Nanotechnologies offer potentially huge benefits to society and industry. They can help us improve our quality of life and respond to some of the key issues of the day, such as climate change and an aging population. For example, they could contribute to improved energy storage and efficiency, better diagnosis and treatment of disease, faster computer systems, and remediation of polluted air, soil and water. Development of nanotechnologies must be facilitated to move forward in a responsible manner, taking into consideration the health, environmental, social and ethical concerns which new materials and applications for them may generate.
The UK Nanotechnologies Strategy: Small Technologies, Great Opportunities was launched on 18th March 2010 and can be downloaded here. This Strategy sets out how the previous Government proposed to take action to ensure that everyone in the UK could safely benefit from the societal and economic opportunities that these technologies offer, whilst addressing the challenges that they might present.
Some key actions included in the Strategy are:
- Government Chief Scientific Advisers to review coordination of nanotechnologies research across Government including research on safety issues
- A new website to keep the public informed about Government work on nanotechnologies
- A new Nanotechnologies Collaboration Group to facilitate ongoing communication and collaboration between Government, academia, industry and other interested parties
- A new Ministerially led Nanotechnologies Leadership Group to address barriers to commercial growth in this area
- Government to explore a new industry reporting scheme with a broader scope covering nanomaterials as well as products containing them.
The Strategy was informed by the evidence gathering exercise Nanotechnologies: Influence and Inform the UK Strategy , which ran from July 2009-October 2009 on this website. The data collected was analysed and considered during the development of the UK Nanotechnologies Strategy: Small Technologies, Great Opportunities. Full summaries can be downloaded in PDF format, and very brief summaries can be found to each question on the cross-cutting theme and sector pages on the evidence gathering website.
Government policy on nanotechnologies developed from recommendations set out in the highly influential Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering Report - Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties. This report was published in 2004 and the Government released its response a year later setting out a series of commitments.
Progress on the Government’s commitments was reviewed in the 2007 report by the Council for Science and Technology (CST), which challenged the Science and Innovation Minister to champion nanotechnologies across Government. In light of this the Ministerial Group on Nanotechnologies was established, drawing together the areas of innovation and risk and reflecting the broad interests of Government. Ministers from BIS (Chair), Defra, HSE and DH are the members of the Group.
The outcome of the first meeting of the Group was the; UK Statement on Nanotechnologies (PDF, 1.3 Mb) which outlined the full spectrum of the Government’s activities on nanotechnologies, their rationale and how they are coordinated.
In 2008, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution published a report, Novel Materials in the Environment: The case of nanotechnology. This stated that while good progress had been made since the CST report, there were still areas that needed further work, such as life cycle analysis of key nanomaterials.
At their second meeting, the Ministerial Group on Nanotechnologies discussed the regulation of nanotechnologies, a register/reporting scheme, research, skills and communications. The Group agreed to ask the Nanotechnology Stakeholder Forum for their views, ahead of the next meeting.
At the third meeting Ministers considered regulatory issues again and set Government a challenging series of commitments which would lead toward the creation of a UK Strategy for nanotechnologies.
The UK Nanotechnologies Strategy: Small Technologies, Great Opportunities (PDF, 2.3 Mb) was published in March 2010 and was informed and influenced by an evidence gathering exercise which sought the input of academia, industry and other interested parities, such as consumer groups. The Strategy details Government actions which will contribute to the successful and responsible development and exploitation of nanotechnologies in the UK while protecting human health and the environment.