February 28, 2003

Legislation Proposed to Raise Nanotech Funding

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Earlier this month, Congress member Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) proposed legislation to further a national research initiative into the area of nanotechnology. Boehlert, chair of the House Science Committee, recognized New York universities, in particular Cornell, for their commitment to research and development in this cutting edge technology. The bill introduced will establish a national nanotechnology program and increase funding for research facilities.

Currently, Cornell has two nanotechnology centers and a nanofabrication facility on campus. Each is funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill proposed by Boehlert would increase authorized funding for nanotechnology programs at NSF from $247 million to $350 million, along with 10 percent annual increases in the following two years.

As of right now, Cornell receives about $2.56 million a year from NSF for the Center for Nanoscale Systems, which will be situated inside Duffield Hall upon its completion. The other facilities on campus receive up to $4 million a year combined. “This money supports graduate students and buys equipment to do research,” said Robert Buhrman ’73, the John Edison Sweet Professor of Engineering and director of the Center for Nanoscale Systems.

In an e-mail press contact Heidi Tringe, the communications director of the Committee on Science said, “Cornell is recognized as a national leader in center-based interdisciplinary nanotechnology research and this would hopefully increase the ‘pot’ of money for which Cornell is competing.”

Cornell is the leading university for NSF funding of nanotechnology in the nation. In order to receive funding, a university writes a proposal and submits it to NSF in a nation-wide competition. The Center for Nanoscale Systems was obtained through such a process. “There were 72 universities that applied and NSF funded only six. We were the biggest winner of funding,” Buhrman said.

Yet, since Cornell is already the leader in nanotechnology and receives the greatest proportion of funding dollars from NSF, Buhrman thinks that much of the bill’s increased funding will go to smaller programs that need to catch up. “If additional funding is allocated, the bulk will probably go elsewhere. We just received the Center and have the most advanced program,” Buhrman said.”

“Still, we very much support Congress person Boehlert’s bill. It is exciting for nanotechnology as a whole. Cornell is already in a strong position in this area and it can only get better,” he added.

Boehlert is hopeful that the bill will pass and be enacted this year. He has been working with the U.S. Senate and the White House on the nanotechnology initiative. “We will try to move the bill through the Science Committee before the April recess,” Boehlert said.

Archived article by Emily Sketch