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Nanotechnology Legislation in the 111th Congress

Written by Robert Oszakiewski and John Monica
September 11, 2009
Congress returned from it's August recess last week, so it seems like a good moment to review legislation affecting nanotechnology that has been introduced so far in the 111th Congress. (This overview was originally published on the PorterWright Nanotechnology Law Report.)


House of Representatives

HR 554, the "National Nanotechnology Initiatives Amendments Act of 2009", was introduced by Rep. Bart Gordon (Dem - TN - 6th Dist) on 01/15/2009 and was passed by the House under suspension of the rules on 02/11/2009. Received in the Senate on 02/12/2009, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; it has not been reported out of committee and no hearings are currently scheduled.

Major amendments to the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act ( P.L. 108-153 15 USC 7501 et seq) include:

  • Requiring the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office to "develop and maintain a database accessible by the public of projects funded under the Environmental, Health, and Safety, the Education and Societal Dimensions, and the Nanomanufacturing program component areas, or any successor program component areas, including a description of each project, its source of funding by agency, and its funding history."
  • Requiring the designation of an Associate Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy as the Coordinator for Societal Dimensions of Nanotechnology. The Coordinator would be tasked with insuring that ethical, legal, environmental and other social concerns with nanotechnology are considered. The Coordinator would also be responsible for convening a panel to develop a research plan for the environmental, health and safety program areas; the plan would be updated on annually.
  • Requiring the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide grants to establish Nanotechnology Education Partnerships. Nanobusinesses would be part of these Partnerships. The Partnerships would help to prepare secondary school students to pursue college courses in nanotechnology.
  • Establishing  “Industry Liaison Groups”  for all industrial sectors that would benefit from nanotechnology applications.
  • Requiring the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office to sponsor a public meeting to (1) solicit views on the relevance and value of nanomanufacturing  research, (2) receive recommendations on ways to strengthen research supported by the Nanomanufacturing program and (3) receive recommendations on improving nanomanufacturing facilities.

HR 820, the “Nanotechnology Advancement and New Opportunities Act”, was introduced by Rep. Michael Honda (Dem – CA – 15th Dist) on 02/03/2009 and was referred to the House Committees on Science and Technology, Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Homeland Security.  No hearings have been held by any of these committees on this bill and no hearings are currently scheduled. It has not been reported out of any of the committees.

  • The bill would require the Secretary of Commerce to establish a “Nanomanufacturing Investment Partnership”, but only after and contingent upon the private sector raising $100 million within two years after the bill’s enactment. The Partnership would provide funds, via direct investment, loans or loan guarantees, or other unspecified mechanisms, to nanocompanies for pre-commercial research and development that would not be funded by either the private sector or under the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act. Any such funds provided would have to be paid back.
  • The Secretary of Commerce would also be directed to establish an Advisory Board to assist in determining which nanocompanies would receive funding. The Advisory Board membership would consist of two groups, (1) representatives of those investors who had provided more than $10 million to the Nanomanufacturing Investment Partnership (in short, the stakeholders) and (2) Presidential appointees drawn from government agencies, industry, and academia. This second group would control 60% of the votes on the Advisory Board and thus would really be the ones deciding where the money goes. This would seem to be a flaw in the bill; as we have seen in the recent past and may see again under future administrations, it is possible to politicize government agencies and as currently written, this section of the bill opens up that possibility here. It is possible that the bill may be amended in one of the committees before it is reported out or an amendment  may be adopted during floor debates.
  • The tax code would also be amended by creating tax credits to encourage the purchase of stock in qualified nanotechnology developers, as defined by the bill. Tax credits would also be available to cover up to 50% of the cost of nanotechnology education and training courses and programs.
  • The Secretary of Commerce would be directed to establish the “Nanotechnology Start Up Advisory Council” with membership drawn from industry, marketing, venture capitalist firms, attorneys, and nanotechnology researchers. The Council’s duty would be to review the business plans of nanotech start up companies, to insure that they were really viable plans.
  • Other sections of the bill would establish competitive grants to encourage the application of nanotechnologies to solving environmental problems, renewable energy sources,  health related uses, and homeland security programs.
  • The Secretary of Energy would be directed, six months following enactment, to deliver to Congress a report containing a plan to increase interaction on nanotech issues between scientists and engineers at DOE’s national laboratories and informal science education communities with the goal of developing exhibitions for school age children and the general public.

HR 2769, the “Commercializing Small Business Research and Development Act” introduced by Rep. Bobby Bright (Dem – AL -2nd Dist) on 06/09/2009, is not primarily a nanotechnology focused bill. It’s aim is to amend the Small Business Act. Section 4 of the bill is titled “Nanotechnology-Related Research Topics" and is reprinted in it’s entirety below:

SEC. 4. NANOTECHNOLOGY-RELATED RESEARCH TOPICS.

    (a) SBIR- Section 9(g)(3) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 638(g)(3)), as amended, is further amended--

    (1) at the end of subparagraph (D) by striking `or';

    (2) at the end of subparagraph (E) by adding `or'; and

    (3) by adding at the end the following:

    `(F) the national nanotechnology strategic plan required under section 2(c)(4) of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (15 U.S.C. 7501(c)(4)) and in subsequent reports issued by the National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology, focusing on areas of nanotechnology identified in such plan;'.

    (b) STTR- Section 9(o)(3) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 638(o)(3)) is amended--

    (1) at the end of subparagraph (A) by striking `or';

    (2) at the end of subparagraph (B) by adding `or'; and

    (3) by adding at the end the following:

    `(C) by the national nanotechnology strategic plan required under section 2(c)(4) of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (15 U.S.C. 7501(c)(4)) and in subsequent reports issued by the National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology, focusing on areas of nanotechnology identified in such plan;'.


HR 2965
, the “Enhancing Small Business Research and Innovation Act of 2009”, was introduced by Rep. Jason Altmire (Dem –PA – 4th Dist) on 06/19/2009. The bill would have amended and extended the Small Business Act sections on the  Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which include nanobusinesses. HR 2965 was assigned to the House Committees on Small Business and Science and Technology. Both Committees reported the bill with amendments (H. Rept. 111-190 Pt. 1 and H. Rept. 111-190 Pt. 2).

Amended during floor debates, HR 2965 was passed by the House on a vote of 386-41 on 07/08/2009. On 07/09/2009, HR 2965 was received in the Senate, where it was called up for debate on 07/11/2009. The Senate amended HR 2965 by an amendment in the nature of a substitute. The amended bill (S. 1233) was then passed by unanimous consent. The amended bill does have a section (Sec. 206) that briefly treats nanotechnology:

SEC. 206. NANOTECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE.

     (a) In General- Section 9 of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 638), as amended by this Act, is amended by adding at the end the following:

    `(ff) Nanotechnology Initiative- Each Federal agency participating in the SBIR or STTR program shall encourage the submission of applications for support of nanotechnology related projects to such program.'.

    (b) Sunset- Effective October 1, 2014, subsection (ff) of the Small Business Act, as added by subsection (a) of this section, is repealed.


The bill was then returned to the calendar.

The House at some time will have to vote again on the amended HR 2695. If the House votes to pass the bill as amended by the Senate, it will be sent on to President Obama for his signature. If the House fails to pass the bill, it will not become law. There is the possibility that the House could further amend the bill and, if it insists on it’s amendment, a Conference Committee will be formed to come up with a compromise bill that both chambers could accept. Considering the popularity of these two programs, the bill in some form is likely to be passed before the end of the 1st Session.

Senate

S. 596, the "Nanotechnology Innovation and Prize Competition Act of 2009", was introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (Dem-OR) on 03/16/2009. The bill directs the Secretary of Commerce to establish a program to award prizes for achievement in one or more applications of nanotechnology, (environmental, development of alternative energy sources and fuels, health, and development of consumer products). A board would be established to administer the prizes.

The bill was refered to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; to date, no hearings have been held and none are scheduled in the near future. The bill remains in committee.

S. 1233, the "SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2009", was introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu (Dem - LA) on 06/10/2009 and was refered to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, which reported it out of committee with an amendment in the nature of a substitute on 07/02/2009. For a further discussion of S. 1233, please see the discussion of HR 2965 above.

S. 1482, the "National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2009", was introduced by Senator John Kerry (Dem - MA) on 07/21/2009 and was refered to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. No hearings have been held and none are scheduled. S. 1482 would reauthorize and amend the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act.  Significant amendments to the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act include:

  • Sponsorship by the National Nanotechnology Program (NNP) of Nanotechnology Education and workforce development programs
  • Support by the NNP of the development of standardized reference materials, instruments, and computational tools
  • Participation in national and international organizations developing commercialization and regulatory guidelines and standards
  • Coordination of research to determine what health, safety and environmental risks nanoparticles and nanomaterials may pose
  • The Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office would be charged with developing and maintaining a publicly accessible and keyword seachable database of projects funded by the Nanoscale  Science, Engineering and Technology subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council. This is somewhat similar to the database proposed in HR 554 which was discussed above.
  • Establish a sub panel on societal, ethical, legal, environmental and workforce concerns.
  • As with HR 820, an associate Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy would be designated as the Coordinator for Societal Dimensions of Nanotechnology. The Coordinator's duties would include ensuring that a research plan is developed, updated annually, implemented and responsive to the recommendations of the sub panel mentioned above. The Coordinator, within sixty days of S. 1482's enactment date, would be required to convene a panel to create a research plan for the environmental, health and safety program. This plan would include a description of how the NNP would insure the development of the standards and standardized reference materials also refered to above.
  • The Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, no later than six months following enactment, would convene national discussions to encourage both stakeholders and non-stakeholders to express their concerns and priorities regarding nanoproducts, research and development and regulatory policy affecting nanotechnology. The Director would be required to submit a report summarizing these discussions to the Congressional committees that have oversight responsibilities in this area, namely the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the House Committee on Science and Technology.

SA (Senate Amendment) 1472 was part of a bloc of amendments offered by Senator Carl Levin (Dem-MI) to amend S. 1390, "The National Defense Authorization Act of 2010", and amended the reporting requirements for the Defense Nanotechnology Research and Development Program. The complete text of the amendment is below:

AMENDMENT NO. 1472
(Purpose: To modify the reporting requirement for the defense nanotechnology research and development program)

    At the end of subtitle D of title II, add the following:

       SEC. 252. MODIFICATION OF REPORTING REQUIREMENT FOR DEFENSE NANOTECHNOLOGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM.

        Section 246 of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (Public Law 107-314; 10 U.S.C. 2358 note) is amended by striking subsection (e) and inserting the following new subsection (e):

        ``(e) Reports.--The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics shall submit to the National Science and Technology Council information on the program that covers the information described in paragraphs (1) through (5) of section 2(d) of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (15 U.S.C. 7501(d)) to be included in the annual report submitted by the Council under that section.''


As with the majority of the House bills, the Senate bills remain in committee. Considering the focus of Congress on health care reform, financial regulatory reform, and various appropriations bills that need to be passed before the end of the 1st Session, when and if these bills are reported out and voted on is unknown.

Source: Nanotechnology Law Report (www.nanolawreport.com)

Last updated: March 15, 2012
 

DOI: 10.4053/fe281-090911

Tags: EHS + Regulation, Business + Entrepreneurship, Policy and Regulation

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