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Friday, 21 September 2007

EU and N&N (doesnt it sound like S&M)- the future is Now.

A European strategy external for nanotechnology was adopted in May 2004 to boost European nanotechnology R&D and to improve technology transfer to turn research findings into commercially-viable products.

An initial observation is that the community funding for nanotech research has increased considerably. From the €120 million available under FP4, the funding for nanosciences and nanotechnologies (N&N) increased to €1.4 billion in FP6 (2002-2006). Some €3.5 billion is foreseen for N&N in FP7 (2007-2013).

"The Commission has become de facto the single largest public funding agency worldwide to support development of nanotechnology", said Renzo Tomellini, head of the executive's operational unit on N&N, adding that the Commission contribution represents one third of all public spending in nanotechnology in Europe.

The report also shows that since 1998 some €28 million has been dedicated to projects expressly focused on research into the potential impact of nanotechnologies on health and the environment. Safety research is said to "significantly increase in FP7, both in size and scope, subject to absorption capacity".

Standardisation in the N&N field will also have "an important role both at European and international level", according to the Commission. To ensure transparency and "a coordinated position among EU national authorities", the Commission has given the European standards bodies CEN, CENELEC and ETSI the mandate to present a nanotech standardisation programme by the end of 2007. It said the programme will "take account of the need for a revision of existing standards or the development of new ones, in relation to health, safety and environmental protection".

The EU executive is at present finalising a review of the current regulation, to establish whether new regulatory action is required to cover risks in relation to nanomaterials. Its initial finding is that "current regulation addresses in principle concerns about health and environmental impacts. On the basis of scientific developments or regulatory needs in specific areas, regulatory changes may be proposed".

"REACH [the EU's chemicals legislation] does not talk about the size in the molecules so it applies to nanotechnology as well," pointed out Research Commissioner Potočnik's spokeswoman, Antonia Mochan.

Future N&N challenges identified in the mid-term report include: the availability of interdisciplinary infrastructures of excellence, critical mass, appropriate conditions for the safe and effective use of nanotechnology, a shared understanding of the responsibility of researchers within an ethical framework, shortage of private investment in research and industrial innovation and duplication in research among individual member states.


My comment: Reading this, I just recall the book I'm currently reading- Pandora's star by Peter Hamilton, where EU mastered the N&N and genetics while USA mastered space and the combined result is healthier and happier society. Let's hope all those commissions are not just dust into the eyes and wast of tax-payer money, but that they do something useful too. I mean, N&N are so promising, let's use them and try not to abuse them.

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