Technology Transfer

The NNI vision is that nanoscale science and technology will lead to "a revolution in technology and industry."^ To realize that vision, the results of NNIfunded R&D must be effectively transferred to private industry, where technologies are incorporated into new and improved products and services. Although the government role stops short of directly commercializing nanotechnology per sebecause this role is most appropriately carried out in the private sectorit is not surprising that technology transfer of NNI-funded research to the private sector is among the four principal goals of the NNI. This transfer can occur via various pathways, such as publication of the results of federally funded research, hiring by industry of recent graduates of NNI-funded educational programs, and licensing of intellectual property resulting from federally funded research.

The traditional role of the USPTO is critical to the latter example. USPTO has undertaken a number of activities to enhance its ability to address the intellectual property issues associated with nanotechnology. Examples include training programs for its patent examiners, networking with its European and Japanese counterparts, and efforts to identify and classify nanotechnology-related patents, thus improving its ability to search nanotechnology-related prior art.

A primary aspect of all technology transfer is interaction among those who are performing R&D and those who manufacture and sell goods and services. NSET has established liaisons with various commercial sectors to promote the exchange of information on NNI research programs and industry needs that relate to nanotechnology. Such activities are under way with the semiconductor, electronics, and chemical industries and are in development with the biotechnology, aerospace, and automotive industries.

The NNI agencies also support meetings at which researchers from academia, government, and industry exchange information on results and possible applications. The NNI-funded user facilities help to foster interaction among industry, academic, and government researchers who use the facilities. The NSF-funded research centers include industry partners, allowing industry to communicate its needs at an early stage and increasing the likelihood that new ideas will ultimately be developed and commercialized. The government-wide Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs support the early-stage development of many nanotechnology-based small start-up companies, frequently spun off from NNI-supported university research.

The government also plays a key role in supporting standards development, another activity important to successful commercialization of nanotechnology. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) established the Nanotechnology Standards Panel (NSP) in September 2004. The present director of the NNCO is the government co-chair of the NSP. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) also plays a central role for the government in standards development for nanotechnology.

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