On November 30, 2017, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) published a supplement to the President’s 2018 budget. The supplement also serves as NNI’s annual report and summarizes the progress made in achieving NNI’s goals, the research and development (R&D) activities and plans of the participating agencies, and the agency investments in each program component area. The President’s 2018 Budget requests $1.2 billion for the NNI, “a continued investment in support of innovation promoting America’s competitiveness, economic growth, and national security.” The NNI investments proposed for 2018 reflect an emphasis on broad, fundamental research in nanoscience to provide a continuing pipeline of new discoveries that will enable future transformative commercial products and services. The supplement provides the following key points about the 2016-2018 NNI investments:

  • Reductions in overall NNI investments are consistent with the goal of the President’s 2018 budget to prioritize federal resources on areas that industry is not likely to support, over later-stage applied R&D that the private sector is better equipped to pursue;
  • The actual NNI investments reported by the participating agencies for 2016 ($1.56 billion) are significantly larger than 2016 estimated investments published in the 2017 budget ($1.43 billion) and 2016 requested investments published in the 2016 budget ($1.50 billion). This change is due largely to the fact that an increasing proportion of agencies’ nanotechnology investments are coming from “core” R&D programs, where the high success rate of nanotechnology-related proposals cannot be anticipated in advance;
  • Total funding for Program Component Area (PCA) 1, Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives and Grand Challenges, for 2018 (nearly $200 million, representing over 16 percent of the NNI total) reflects the emphasis on focused investments in R&D that advance interagency cooperation and public/private partnerships in support of national priorities, as a key part of the overall NNI funding strategy;
  • NNI’s Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenge for Future Computing is a new investment category in the President’s 2018 budget, included for the first time under PCA 1. The challenge helps to address renewed international competition for U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing and downstream information technology industries;
  • The increase in the percentage of total NNI investments in PCA 2, Foundational Research, reflects the budget’s focus on supporting early-stage R&D, and is consistent with calls by NNI advisory bodies to maintain a pipeline of basic research that will lead to the innovations of the future;
  • Proportional NNI investments in PCA 3, Nanotechnology-Enabled Applications, Devices, and Systems, hold steady at about 24 percent of the total NNI investments for 2016-2018, down slightly from 25 percent in 2015;
  • NNI agencies continue to provide consistent, proportional funding for PCA 4, Research Infrastructure and Instrumentation. The 2018 request includes sustained support for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure network of university-based nanotechnology user facilities. The President’s 2018 budget for the Department of Energy (DOE) requests continued support for three of the original five Nanoscale Science Research Centers. PCA 4 also includes research to develop novel or improved instrumentation, which is critical to continued progress in nanotechnology and to maintain U.S. competitiveness internationally;
  • PCA 5, Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS), investments are a key element of the NNI’s strategy to ensure responsible development of nanotechnology;
  • The return of the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to the NNI budget crosscut in the President’s 2018 budget “is another example of where nanotechnology innovations initially funded by basic research agencies are now coming to fruition in R&D programs focused on applications, devices, and systems that directly contribute to national priorities”; and
  • Investments in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) funding by the participating agencies play a critical role in transitioning nanotechnology innovations into products for commercial and public benefit.