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The National Nanomanufacturing Network Volume 1 Issue 3 - November 2008
The NNN Newsletter

Public Private Partnerships Play a Critical Role in Nanotech Commercialization

Commercialization of advanced products is very much an exercise of bringing all the pieces of the puzzle together. The challenges of pushing nano-enabled products from the research laboratory through the commercialization path face key barriers beyond initial demonstration and qualification of product feasibility. One critical need is for the necessary infrastructure to conduct pilot studies in nanomanufacturing. The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) has taken major strides towards this piece of the puzzle, with virtually every government agency opening up research centers, laboratories, and user facilities to chart the initial steps to overcome these barriers. Future nanomanufacturing technologies will benefit from the virtual goldmine of developments, capabilities, knowledge, and expertise that has been established at the U.S. Government Federal Laboratories.

The military, for example, has established numerous research, development, and engineering centers throughout the U.S. that support specific organizational and operational missions. The military seeks to accelerate critical nanotechnologies for warfighter performance, for which a key barrier includes field trial assessments due to the lack of established standards for characterizing and producing nano-enabled products and nanostructured materials. Establishing an infrastructure with a focus on the dual-use nature of these products, in which both commercial market viability must be demonstrated concurrently with military markets and applications, provides the business model for accelerating these critical technologies out of the laboratory into field trials and subsequent manufacturing ramp-up for commercial products. Department of Defense (DOD) centers play crucial roles for the technology development as well as product fielding, operational testing, and evaluation.

Such public private-partnerships play a critical role in a business environment that is becoming increasingly difficult to secure sufficient capital for commercial enterprises. Below, we look at other examples of initiatives where the public and the private sectors are merging to advance manufacturing: the Nanomanufacturing Program for the Department of Energy (DOE), which partners industry and DOE researchers to transition energy efficiency related technologies to commercialization, and the industry-led Atomically Precise Manufacturing Consortium, which works with government partners to develop new manufacturing techniques for tip-based nanofabrication. In addition, the Army has recently sponsored the Nanomanufacturing and Dual-Use Commercialization Conference as a means of facilitating key collaborations towards advancing products specific to their needs while cross-promoting extended commercial applications. Further approaches to establish the infrastructure to conduct pilot studies in nanomanufacturing may be facilitated through the Testbed Programs which have been developed at the National Science Foundationís Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers, and will be reported in future issues.

Regards,
Jeff Morse, Managing Director,
National Nanomanufacturing Network

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Supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DMI-0531171.