In the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) recently released Supplement to the President’s 2011 budget several government agencies including the FDA and NIST have requested additional funding to research the environmental, health and safety (EHS) issues surrounding nanotechnology.
When all the requests are tallied the amount of funds targeted for EHS research will reach $116.9 million, an increase of 300% over 2006.
Andrew Maynard’s 2020 Science blog has a thorough run down of the details of the safety research from the budget. While Maynard remains humble about his own influence in this evolution of spending, we can see that the groundwork for this turnabout was laid out at least as early as 2008, or even earlier in 2006 when Maynard’s paper for Nature: Safe handling of nanotechnology had captured the imagination of the Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, Bart Gordon (D-TN).
It was really clear sailing from that point on. The NNI must have recognized that priorities had changed, there was a new boss in town and they weren’t the same as the old boss so more money needed to be allocated to EHS research. And this year, with a Democratic President as well as Congress they needed to push through the new priorities in spending.
To illustrate just how closely the NNI has followed Maynard’s proposed budgets, check out the table below. This certainly demonstrates the power of an oft-cited Nature article.
Well done and chapeaux to Dr. Maynard. However, I am not sure that I entirely agree with one of his conclusions about what the impact of this increased research may be. Maynard finishes his blog with the following sentence: “And that’s good news for anyone hoping to see the emergence of strong nanotechnology-based solutions to a whole host of challenges.”
I agree with this to an extent. Further commercialization of nanotechnology needs to address EHS concerns or else risk the possibility of public backlash. However, of much larger concern at the moment for nanotechnology commercialization is funding and financing and some recognition from policy makers that the innovation models we are employing currently are not working for us anymore.
I can only hope that Maynard experiences the same success for his efforts in re-creating the innovation process as he has had in changing US funding of nanotechnology safety research.