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Posted: Nov 19, 2009

European strategy for nanotechnology and the nanotechnology Action Plan

(Nanowerk Spotlight) Europe is a key player in nanotechnology and, about on the same level as the U.S., invests hundreds of millions of dollars, or rather euros, into nanotechnology research and development projects. Whereas the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in was established in 2001 to coordinate Federal nanotechnology research and development, the European Union's slowly grinding bureaucratic mills came up with a comparable program only three years later. In May 2004, the European Commission adopted the Communication Towards a European Strategy for Nanotechnology (pdf download). It seeks to bring the discussion on nanoscience and nanotechnology to an institutional level and proposes an integrated and responsible strategy for Europe.
European nanotechnology programs
Based on this strategy paper, in June 2005, the European Commission adopted the Action Plan Nanosciences and nanotechnologies: An action plan for Europe 2005-2009 (pdf download). This Action Plan defines a series of articulated and interconnected actions for the immediate implementation of a safe, integrated and responsible strategy for nanosciences and nanotechnologies, based on the priority areas identified in the above-mentioned Communication.
The purpose of the Action Plan is to ensure the best possible governance of the development and use of nanotechnology in Europe. A Commission Inter-service Group dedicated to all aspects of the work related to the Action Plan was established in 2005 and has been active since that time. A Europa website (European Commission Nanotechnology) presents the implementation work carried out by all the Commission services involved, and features regularly updated answers.
Subsequent to the 2005 adoption of the Action Plan, the EU has issued updates on how they are doing with two implementation reports. The first was issued in September 2007 (First Implementation Report 2005-2007) and the second one (Second Implementation Report 2007-2009) just a few days ago.
The latest report – which states that significant progress has been made on all points of the Action Plan – outlines the key developments during 2007-2009 in each policy area of the Action Plan, identifies current challenges, and draws conclusions relevant to the future European nanotechnology policy.
Building on this, the Commission proposes to continue and consolidate the present actions in the coming years, with emphasis on:
– Deepening the research efforts and roadmaps for key nanotechnology sectors, to enhance innovation and competitiveness.22 This is considered inseparable from advancing fundamental understanding of how nanomaterials throughout their life cycle interact with living organisms, to ensure a high safety level and protection of human health and the environment.
– Developing infrastructures and the educational system further, consistent with the multidisciplinary character of nanotechnology.
– Strengthening the mechanisms available for industrial innovation, stressing the concept of open innovation and facilitating technology transfer.
– Implementing a more direct, focused and continuous societal dialogue; and monitoring public opinion and issues related to consumer, environmental and worker protection.
– Continuing to review the adequacy of regulation, adapting as appropriate the implementation instruments, proposing regulatory change where necessary, and engaging where possible with international developments.
– Surveying the market for products of nanotechnology, including their safety aspects, and likely developments.
– Stepping up the research effort on safety assessment, including risk management, throughout the product life cycle. Supporting the further development and validation of nanomaterial characterization and test methods.
– Enhancing coordination and exchange of information with Member States.
One interesting statement in the 2009 implementation report concerns the sources of funding: "It is also essential that the public funding be complemented by increasing private investment." This recognizes the fact that, naturally, priorities need to be set with regard to different areas of nanotechnology research and that Community funding cannot cover all needs. Already, the public funding from Member and Associated States currently account for roughly three quarters of the total public funding of European nanotechnologies.
Building on achievements so far and with these needs in mind, the Commission is considering proposing a new Nanotechnology Action Plan that would be one of the driving forces of the European Research Area and address important societal and environmental issues.
This being Europe, you can of course download all of the above documents in 20 different languages...
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