On July 29, 2014, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing on “Nanotechnology: Understanding How Small Solutions Drive Big Innovation.” Witnesses included:
James M. Tour, Ph.D., T.T. and W.F. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Computer Science, Materials Science and Nanoengineering, Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, Rice University;
Christian Binek, Ph.D., Associate Professor Physics and Astronomy, University of Nebraska - Lincoln;
Milan Mrksich, Ph.D., Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry and Cell and Molecular Biology, Northwestern University; and
Jim Phillips, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, NanoMech, Incorporated.
Subcommittee Chair Lee Terry stated that “nanotechnology is poised to drive the next surge of economic growth across all sectors.” According to Dr. Binek, nanotechnology has the potential to transform a range of industries, in fields such as information technology, medical applications, energy, water supply with strong correlation to the energy problem, smart materials, and manufacturing. Dr. Tour encouraged steps to help the U.S better compete with markets abroad, and suggested Congress work with industry, tax experts, and universities to design an effective incentive structure to increase industry support for research and development. Professor Mrksich discussed the economic opportunities of nanotechnology, and obstacles to realizing these benefits. According to Mrksich, current challenges “include the development of strategies to ensure the continued investment in fundamental research, to increase the fraction of these discoveries that are translated to technology companies, to have effective regulations on nanomaterials, to efficiently process and protect intellectual property to ensure that within the global landscape, the United States remains the leader in realizing the economic benefits of the nanotechnology industry.” Mr. Phillips testified: “It’s time for America to lead. . . . We must capitalize immediately on our great University system, our National Labs, and tremendous agencies like the National Science Foundation, to be sure this unique and best in class innovation ecosystem, is organized in a way that promotes nanotechnology, tech transfer and commercialization in dramatic and laser focused ways so that we capture the best ideas into patents quickly, that are easily transferred into our capitalistic economy so that our nation’s best ideas and inventions are never left stranded, but instead accelerated to market at the speed of innovation so that we build good jobs and improve the quality of life and security for our citizens faster and better than any other country on our planet.” An archived webcast of the hearing and witness testimony are available online.