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"NNI Retrospective Video: Creating a national initiative"
(March 2022)

NNI Retrospective

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Nanotechnology is a megatrend in science and technology at the beginning of the 21 Century. The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) has played a key role in advancing the field after it was announced by President Clinton in January 2000. Neil Lane was Presidential Science Advisor. Mike Roco proposed the initiative at the White House in March 1999 on behalf of the Interagency Working Group on Nanotechnology and was named the founding Chair of NSET to implement NNI beginning with Oct. 2000. NSF led the preparation of this initiative together with other agencies including NIH, DoD, DOE, NASA, and EPA. Jim Murday was named the first Director of NNCO to support NSET. The scientific and societal success of NNI has been recognized in the professional communities, National Academies, PCAST, and Congress. Nanoscale science, engineering and technology are strongly connected and briefly called nanotechnology.

This brief retrospective video is made for the 20th NNI grantees conference at NSF. It is focused on creating and implementing NNI, by using interviews. The interviews will focus on three questions on: (a) Motivation and how NNI started; (b) The process and reason for the success in creating NNI; (c) Outcomes of NNI after 20 years, and how the initial vision has been realized.

Selected references at the beginning of NNI:

  • The first report formulating the motivation and vision of NNI, which was adopted as an official White House/National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) document, and then used as key report for advancing NNI support at OMB and Congress:

    Nanotechnology Research Directions: Vision for the Next Decade (1999), Roco MC, Williams RS, Alivisatos P (eds). WH/NSTC Report, Washington, DC; Also, published by Springer (2000). Available on
  • The first evaluation of NNI by National Academies: NRC (National Research Council):

    Small Wonders, Endless Frontiers: A Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (2002), NASEM, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available on
  • The first evaluation by the WH Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology:

    The National Nanotechnology Initiative at five years: assessment and recommendations of the National Nanotechnology Advisory Panel (2005). PCAST, Washington, DC: Office of Science and Technology Policy. Available on
  • The first National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) memo on the creation of NSET and NNCO:

    New Management structure for the Federal NSET R&D: NSTC Memorandum for Mihail C. Roco (June 15, 2000). Mortimer Downey and Duncan Moore, Committee on Technology/OSTP. Available on:

Selected references at ~ 10 years of NNI:

  • Retrospective and outlook of nanotechnology after one decade of NNI:

    Nanotechnology research directions for societal needs in 2020: retrospective and outlook (2011). Roco MC, Mirkin CA, Hersam MC (eds). NSF/WTEC report, Springer, New York. Available on:

    The long view of nanotechnology development: the national nanotechnology initiative at 10 years (2011). Roco MC. J Nanopart Res 13:427–445. Available on:
  • Convergence of nanotechnology with other foundational technologies:

    Convergence of knowledge, technology, and society (2013). Roco MC, Bainbridge WS, Tonn B, Whitesides G (eds) Springer, New York (preprint:; book website:

Selected references at ~ 18-20 years of NNI:

  • A Quadrennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative: Nanoscience, Applications, and Commercialization (2020). NASEM (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available on:
  • Overview: Affirmation of nanotechnology between 2000 and 2030 (2018). Roco MC. Chapter 1. In: T. Mensah et al. (eds) Frontiers of nanotechnology:nanotechnology commercialization. Wiley Publ. pp. 1-23. Available on:
  • A Big Bet on Nanotechnology Has Paid Off: The National Nanotechnology Initiative promised a lot. It has delivered more (2021). Mirkin, Chad. Scientific American: Opinion, Oct 9, 2021. Available on:
  • How Nanotech Powers Precision Medicine: It’s behind everything from narrowly targeted drug delivery to microchips you can swallow (2019). Langer, Robert (2019). Scientific American: Observations, June 12, 2019.
  • Convergence in science and technology from the nanoscale: Principles of convergence in nature and society and their application: from nanoscale, digits, and logic steps to global progress (2020). MC Roco, Nanopart. Res. (2020) 22:321. Available on: