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H.R. 5940 (110th): National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jun 5, 2008.

National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008 - (Sec. 2) Revises the 21st Century Nanotechology Research and Development Act with regard to strategic plans developed pursuant to the National Nanotechnology Program (the Program).

Modifies annual reporting requirements with regard to the Program.

Requires agencies participating in the Program to support the activities of committees involved in the setting of standards for nanotechnology. Allows such agencies to reimburse the travel costs of scientists and engineers who participate in the activities of such committees.

Revises requirements with respect to the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office. Requires the Office to be supported by funds from each agency participating in the Program. Sets forth annual reporting requirements regarding the Office.

Requires the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office to: (1) develop a database that provides information to the public concerning projects funded under the Environmental, Health, and Safety, the Education and Societal Dimensions, and the Nanomanufacturing program component areas, or any successor areas; and (2) develop and publicize information on nanotechnology facilities supported under the Program, which may include information on nanotechnology facilities supported by the states, that are accessible for use from academic institutions and industry.

Makes the National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel a distinct entity. Instructs the Panel to form a subpanel to enable it in assessing whether societal, ethical, legal, environmental, and workforce concerns are adequately addressed by the Program. Requires that at least one member of the Advisory Panel be an individual employed by and representing a minority-serving institution.

Rewrites provisions for triennial external review of the Program. Authorizes appropriations for FY2009-FY2010 for such reviews from the amounts provided by participating agencies supporting the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office.

Modifies the definition of nanotechnology. Defines "nanoscale."

(Sec. 3) Requires the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to designate an associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy as the Coordinator for Societal Dimensions of Nanotechnology. Makes the Coordinator responsible for oversight of the coordination, planning, and budget prioritization of activities required by the Program to ensure that the ethical, legal, environmental, and other appropriate societal concerns are considered during the development of nanotechnology.

Specifies that the Coordinator's responsibilities include: (1) ensuring that the research plan for the environmental, health, and safety research activities as described in this Act is developed, updated, and implemented and that such plan is responsive to the recommendations of the subpanel of the Advisory Panel; (2) encouraging and monitoring the efforts of participating agencies to allocate resources and management necessary to ensure that such societal concerns related to nanotechnology, including human health concerns, are addressed; and (3) encouraging the agencies required to develop the research plan to identify, assess, and implement mechanisms for the establishment of public-private partnerships for support of environmental, health, and safety research.

Requires the Coordinator to convene a panel to develop a research plan for the Environmental, Health, and Safety program component area. Instructs such panel, in developing and updating the plan, to solicit and be responsive to recommendations and advice from the subpanel of the Advisory Panel and the agencies responsible for environmental, health, and safety regulations associated with the production, use, and disposal of nanoscale materials and products. Requires the plan to include a description of how the Program will help to ensure the development of certain standards related to engineered nanoscale materials. Specifies the plan's components and requires it to be updated annually and appended to the annual report required under the Program.

Requires the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), as part of the mathematics and science education partnerships program carried out pursuant to the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002, to provide one or more grants to establish Nanotechnology Education Partnerships and requires each such partnership to include one or more businesses engaged in the production of nanoscale materials, products, or devices.

Requires such partnerships to be designed to recruit and to help prepare secondary school students to pursue postsecondary level courses in nanotechnology.

Requires such grants, at a minimum, to support: (1) specified activities and programs to inform teachers and students about career possibilities for students in nanotechnology; and (2) identification of nanotechnology educational materials and incorporation of nanotechnology into the curriculum for students at one or more organizations participating in a Partnership.

States that, the Program, as part of the activities included under the Education and Societal Dimensions program component area, or any successor area, shall support efforts to introduce nanoscale science, engineering, and technology into undergraduate science and engineering education through a variety of interdisciplinary approaches. Includes as supported activities: (1) the development of courses or modules to existing courses; (2) faculty professional development; and (3) the acquisition of equipment and instrumentation suitable for undergraduate education and research in nanotechnology. Authorizes appropriations to the NSF Director for FY2009-FY2010 to carry out such activities through: (1) the Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement program; and (2) the Advanced Technology Education program.

Requires the National Science and Technology Council to establish under the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology Subcommittee, an Education Working Group to coordinate, prioritize, and plan the educational activities supported under the Program.

Requires activities supported under the Education and Societal Dimensions program component area, or any successor area involving informal, precollege, or undergraduate nanotechnology education to include education regarding the environmental, health and safety, and other societal aspects of nanotechnology.

Directs agencies supporting nanotechnology research facilities as part of the Program to require the entities that operate such facilities to allow Internet access and support the costs associated with providing such access, by students and teachers, to equipment within such facilities for educational purposes. Permits waivers of such requirement when particular facilities would be inappropriate for educational purposes or the costs of providing such access would be prohibitive. Instructs such agencies to authorize personnel who operate those facilities to provide necessary technical support.

(Sec. 4) Requires agencies supporting nanotechnology research facilities to provide access to such facilities to assist companies in the development of prototypes of nanoscale products, devices, or processes.

Sets forth provisions concerning nanotechnology related projects under existing nanotechnology transfer programs.

Establishes industry liaison groups for all industry sectors that would benefit from applications of nanotechnology. Requires the Nanomanufacturing, Industry Liaison, and Innovation Working Group of the National Science and Technology Council to actively pursue such liaison groups.

Requires coordination and leveraging of federal investments with nanotechnology research, development, and technology transition initiatives supported by the states.

(Sec. 5) Requires the Program to include support for nanotechnology research and development activities directed toward areas that have the potential for significant contributions to national economic competitiveness and for other significant societal benefits. Provides that the activities supported shall be designed to advance the development of research discoveries in such areas as nano-electronics, energy efficiency, health care, and water remediation and purification. Requires the Advisory Panel to make recommendations to the Program for candidate research and development areas for support.

Requires such research and development activities to include: (1) projects selected for support through a competitive, merit-based process; and (2) a plan for fostering the transfer of research discoveries and the results of technology demonstration activities to industry for commercial development.

Provides for a collaboration of no fewer than two participating agencies to determine the procedures for review, selection, and subsequent funding of projects. Requires such agencies to give special consideration to projects that include cost-sharing from non-federal sources.

Permits such research and development activities to be supported through interdisciplinary nanotechnology research centers that are organized to investigate basic research questions and carry out technology demonstration activities in the areas such as those specified in this section.

Requires the Program annual report to include a description of the research and development areas supported in accordance with this section.

(Sec. 6) Requires the Nanomanufacturing program component area, or any successor area, to include research on: (1) the development of instrumentation and tools required for the rapid characterization of nanoscale materials and for monitoring of nanoscale manufacturing processes; and (2) the approaches and techniques for scaling the synthesis of new nanoscale materials to achieve industrial-level production rates.

Directs interdisciplinary research centers to include, as part of their activities, certain activities relating to green nanomanufacturing research.

Requires the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office to sponsor a public meeting, including representation from industries engaged in nanoscale manufacturing, to: (1) obtain views on the relevance and value of the nanomanufacturing research being carried out under the Program and whether the capabilities of nanotechnology research facilities supported under the Program are adequate; and (2) receive recommendations on ways to strengthen research supported under the Nanomanufacturing program component area, or any successor area, and on improving the capabilities of such facilities.

Requires companies participating in industry liaison groups to be invited to participate in such meeting.

Directs the Advisory Panel to review the Program and the capabilities of nanotechnology research facilities, taking into consideration the findings and recommendations of the public meeting sponsored by the Coordination Office.