Recently, M. C. Roco of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), an organisation officially founded in 2001 to initiate the coordination among agencies of nanometre-scale science and technology in the USA, gave a timeline for nanotechnology to reach commercialisation. For the next twenty years, the NNI has divided the development of nanotechnology into four generations. The first generation, which just ended in 2004, involved the development of passive nanostructures such as coatings, nanoparticles, nanostructured metals, polymers and ceramics. At the time of writing, we begin the second generation, during which we should manufacture active nanostructures including transistors, amplifiers, targeted drugs, actuators and adaptive structures. Later, from the year 2010, nanotechnology should enter the third generation. It is estimated that systems of nanosystems, for example: guided molecular assembling systems, 3D networking and new system architectures for nanosystems, robotics and supramolecular devices, would be developed. Finally, from the year 2020, the fourth generation of nanotechnology should be the generation of molecular nanosystems, which would integrate evolutionary systems to design molecules as devices or components at atomic levels.
To date, nanotechnology has been developed mostly from the basis in physics, chemistry, material science and biology. As nanotechnology is a truly multi-disciplinary field, the cooperation between researchers in all related areas is crucial to the success of nanotechnology. Until now, computer science has taken a role mostly in research tools, for example: a virtual-reality system coupled to scanning probe devices in nanomanipulator project. However, according to M. C. Roco, the third and fourth generation of nanotechnology would rely heavily on research in computer science.