Nanotechnologies are heralded as the basis for the 'next industrial revolution', with their commercial use growing exponentially. There are significant knowledge gaps in the understanding of their physico-chemical properties, making it difficult to assess their environmental and toxicological effects. To help foster this technology and fill the knowledge gap, the EU 7th Framework Programme ('FP7') established a budget of €3.5 billion for research on nanotechnologies. In this article, we examine the business challenges companies face and introduce NANOfutures, the EU's central initiative in this area.
NANOfutures: European project on nanotechnologies officially launched
In June 2010, the European Commission and the Spanish EU Presidency officially launched the NANOfutures project (as part of the FP7) to bring together industry, research institutions, and NGOs at all levels and coordinate their activity. The stated aim is to construct and communicate an integrated industrial and research roadmap for nanotechnologies. Eleven existing European Technology Platforms ('ETPs'), which are themselves networks co-ordinating regulator and stakeholder activity in particular technological fields, have joined the initiative. The sectors represented by the ETPs include nanomedicine, chemistry, construction, nanoelectronics, nanomanufacturing, transportation, textiles, and photonics.
NANOfutures is organised into 10 Working Groups, which aim to identify strategies and actions across all industry sectors — a horizontal approach — within their respective field:
safety research industrial safety strategy standardisation technology transfer and institution financing regulation industrialisation and manufacturing skills and education networking communication research and technology Shaping nanotechnologies regulation
Steptoe's nanotechnology practice leader in Brussels, Dr. Anna Gergely, is chair of the NANOfutures Working Group on Regulation, appointed in recognition of her broad experience in regulatory issues and longstanding work on nanotechnologies. The Working Group will serve as a platform, co-ordinating the regulatory developments for nanotechnologies in the EU. Its role will be to identify the essential elements of a regulatory framework by taking into account all viable regulatory options (voluntary and/ or mandatory) as well as the different approaches of the industry sectors represented by the ETPs. The Working Group aims to build...