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With major partners at Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, CNS-ASU is the largest center for research, education and outreach on the societal aspects of nanotechnology in the world.
CNS-ASU's genesis begins with the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, which authorized federal programs for nano-scale science and engineering (NSE) research in 2003. The Act authorized governmental partners such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award grants for the creation of NSE research centers. The provisions of the Act also mandated the integration of research on societal, ethical and environmental concerns with nanotechnology research and development to ensure that NSE advances "bring about improvements in quality of life for all Americans."
In 2005, the NSF announced a set of major grants to explore the implications of nanotechnology for society as a whole. The NSF initiatives included the creation of Centers for Nanotechnology in Society—at Arizona State University (CNS-ASU) and at the University of California, Santa Barbara (CNS-UCSB)—to support research and education on nanotechnology and social change, as well as educational and public outreach activities and international collaborations.
CNS-ASU was awarded an initial five-year, $6.2 million grant (NSF #0531194) that was favorably reviewed by NSF for a $6.5 million renewal for October 2010 to September 2015 (NSF #0937591).