The National Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology (NanoEarth) participated in the 2023 National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure’s (NNCI) annual conference hosted at Stanford University. The conference, held from October 25 - 27, 2023, was an opportunity for “NNCI sites, the external advisory board (EAB), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) representatives and invited guests to share updates, new ideas, and best practices” within the network. The main goals included guidance from the EAB to assist the NNCI to provide nanotechnology resources to the public. Topics discussed related to education and outreach, translating from research and development to market, workforce development, future national research projects, and creating goals for years 9 and 10 of the NNCI award.

NanoEarth’s Associate Director for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Matthew Hull, Ph.D., also serves as the NNCI Associate Director for I&E. One NNCI role includes leading the annual NNCI Nanotechnology Entrepreneurship Challenge (NTEC) Competition for students and postdoctoral associates across the 16 NNCI sites. He presented the yearly results of the NNCI I&E Report and led a session on “Translating from Research and Development to Market”. This session discussed the valley of death for research, as it is often difficult to move from research and development, to prototypes, to final marketing in society. A panel examined ways current businesses use NNCI sites to complete research and development by highlighting resources available to researchers. This panel concluded with analyzing ways the NNCI can support future experiments. 

Within the session on “Translating from Research and Development to Market”, NanoEarth’s Assistant Director Tonya Pruitt and Nanotechnology Collaborative Infrastructure Southwest (NCI-SW) at Arizona State University’s Education and Outreach Coordinator Jessica Hauer, presented the preliminary results of the I&E Working Group’s Economic Impact Survey. Survey responses demonstrate the positive impact that access to NNCI-supported facilities have on industrial users. The survey is still ongoing and a report will be prepared after its conclusion.

Matt presents
Matthew Hull leads the Translating from Research and Development to Market session
Tonya Presents
Tonya Pruitt (left) discusses the preliminary results of the Economic Impact Survey with Jessica Hauer from Arizona State University

NanoEarth’s site director Mitsu Murayama, Ph.D., discussed successful examples of programs, activities, and relationships at NanoEarth that could be adapted or expanded for multiple sites in a future nano-infrastructure network. One example was NanoEarth’s Innovation Ecosystem, which includes an Entrepreneur in Residence program (EiR), NTEC, Research and Entrepreneurship Experience for Undergrads (REEU), and industry engagement. Two examples of program expansion include NTEC including submissions from all NNCI sites rather than just Virginia Tech and NanoEarth industry speaker sessions open to all sites and the public virtually and in person. Murayama’s presentation also highlighted the Earth and Environmental Sciences Research Community. This community organizes annual virtual workshops with the goals of training the next generation of scientists, working with multiple disciplines across NNCI sites to approach complex questions, and developing research tools and infrastructure to solve complex challenges.

Mitsu presents
Mitsu Murayama discusses successful programs and activities at NanoEarth

NanoEarth’s Deputy Director Marc Michel, Ph.D. served on a panel tackling the topic “How does NNCI support national research priorities, and how can this be enhanced in a future infrastructure?” The panel discussed the organization and structure of the NNCI as a strength to distribute information and research throughout the sites. Though a recent focus has been on the CHIPS act, Michel discussed how nanotechnology can play a role in advancing a wide array of other national research priorities such as: growing convergence research, providing access to clean water, global food supply and security, climate and energy needs, sustainable use of natural resources, children’s environmental health, and environmental justice.

NanoEarth sent six staff members to Stanford University and one virtually. After presenting, staff networked with colleagues across the other 15 NNCI sites, went on campus tours, almost won a trivia contest, and held a group dinner to debrief before leaving the conference.

Weinan at Stanford
Weinan Leng tours the Stanford campus
Trivia team
NanoEarth with Stanford students participating in the trivia contest
Weinan at Stanford
Weinan Leng tours the Stanford campus