Towards a European Observatory on Nanotechnologies

Establishing a permanent European Observatory on Nanotechnologies is one of the goals of the EU-funded observatoryNANO project, which started recently. Based on the methodologies developed and
validated during the project and in the framework of similar initiatives, the observatory will in the future provide ongoing and independent support to decision-makers, the project partners

The role of the observatory would be to present reliable, complete and responsible science-based and economic expert analysis across different technology sectors and establish a dialogue with
decision makers and others regarding the benefits and opportunities of nanotechnologies, balanced against barriers and risks.

More immediately, the project intends to integrate the analysis of scientific and technical developments in the field of nanotechnology with economic impacts, so that decision-makers will be
provided with the information necessary to make informed decisions.

In addition, the project partners will look at societal impacts and ethical issues, potential environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks and the need to develop new standards. In order to
achieve as balanced an analysis as possible, surveys, consultations, workshops and collaborations with experts and key stakeholders in the field of nanotechnology are planned.

‘At the same time it will also review the objectives and governance of other similar projects and initiatives to advise its long-term strategy,’ the project coordinator Dr Mark Morrison,
scientific manager at the Institute of Nanotechnology in Glasgow, UK, explains. ‘Ultimately we would hope that individuals will use our website to find relevant information on topics that
interest them, and help them make informed decisions, whether they are looking for a technical, economic, ethical or EHS perspective.’

In this way, the project partners hope that the impact of observatoryNANO will last beyond the initial funding and that it will remain useful ‘as long as nanotechnology continues to have an
impact’. And it will do so for a long time, Dr Morrison is convinced.

From his point of view, there are going to be a large number of developments in the near future. But ‘personally the exciting areas are in medicine, energy and the environment,’ he says
thinking of nanotechnology’s potential for contributing to early disease detection and non-invasive treatment, the use of nanoparticles and nanomaterials in fuel cells and other energy
applications, and the role of nanoporous membranes and filters in removing pollutants and toxins from groundwater.

ObservatoryNANO is funded under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and brings together 16 project partners from ten countries, including scientists, industry, SMEs (small and
medium-sized enterprises), economists, social scientists, philosophers, investment consultants, trade associations and health and safety institutes. The funding amounts to ?4 million for four

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