Remarks Prepared for Delivery
National Nanotechnology Initiative Conference
Senator George Allen
Thursday, April 1, 2004
Thank you, Dr. Roco for that kind introduction. Your work and spirit is driving innovation and discovery. Thank you for all that you do to advance, innovate and improve lives!
Ladies and Gentlemen, we live in an exciting time, as new discoveries and new technologies are improving the quality of life for all Americans.
The American spirit, free to create and discover has no bounds. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his observations of our Nation:
“America is a land of wonders, in which everything is in constant motion and each movement seems to be progress. … No natural boundary seems to be set to the efforts of man; in his eyes, what is not yet done is only what he has not yet attempted to do.”
You are all leaders, innovating, creating, competing and succeeding in the important field of Nanotechnology! Your work will help the United States remain the leader in this technology and ensure the promise of high-level, high-paying jobs.
As a Senator, my top priority is to advocate and support policies that create jobs, investment and improve America’s ability to compete in the global marketplace—including National Defense, Education and Research.
I believe there is a link between what you do—research and development — and job creation and prosperity for our Nation. Therefore, one of Congress’s most important goals should be to create the conditions precedent to position researchers and innovators to compete, contribute and succeed both domestically and internationally.
The United States has been the leader of virtually every important and transformative technology since the Industrial Revolution and to remain competitive in the global marketplace we must commit ourselves to ensuring that this Nation maintains a competitive edge in the next science and technology revolution—Nanotechnology.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, we have seen the growth of nanotechnology when ‘successes in the laboratories’ have become ‘successes in the marketplace’—bringing jobs and economic growth to the community.
In Danville, Virginia—in Virginia’s Southside region that has been so dramatically hurt by the recent loss of manufacturing jobs—Luna Innovations is opening a Nano-manufacturing facility to produce carbonaceous nano-materials to be used in research and development. In the process, they are creating 54 new high-tech jobs and bringing economic development to a region that needs it most. NanoTitan, SAIC and other Virginia companies are making great strides in this new field as well and ensuring high-paying, high tech jobs here in the Commonwealth.
The work you do has a real impact on the lives of every day Americans.
That is why, for my part I intend to keep nanotechnology issues before the eyes of the Congress—and today I am announcing the creation of the first Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus. This caucus will serve as a forum to keep Nanotechnology issues before members of Congress and I would encourage your participation. This Caucus will serve as your industry’s portal to the United States Congress.
I am also honored to have been the lead Republican sponsor of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act. In December of last year, President Bush signed this bill into law, which is the single largest federally funded, multi-agency scientific research initiative since the space program in the 1960’s — $3.63 billion over four years.
The goal of the legislation is to provide a structured, organized and coordinated approach to nanotechnology research and development for our country and to ensure we remain competitive in an industry that has the potential to have a global economic impact to exceed $1 trillion by 2015.
Our new law will catalyze research here in the United States through grants to individuals and teams of investigators. It will establish a network of advanced technology user facilities and research centers. The law will further accelerate nanotechnology research and development in the private sector, including start-up companies and encouraging participation from U.S. colleges and universities.
But, while you and I are thrilled by the endless possibilities of this revolutionary field—of taking Nanotechnology ‘From Vision to Commercialization’--people in the general public are still very susceptible to misinformation and misguided perceptions.
Currently, there are myths and stories that are inflicting fear in the minds of the general public warning of dangerous applications of Nanotechnology—such as Michael Crichton’s best selling science fiction novel “Prey”, in which scientists create rogue nano-particles that wreak deadly havoc.
Recent articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post have referred to groups trying to block the construction of a Nanotech factory and others calling for a global moratorium in the field until risks of potential environmental and health risks can be better understood.
These urban myths—and best selling novels—can undermine public confidence in your work and threaten the support for further research and development.
You only have to look at the field of genetically modified organisms to find a very promising field of science which lost public confidence, especially in Europe, and therefore dramatically lost support and funding.
If a large portion of the general public feels that science has overstepped its bounds—whether by misinformation or not—then general enthusiasm and support for further discovery of new technologies can whither away very quickly.
As leaders and spokesmen for this emerging industry we must work to ensure that your advances are understood and judged based on there actual applications and merits rather than disregarded due to unfounded fears and misguided perceptions.
Recognizing this, as part of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, Senate Wyden and I specifically included the creation of the American Nanotechnology Preparedness Center.
This center is charged with evaluating the societal, ethical and environmental impacts of Nanotechnology. The creation of this center is a proactive step to better educate and enable the public to participate and understand nanotechnology and all its implications.
The obligation to advocate and ensure the public understands these new advances rests with you—the innovators and researchers, the scientists and the experts.
I urge each of you to take ownership of this field of science—ensure that it emerges into the public conscience in a positive and thoughtful way. This will help educate people on the exciting and revolutionary implications nanotechnology will have on our everyday lives.
We have a shared goal, and I have faith in all of you to continue keeping our nation at the forefront of this exciting field. I also have confidence that you will make good on the potential promise Nanotechnology holds for jobs, opportunity and a better quality of life.
I want to tap into your spirit of innovation and discovery, by listening to you, your ideas, your concerns.
Thank you all for your hospitality today. May God continue to bless our country with people of your spirit, creativity and character. Keep working hard, keep innovating and keep winning!