The EU is the world’s largest public investor in nanotechnology, a new report has revealed.
The European Commission invested €1.4bn to 550 projects in the field of nanosciences and nanotechnology under the EU’s 6th Research Framework Programme, representing a third of total public funding in Europe for technology.
It is the world’s largest single funding agency, according to a report focussing on the 2005 Action Plan for Nanotechnology.
“Nanotechnology is an area where Europe is an acknowledged world leader. This is an opportunity we must grasp with both hands,” commented European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik.
“The successful development of nanotechnologies will depend on a responsible approach to addressing issues such as safety for humans and animals, the ethics of future developments and society’s debate about these. The European Commission has already shown in this first phase that it is able to steer this course,” he continued.
Priority targets for the funding included fundamental and industrial research, human resources, nanotechnology-specific infrastructures, safety and communication.
Although there is strong industrial participation in these projects, private investment in the field remains behind that of the US and Japan.
Under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), European Union funding for nanotechnologies and nanosciences is expected to increase significantly. The average yearly funding is likely to be more than double that in FP6, taking into account actions across the programme.
In addition, the Risk-Sharing Financing Facility established by the Commission jointly with the European Investment Bank should provide access to new funding sources.
The European Commission has also launched an open consultation on a code of conduct for responsible nanotechnology research, which may lead to a commission recommendation by the end of the year.
The European Commission is also currently undertaking a review of existing legislation to see whether the current regulatory framework appropriately addresses health, safety and environmental risks.
Moreover, it has taken steps to establish an observatory to provide decision makers with dynamic assessments of scientific and market developments.
Other important issues discussed in the report are the international aspects of nanotechnology development and the need to train the new generation of nano-scientists.
By Niall Byrne