What is NNIN?
The National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network consists of 14 advanced nanotechnology user facilities, located at 14 major universities across the country. While each facility operates as part of the network with the same open access policies, each facility has its own character and focus. Some facilities are more microelectronics focused while others have expertise that. Still others have expertise in nanomaterials, for example. The choice of optimum site for each project will thus be a combination of geographical and technical factors. And while each project will likely be based at one particular site, all projects can access resources at all the other facilities on an as needed basis; staff at each site will assist with this as necessary.
All NNIN facilities are open to users from universities, companies, and government on an open basis. Most use is on a hands-on basis. Each site has staff and procedures to assure that both experienced and inexperienced users can be trained efficiently and well on the necessary equipment and processes. Each outside user will have a staff host who can assist with project design and support, as desired. Consultation by the experienced NNIN staff is an important part of most projects, particularly those from less experienced uses. On the other hand, NNIN facilities are user facilities; the staff is there to assist but not to take either management or intellectual ownership if the project. Users need not reveal any more about their process than is necessary to assure safe operation without damage to the tool set.
Most use of NNIN facilities is hands-on after instruction by NNIN Staff. Trained users are granted full access to the facilities. Indeed, in many cases, the training itself by NNIN staff is often of great value to the users. In limited circumstances, however, NNIN staff will undertake SIMPLE process sequences, remotely, on a best efforts basis. This would be appropriate for simple one or two step film depositions, for example. Remote processing is not, however, appropriate for complex or untested process sequences.
NNIN does not fund research. All users of NNIN facilities pay user fees based on hourly usage. There is no “membership fee”. These fees are not uniform across the network; they reflect the local cost structure at each site. Both local university and outside university users pay the “academic rate” at rates often in the 10s of $ per hour. Across the network, academic users pay an average of a few thousands of dollars per year, obviously varying widely depending on level of use. Industrial users pay a significantly higher rate but still quite reasonable given the breadth of resources available.
All projects that are technically feasible are accepted. It is our goal to be able to provide access to our facilities with a short lead time; Access can often be granted within 2 weeks of initial contact if the user is ready.
In general, NNIN facilities do not sign Non-disclosure agreements and NNIN Staff do not participate in confidential research. Disclosure of confidential information to NNIN Staff is neither required nor encouraged. Users can (and should) keep the details of their processes to themselves. NNIN sites do not lay any claim to users’ intellectual property based solely on the use of NNIN facilities. This mechanism allows academic investigators and companies to keep their intellectual properly to themselves while still having access to all of NNIN facilities.