Nanotechnologies for development - a first NANO-DEV policy brief

(Nanowerk News) This first NANO-DEV policy brief (pdf) reviews literature on nanotechnologies for development. On the basis of this literature, the NANO-DEV policy brief identifies a number of gaps in our understanding of the relation between development and nanotechnology.
The key message of the policy brief is that nanotechnology can have both positive and negative consequences for countries in the global South. These should be pro-actively dealt with.
The positive consequences of nanotechnology include direct benefits in the form of solutions to the problems of the poor and indirect benefits in the form of economic growth. The negative consequences of nanotechnology include direct risks to human health and the environment and indirect risks such as a deepening of the global divide. Core challenges to harnessing nanotechnology for development include risk governance, cultures of innovation, knowledge brokerage and travelling technology.
In recent years billions of dollars have been invested in nanotechnology research. Nanotechnology, usually defined as the understanding and control of matter at the nano-scale, is said to have such pervasive consequences that the 21st century is already proclaimed to become the 'nano-century'. Scientists and engineers across the globe are currently exploring the new characteristics that materials acquire at the nano-scale.
Nanotechnology may also contribute to development in the global South. The new characteristics of nanotechnologies are also said to offer solutions for problems faced by people in the global South, especially in the fields of water, energy, and health. For instance water filters, energy storage systems, solar powered electricity and portable diagnostic tests may be developed and improved using nanotechnology.
But the very same features that give rise to new opportunities may also generate new risks. There may be risks to the human body and environment. But for instance also investing in nanotechnology itself can be seen as a risk. After all, it is not guaranteed that nanotechnology will deliver the desired solutions, nor that it will do so in a better or cheaper way than existing technologies.
Much is still unknown about the relation between technologies at the nano-scale and development. In order to understand the potential role of nanotechnologies for development, several issues need to be addressed. For instance, how can different stakeholders engage in thinking about nanotechnologies? How are risks and benefits taken into account? How and why do laboratories engage in nanotechnologies? And how can nanotechnologies travel from the laboratory to the market or from one geographical context to another?
This policy brief reviews the existing literature on nanotechnology for development. On the basis of this literature the NANO-DEV project identifies a number of gaps in our understanding of the relation between nanotechnology and development.
For more information about the policy brief one can contact Koen Beumer ([email protected]).
The NANO-DEV project is partnership of three research institutes led by Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Besides Maastricht University, it includes the University of Hyderabad (India) and the African Technology Policy Studies Network (Kenya). Further details about the project, contact details, results and publications are available at the project website.
Source: Nanotechnology for Development