Senators Wyden and Snowe introduced S. 596 the Nanotechnology Innovation and Prize Competition Act of 2009 on Monday and it has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. According to Senator Wyden’s introductory remarks, the bill would "create an X-Prize competition in nanotechnology".  Senator Wyden’s remarks and the text of the S. 596 are below.

By Mr. WYDEN (for himself and Ms. SNOWE):

S. 596. A bill to require the Secretary of Commerce to establish an award program to honor achievements in nanotechnology, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I am pleased to join today with my colleague from Maine, Senator SNOWE, to introduce the Nanotechnology Innovation and Prize Competition Act of 2009.

As Co-Chair of the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus, and former Chair of the Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Innovation, I have worked long and hard to advance U.S. competitiveness in nanotechnology. Nanotech is a rapidly developing field that offers a wide range of benefits to the country. It can create jobs, expand the economy, and strengthen America’s position as a global leader in technological innovation. At this time, when older industries are faltering and the economy is struggling, Congress must act to open new doors, help industry to move into new fields, and work to unlock new manufacturing potential.

Nanotechnology is redefining the global economy and delivering revolutionary change through an amazing array of technological innovations. There is virtually no industry that will not be improved by the advances that are possible with nanotechnology. But to unlock the full benefits of nanotechnology’s capabilities, the Federal Government must do more to partner with our nation’s innovative entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists. To that end, I am proposing, along with Senator SNOWE, legislation that will create an X-Prize competition in nanotechnology.

Many people have heard of the X-Prize, a recent and high-profile example of a prize competition like the one Sen. SNOWE and I are proposing today. The X-Prize was established in 1996 and set up a $10 million prize fund for the first team who could make civilian space flight a reality. The award was successfully claimed just eight years later. But that was not the only achievement the X-Prize accomplished. During that span of time, the $10 million prize stimulated over $100 million in research and development by the competitors.

Successful prize competitions are not limited to the X-Prize. We have seen the value of these kinds of competitions before. One of the most famous was the Orteig prize, which was to be awarded to the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. Claimed, of course, by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, the Orteig prize stimulated private investment 16 times greater than the amount of the prize. Imagine what kind of explosion in investment and innovation we could achieve in nanotechnology with the competition we’re proposing today.

By establishing this nanotechnology prize competition, the Federal Government will promote public-private cooperation to spur investment in key areas and help solve critical problems. The very first prize competition was, in fact, a Government sponsored competition that produced a revolutionary technological breakthrough. In 1714, the British Parliament established a prize for determining a ship’s longitude at sea. At the time, the inability to accurately determine longitude was causing many ships to become lost. Solving this critical problem by creating a competition to find the answer paved the way to British naval superiority.

Today, other Government sponsored prize competitions are driving technological breakthroughs and successes. For example, the DARPA Grand Challenge and Urban Challenge have stimulated tremendous advances in remotely-controlled vehicle technology.

The Nanotechnology Innovation and Prize Competition Act is a vital tool to help ensure that public and private resources will be utilized in a coordinated way and will be devoted to solving the complex and pressing problems that America faces today. This bill will also spur technological investment and create jobs here at home. Through this prize competition, the government will be able to leverage its resources and focus the intellectual and economic capacity of our nation’s best and brightest entrepreneurs on finding the big answers we need in the smallest of technologies–nanotechnology.

The Nanotechnology Innovation and Prize Competition Act creates four priority areas for the establishment of prize competitions: green nanotechnology, alternative energy applications, improvements in human health, and the commercialization of consumer products. In each of these areas, nanotechnology holds the promise of tremendous breakthroughs if the necessary resources are devoted. This competition will make sure we get started as soon as possible on finding those breakthroughs. We all know that the

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competitive spirit is one of the strengths of our country. This bill will ignite that spirit in nanotech.

Again, I thank my colleague from Maine for her help and cooperation in introducing this bill. I also want to thank the Woodrow Wilson Center and the X-PRIZE Foundation for their work in helping to develop this bill. I look forward to working with the Commerce Committee, other members of the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus, the Obama Administration, and the entire nanotech community to reauthorize the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act in the 111th Congress.

I urge all my colleagues to support innovation and promote entrepreneurial competition by cosponsoring this legislation.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be placed in the Record, as follows:

S. 596

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the “Nanotechnology Innovation and Prize Competition Act of 2009”.


(a) Program Established.–The Secretary of Commerce shall, acting through the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, establish a program to award prizes to eligible persons described in subsection (b) for achievement in 1 or more of the following applications of nanotechnology:

(1) Improvement of the environment, consistent with the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry of the Environmental Protection Agency.

(2) Development of alternative energy that has the potential to lessen the dependence of the United States on fossil fuels.

(3) Improvement of human health, consistent with regulations promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services.

(4) Development of consumer products.

(b) Eligible Person.–An eligible person described in this subsection is–

(1) an individual who is–

(A) a citizen or legal resident of the United States; or

(B) a member of a group that includes citizens or legal residents of the United States; or

(2) an entity that is incorporated and maintains its primary place of business in the United States.

(c) Establishment of Board.–

(1) IN GENERAL.–The Secretary of Commerce shall establish a board to administer the program established under subsection (a).

(2) MEMBERSHIP.–The board shall be composed of not less than 15 and not more than 21 members appointed by the President, of whom–

(A) not less than 1 shall–

(i) be a representative of the interests of academic, business, and nonprofit organizations; and

(ii) have expertise in–

(I) the field of nanotechnology; or

(II) administering award competitions; and

(B) not less than 1 shall be from each of–

(i) the Department of Energy;

(ii) the Environmental Protection Agency;

(iii) the Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services;

(iv) the National Institutes of Health of the Department of Health and Human Services;

(v) the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the Department of Health and Human Services;

(vi) the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the Department of Commerce; and

(vii) the National Science Foundation.

(d) Awards.–Subject to the availability of appropriations, the board established under subsection (c) may make awards under the program established under subsection (a) as follows:

(1) FINANCIAL PRIZE.–The board may hold a financial award competition and award a financial award in an amount determined before the commencement of the competition to the first competitor to meet such criteria as the board shall establish.


(A) IN GENERAL.–The board may recognize an eligible person for superlative achievement in 1 or more nanotechnology applications described in subsection (a).

(B) NO FINANCIAL REMUNERATION.–An award under this paragraph shall not include any financial remuneration.

(C) NATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION MEDAL RECOMMENDATIONS.–For each eligible person recognized under this paragraph, the board shall recommend to the Secretary of Commerce that the Secretary recommend to the President under section 16(b) of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 (15 U.S.C. 3711) that the President award the National Technology and Innovation Medal established under section 16(a) of such Act to such eligible person.

(e) Administration.–

(1) CONTRACTING.–The board established under subsection (c) may contract with a private organization to administer a financial award competition described in subsection (d)(1).

(2) SOLICITATION OF FUNDS.–A member of the board or any administering organization with which the board has a contract under paragraph (1) may solicit gifts from private and public entities to be used for a financial award under subsection (d)(1).

(3) LIMITATION ON PARTICIPATION OF DONORS.–The board may allow a donor who is a private person described in paragraph (2) to participate in the determination of criteria for an award under subsection (d), but such donor may not solely determine the criteria for such award.

(4) NO ADVANTAGE FOR DONATION.–A donor who is a private person described in paragraph (2) shall not be entitled to any special consideration or advantage with respect to participation in a financial award competition under subsection (d)(1).

(f) Intellectual Property.–The Federal Government may not acquire an intellectual property right in any product or idea by virtue of the submission of such product or idea in any competition under subsection (d)(1).

(g) Liability.–The board established under subsection (c) may require a competitor in a financial award competition under subsection (d)(1) to waive liability against the Federal Government for injuries and damages that result from participation in such competition.

(h) Annual Report.–Each year, the board established under subsection (c) shall submit to Congress a report on the program established under subsection (a).

(i) Authorization of Appropriations.–

(1) IN GENERAL.–There are authorized to be appropriated sums for the program established under subsection (a) as follows:

(A) For administration of prize competitions under subsection (d), $750,000 for each fiscal year.

(B) For the awarding of a financial prize award under subsection (d)(1), in addition to any amounts received under subsection (e)(2), $2,000,000 for each fiscal year.

(2) AVAILABILITY.–Amounts appropriated pursuant to the authorization of appropriations under paragraph (1) shall remain available until expended.