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Posted: November 22, 2007
Science and Research Commissioner outlines actions for nanotechnology research in Europe
(Nanowerk News) EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has called on the private sector to increase its investments in nanotechnology research so as to build on Europe's world-leading position in the field. Speaking at a high level conference on the future of nanotechnology research in Europe, Mr Potocnik also emphasised the need for a safe and responsible approach to nano research.
'Nanosciences and nanotechnologies have the potential to drive growth and jobs in Europe, so it is our duty to make sure that they are developed in a positive, responsible way,' he said.
Opening the conference at the newly established International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) in Braga, Portugal, Mr Potocnik reminded participants that if Europe is in a world-leading position in nanotechnologies, it is due in part to the European Commission being the largest single public funding agency of nanotechnology in the world.
The Commission accounted for a third of public funding for nanotechnology research in the EU and significant funding increases are expected over the course of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
'This funding is bearing fruit. There is stronger industrial participation in the research projects. The result is innovation from companies, including SMEs, with more and more patents and the creation of spin-off companies. In existing production lines, nanotechnologies are being introduced into the value chain, for example in surfaces, textiles, paints or electronics,' said the Commissioner.
'However, private investment in the field must be enhanced. Europe's companies are falling behind their major competitors in funding and exploitation,' he added.
In this context, the Commissioner pointed industrialists and scientists to two Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs), on nanoelectronics (ENIAC) and embedded systems (ARTEMIS), which are expected to be approved by research ministers at the Competitiveness Council on November22-23, which could be very important for the development of the nanotechnology industry in Europe.
The Commissioner went on to call for 'a safe and responsible approach to the successful development of nanotechnologies'.
'With new discoveries come new unknowns and we must respect and address concerns from the public,' he said. 'We need to develop nanotechnology within a climate of understanding and consent and, of course, with a commitment to ethical principles. Without the public acceptance of our advances, we are simply lost. This is a huge responsibility which industry, researchers, governments and civil society share together.'
Following a public consultation that found respondents broadly in favour, the Commission is currently developing a Code of Conduct for responsible nano research. This will comprise a set of basic principles on precaution, inclusiveness and integrity. It is expected to be presented in spring 2008.
'The possible applications of nanotechnology are huge and they have an important role to play in our future economic well-being and quality of life. So it is of the utmost importance that we get it right when it comes to their governance. This is why we will be issuing a recommendation on Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies Research, to promote safe and ethical research on nanotechnology and to pave the way for its effective and responsible application and use,' Mr Potocnik said.