Rockefeller Remarks on National Nanotechnology Investment: Manufacturing, Commercialization, and Job Creation

July 14, 2011

Chairman Rockefeller asks Sec. Locke questions about strengthening manufacturing in America.WASHINGTON, D.C.—I want to thank you all for being here today to discuss what some have referred to as “the next industrial revolution.” We are at a place today where big advances on technology are happening at a very small level—everything from bio-technology tools to detect early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, to soon reducing your computer’s entire memory to the size of a single tiny chip.

Just over 10 years ago, the government created a National Nanotechnology Initiative to focus on this issue. That early and sustained commitment has translated into U.S. global leadership in nanotechnology research and development and commercialization.

There are significant economic and societal incentives to maintain our lead in this field. The global market for nanotechnology-related products was more than $200 billion in 2009, and projections suggesting that it will reach $1 trillion by 2015. With this growth, comes demand for workers with nanotechnology-related skills.

Nanotechnology has the potential to revolutionize such areas as health care, information technology, energy, homeland security, food safety, and transportation.

At a time when Americans and American businesses are struggling financially, we must do whatever we can to stimulate the economy. This Committee has spent a lot of time this Congress focusing on job creation and manufacturing. I believe nanotechnology plays a key role in boosting the economy and creating jobs.

Like all science and technology efforts, however, our international competitors are catching up and increasing their investments in this area. China, South Korea, Germany, Japan and others are commercializing their investments to take advantage of the growing nanotechnology product market. If we wait too long, these countries will surpass us.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on the best ways to turn our nation’s early research lead into successful commercialization to create businesses and jobs here in the United States.

Realizing the potential of nanotechnology, my own state of West Virginia established the West Virginia Nanotechnology Initiative—or WVNano—back in 2004. The program focuses on stimulating research in nanoscience, and I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome the new director here with us today.

Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky is an expert in the use of magnetic nanoparticles for medical diagnosis, treatment, and drug delivery. In her role as director of WVNano, she works with about 40 researchers throughout the state at West Virginia University, Marshall University, and West Virginia State University to advance nanoscale science, engineering, and education.

Dr. Leslie-Pelecky is also known for making science accessible everyone—including explaining physics through a book she authored titled, The Physics of NASCAR. As I’m sure you know, not every student is found in a classroom, and I think you will find my colleagues and I ready to learn from you today.

I’d like to thank you all again for being here today and look forward to your testimony.