An important step in the development of nanotechnology came in 2000 when President William Clinton introduced the National Nanotechnology Initiative, or NNI. This initiative was in part a result of the realization that a great many scientists in several organizations and in several countries were all working on pieces of the nanotechnology puzzle. The NNI was created to bring together much of that research and move the field forward.

In his announcement of NNI, Clinton also announced funding for nanoscale efforts that practically doubled previous funding amounts to a whopping $495 million starting in 2001. But the river of money didn’t stop there. NNI got great press and an enthusiastic reception; this caused more investment in the field by others, including universities, states, businesspeople, and even other governments.

National Nanotechnology Initiative website.
National Nanotechnology Initiative website.

NNI coordinates nanotechnology R&D (research and development) funding among approximately 25 agencies. The focus at NNI is on developing new products and techniques that could provide advances in fields such as medicine or improve the environment and building an educated workforce to support the discipline of nanotechnology. NNI also funds studies on the effect of nanotechnology on our environment and society.

Dr. Mihael Roco was an important player in the creation of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. He helped envision its structure and focus, and chaired NNI during a time when its budget grew to one billion dollars.

Roco won the 2002 Best of Small Tech Award, which called him the “Leader of the American Nanotechnology Revolution.” Scientific American included him as one of 2004’s top 50 technology leaders. He is generally acknowledged as the person most responsible for the level of investment and support that nanotechnology enjoys today.

To show you the scope of NNI’s efforts, agencies involved include the following:

  • Department of Defense

  • Department of Energy

  • NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology

  • National Institutes of Health

  • National Science Foundation