these events, a community of interest to promote the exchange of information related to nanotechnology entrepreneurship is beginning to form. To kick start the discussion, a webinar later this spring will feature representatives from university-based nanotechnology spin-off companies, along with the key people that provided advice and support along their journeys. These case studies will address the technical challenges the companies faced and highlight specific aspects present in their local ecosystem that made a difference. We welcome you to join the conversation; keep an eye on Nano.gov for more information!