Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, 15:1951 | Cite as

Global nanotechnology development from 1991 to 2012: patents, scientific publications, and effect of NSF funding

  • Hsinchun Chen
  • Mihail C. Roco
  • Jaebong Son
  • Shan Jiang
  • Catherine A. Larson
  • Qiang Gao


In a relatively short interval for an emerging technology, nanotechnology has made a significant economic impact in numerous sectors including semiconductor manufacturing, catalysts, medicine, agriculture, and energy production. A part of the United States (US) government investment in basic research has been realized in the last two decades through the National Science Foundation (NSF), beginning with the nanoparticle research initiative in 1991 and continuing with support from the National Nanotechnology Initiative after fiscal year 2001. This paper has two main goals: (a) present a longitudinal analysis of the global nanotechnology development as reflected in the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) patents and Web of Science (WoS) publications in nanoscale science and engineering (NSE) for the interval 1991–2012; and (b) identify the effect of basic research funded by NSF on both indicators. The interval has been separated into three parts for comparison purposes: 1991–2000, 2001–2010, and 2011–2012. The global trends of patents and scientific publications are presented. Bibliometric analysis, topic analysis, and citation network analysis methods are used to rank countries, institutions, technology subfields, and inventors contributing to nanotechnology development. We then, examined how these entities were affected by NSF funding and how they evolved over the past two decades. Results show that dedicated NSF funding used to support nanotechnology R&D was followed by an increased number of relevant patents and scientific publications, a greater diversity of technology topics, and a significant increase of citations. The NSF played important roles in the inventor community and served as a major contributor to numerous nanotechnology subfields.


Nanotechnology Nanoscience Public funding Patent analysis Bibliometric analysis Citation Longitudinal evaluation 



This study was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (CMMI-1249210). The second co-author was supported by the National Science Foundation Directorate of Engineering. Research data was made available through Thomson-Reuters’ Web of Science.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hsinchun Chen
    • 1
  • Mihail C. Roco
    • 2
  • Jaebong Son
    • 1
  • Shan Jiang
    • 1
  • Catherine A. Larson
    • 1
  • Qiang Gao
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Management Information SystemsThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.National Science FoundationArlingtonUSA

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