DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE ROLE IN NANOTECHNOLOGY RESEARCH

A. DUFF MITCHELL
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, TECHNOLOGY ADMINISTRATION

Introduction

The Department of Commerce (DOC) Office of Technology Policy is part of the DOC Technology Administration. In broadest terms, the Office of Technology Policy is responsible for 3 functions:

  1. developing policies to increase the role of technology in enhancing the economic well-being and competitiveness of the United States

  2. developing international science and technology policies that promote U.S. international competitiveness

  3. serving as liaison to the private sector to identify barriers to the rapid commercialization of technology, eliciting support for Administration civilian technology policies, and ensuring that industry's interests are reflected in S&T agreements and civilian technology policy

Nanotechnology Study

U.S. companies and policymakers need to understand how the emerging science of nanotechnology will affect their competitive global positions. The potential impact is considerable -- nanostructured materials or nano-processed devices have broad applications from pharmaceuticals, bioengineering, pigments, and electronics to optical and magnetic devices and structures and coatings with special properties. In keeping with our mission to "increase the role of technology in enhancing the economic well-being and competitiveness of the United States," we count on the WTEC study to document for U.S. industry the width and breadth of the technology challenge and opportunities nanotechnology represents.

Also, in order to better pursue our second mission of "developing international science and technology policies that promote U.S. international competitiveness," we recognize that it is very important to understand the extent of work being undertaken by competitors abroad. The importance of international efforts to commercialize nanotechnology was underscored a few years ago with the announcement by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in Japan of two 10-year nanotechnology programs: the Atomic Technology Project for $185 million and the Quantum Functional Devices Project for $40 million. The Japanese Science and Technology Agency funds several research institutes on nanoparticles, nanostructures, and related technologies. It is believed that Japanese companies and research institutes are focused more than U.S. companies and researchers on the processing and manufacturing aspects of nanotechnology, including advanced diagnostic instrumentation and applications in microelectronics. We would like this verified. There is also significant work underway in China, Russia, and parts of Europe, especially Germany. We would like to better understand what this entails.

In short, we would like to see a report that would assist U.S. citizens, corporations, and policymakers in understanding and dealing with nanotechnology and its impact on future technology trends and products in the world. We would see this information through its dissemination to U.S. interests supporting our third mission objective, that is, facilitating the rapid commercialization of technology.

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Published: January 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian