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November 26, 2014
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108th Congress

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21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act

P.L. 108-153 (S. 189/S. Rept. 108-147 and H.R. 766/H. Rept. 108-89)

Impact of Public Law

P.L. 108-153, the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, authorizes programs for nanoscience, nanoengineering, and nanotechnology research. Final provisions of this Act deleted authorization language and funding levels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but it is expected that NIH will continue to “be an active participant in the National Nanotechnology Program.”

The Act establishes in statute a National Nanotechnology Research Program with a National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, and through the authorized partners (National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Environmental Protection Agency), requires the awarding of grants and the creation of nanotechnology research centers on a competitive basis. It also provides for a research program to identify the ethical, legal, environmental, and other societal concerns related to nanotechnology. Also included in the final version by the sponsor, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), was a reference to biotechnology. The legislation is not intended to limit research and development to the physical sciences but rather is intended to include a wide variety of research, including the biotechnology- nanotechnology interface, with applications ranging from industrial manufacturing to advances in medicine to breakthroughs in defense against bioterrorism.

Legislative History

Two bills on nanotechnology research were introduced in the first session of the 108th Congress. Only the Senate bill included reference to NIH.

S. 189 was introduced by Senator Wyden on January 16, 2003, and it is identical to the bill that he introduced in the 107th Congress. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which held a hearing on May 1. NIH submitted a statement for the record. The bill was reported out of the Senate Committee on September 15.

H.R. 766 was introduced by Representative Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY) on February 13, 2003, and was referred to the House Committee on Science. On March 19, the House Committee on Science held a hearing to examine Federal nanotechnology research and development activities and to consider H.R. 766, which would statutorily authorize these programs. Questions raised at the hearing were based on a general concern as to whether the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) would facilitate technology transfer and provide the United States with a competitive advantage in the global market. Although NNI is focused on basic research, the witnesses emphasized that NNI already has structures in place that would facilitate interaction between the research community and the private sector. The bill was reported out of the House Committee on May 1 and passed the House on May 7.

On November 18, the Senate passed an amended, preconferenced version of S. 189, proposed by Senators Wyden and George Allen (R-VA), a version different from that which had been reported out of Committee on September 15. The House passed S. 189, as amended, on November 20. Provisions of this Senate- and House-passed bill deleted authorization levels for NIH at the request of the House, as indicated by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) in his floor statement during debate.

On December 3, the President signed into law S. 189, the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, as P.L. 108-153.

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