A bill to create and fund a National Nanotechnology Coordination Office is headed to the White House for President Bush's expected signature. President Clinton began the federal investment in what will now gain a more secure life in the government.

Congress has appropriated $3.7 billion over four years. The first push will be research into the possibility of creating devices that either assemble or copy themselves molecule by molecule. (What's nanotech? Start with our Foolish introduction.)

That may or may not mean money for the few public companies that can claim the nanotech mantle today. Risk-taking investors who like to live on the edge have swarmed around the few public firms who toil at the nano level. These include spintronics company NVE Corp. (NASDAQ:NVEC), optical networking and measurement company Veeco Instruments (NASDAQ:VECO), and biotech research toolmakers Caliper Technologies (NASDAQ:CALP) and Aclara Biosciences (NASDAQ:ACLA), among others.

It's more likely that the cash will go to earlier-stage research, including pre-public companies funded by venture capital, such as those working in nanobiotechnology. The October issue of Nature Biotechnology recently analyzed the upsurge in venture capital investment in nanobiotech. Our own Senior Analyst Tom Jacobs joined a panel at Stanford this year and opined that while it was fine for the VCs to play with their clients' money, individual investors should steer clear of speculation in this new industry -- except perhaps those few experienced investors comfortable placing a small and strategic bet on a Rule Breaker.

But dreaming is free. Our nanotechnology discussion board friends invite you to learn more about this leading edge investing world -- including this ongoing summary of private and public nanotech company news.