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days into the year 2000, when Gov. Davis announced his plan
for securing the future of technology in his state, it was treated
like an afterthought to a State of the State address that primarily
was concerned with improving the California school system. "Last
but not least" is how he introduced it, and then went on to promise
$75 million a year for four years - $300 million in total - to launch
three world-class institutes of science and innovation. These would
be located on University of California campuses and would, so Davis
predicted, ensure that the state maintains and expands its role
"at the leading edge of technological invention in the 21st century."
seeds sowed in Davis' State of the State request then took a few
weeks to germinate. Only a handful of precedents existed for such
state-funded research institutes, but few, if any, were this ambitious.
Moreover, no money had yet been allocated by the state, and the
governor had required that any candidate institutes prove they could
raise $2 from industry, foundations or the federal government for
every dollar that came from California. To university administrators
around the state, it all sounded vaguely implausible, like a dream
vision that would vanish in the harsh morning of political reality.
But UCLA administrators decided it would be worth discussing and
maybe drafting a proposal. After all, the university had world-class
scientists, which certainly made it worth a shot.
year later - one "yearlong fire drill" in the words of UCLA chemist
Jim Heath - the result is the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI),
a joint endeavor of UCLA and UC Santa Barbara, with Davis' promise
of $100 million in funding and more than $250 million in matching
funds. The CNSI will be a multidisciplinary institute that will
cut across the boundaries of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering
and material science to develop technologies and devices on a scale
of a few billionths of a meter. Nanoscience and nanotechnology are
now considered the great scientific frontiers of the 21st century,
promising to revolutionize a spectrum of disciplines from quantum
computing to health-care technology and even national security.
The kinds of discoveries and inventions that are likely to emerge
from the CNSI - smaller, faster and more efficient computers; a
lamp that uses a tenth as much energy as modern lightbulbs and never
burns out; lighter and stronger building materials that may make
cars, buses and other forms of transportation more energy-efficient;
medicines that target the molecular errors that cause disease -
will, says UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale, impact every facet
of society and will be instrumental in "creating the technologies
of California's future … and future generations in California and
the world will benefit from the discovery and innovation pioneered
by this unique enterprise."