Nanotechnology and Convergence: Global Interdisciplinary Endeavors at the STI Frontier

Friday, 14 February 2014
Grand Ballroom C North (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Mihail C. Roco , NSF, Arlington, VA
Convergence of knowledge and technology for the benefit of society is the core opportunity for progress in the 21st century, based on five principles: (1) the interdependence of all components of nature and society, (2) decision analysis for research and development based on system-logic deduction, (3) enhancement of discovery, invention and innovation through evolutionary processes of convergence that combine existing principles and competencies, and divergence that generates new ones, (4) higher-level cross-domain languages to generate new solutions and support transfer of new knowledge, and (5) vision-inspired basic research embodied in grand challenges. It allows society to answer questions and resolve problems that isolated capabilities cannot, as well as to create new competencies, knowledge and technologies on this basis. Solutions are discussed for key societal challenges. A recent report ("Convergence of Knowledge, Technology and Society: beyond convergence of nano-bio-info-cognitive technologies." Springer 2013. provides a ten-year vision within a longer-term framework ("Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance: nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognition (NBIC)," Springer 2003,, Roco and Bainbridge).

The vision and implementation for two stages of convergence – nanotechnology and NBIC - will be presented as examples of interdisciplinary national and international activities at the science, technology and innovation frontier.  My involvement in the National Nanotechnology Initiative (“Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal Needs in 2020”, Springer 2011, and in defining the international "convergence" research agenda provided first-hand perspective. I will discuss how these areas have been handled by the U.S. and other countries, as well as methods to improve and expedite convergence of knowledge and technology.