While much of the media and public’s attention was focused on Senator Dodd’s introduction of an amended financial services reform bill and the ongoing debate over the health care reform bill, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced S. 3117, the "Promote Nanotechnology in the Schools Act of 2010" (the link is to Senator Wyden’s introductory remarks; the text of S. 3117 is not available from THOMAS yet).

Noting that "nanotechnology represents an opportunity to provide long-term, well-paid employment for millions of Americans"  and "to ensure that many of the needed jobs will be created here in the U.S., it is necessary to provide our students with the tools that will provide the skills and knowledge that nanotechnology companies need", S. 3117 would direct the National Science Foundation to establish a grant program that would provide up to $400,000 to schools, community colleges and colleges and universities to cover the cost of purchasing equipment and materials to be used in instructing students in nanotechnology, with the schools receiving the grants having to provide 1/4 of the grant amount as matching funds. For example, if a college received the full $400,000 it would need to put up $100,000 of its own funds.

If this sounds familiar, a similar program of grants from the NSF is at the heart of HR 4502, the Nanotechnology Education Act introduced by Reps. Wu and Lipinski in January of this year and discussed here. HR 4502 was assigned to the House Committee on Science and Technology.

Both of these bills recognize that without a trained and educated workforce, the nanotech industry in the United States

will not be able to reach its full potential. Without a qualified workforce that will allow nanotech companies in this country to scale-up, foreign competitors will be able to fill the vacuum in the global marketplace. With the Promote Nanotechnology in Schools Act, this country will put the resources into place that will prepare our students to meet the needs of the emerging nanotech economy.

S, 3117 was assigned to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. When the text of the bill becomes available,  this entry will be updated. As with other legislation introduced in the 111th Congress that would affect Nanotechnology and Nanoindustry, we will monitor S. 3117’s progress and provide updates.

Senator Wyden, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus, ended his remarks by calling upon his fellow Senators

to move quickly not only to pass this legislation but also the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act reauthorization. These important bills will help advance nanotechnology in this country, and protect the U.S.’s position at the forefront of innovation and economic opportunity.