With all the single and double digit budget increases among science programs and agencies in this year's budget, new funds for the National Nanotechnology Initiative look comparatively meager. NNI is an amalgam of the nanotechnology research budgets within the 25 participating agencies. Overall, that collective research budget request is essentially unchanged from what the agencies were given for FY 2010, though it is up about 5% from the Administration's request last year of $1.7 billion. But drill down a bit and the pots of money are shifting. The big winner?
The Department of Energy, which would see its nano budget increase 17% to $438 million to fund projects such as using nanotechnology to improve solar cells. The National Institutes of Health and other agencies within Health and Human Services also received a healthy boost, up 9.5%, to $414 million. Two agencies (the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission) also look to get into the nano-research game for the first time, though likely with just a few million dollars.
In contrast, the Department of Defense saw its nano research budget slashed by 20%, to $349 million. Much of that could find its way back in, however, since most of those cuts came from previous Congressional earmarks.
Environmental health and safety (EHS) research also fared well this go around. EHS research studies the environmental and health impacts of nanomaterials. The United States already spends more money on EHS research than the rest of the world combined. The Obama Administration is looking to extend that lead, with its proposal to increase EHS research to $119 million, an increase of 35% over last year's request. "Overall, I'm pleased to see energy, innovation technology, and environmental health and safetey research moving forward," says Clayton Teague, who heads the National Nanotechnology Coordination office in Arlington, Virginia, which coordinates research among the NNI's participating agencies.