Europe ahead of US in funding nanotech risk research


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Europe invests nearly twice as much as the US in research addressing the potential risk of nanotechnologies, a report issued by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) indicates.

While the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) allocated USD13 million (€8.1 million) to risk-related projects in the fiscal year 2006, Europe set aside USD24 million (€15 million) over the same time period.

The report was conducted by PEN, an initiative of the US-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts, and is based on data listed in the NNI research strategy.

According to the PEN assessment, 62 US-government funded nanotech projects with a total annual budget of USD13 million could be categorised as highly relevant to potential environment, health or safety (EHS) hazards.

The US government, on the other hand, disagrees. Their estimates amount to USD37.7 million (€23.6 million) invested in EHS research in nanotechnology.

In contrast, the EU has incorporated EHS concerns into nanotechnology research as an important part of a balanced approach to the subject. ‘It is fundamental to have a high level of public health, safety, and environmental and consumer protection,’ EU Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik said at a conference in Brussels in April 2007.

Earlier this year, the Commission adopted a code of conduct for responsible nanotech research, encompassing seven general principles to ensure that nanotechnologies are developed in a safe manner. Among other things, these principles include calls for sustainability and precaution as well as accountability of researchers and research organisations.

In addition, funding for nanotech safety research has been expanded under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), bringing into focus quantitative data on (eco)toxicology as well as development of nano-specific tests, exposure and risk assessment methods, and methodologies for life cycle analysis. FP7 has become the world’s largest public funding source for nanotechnology with a total budget of €3.5 billion.

Experts estimate that by 2014, about 15% of the total global output of manufactured goods, worth USD2.6 trillion (€1.6 trillion), will incorporate nanotechnology.

  More information:
PEN Project

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