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European observatory for science-based and economic expert analysis of nanotechnologies, cognisant of barriers and risks, to engage with relevant stakeholders regarding benefits and opportunities

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Methods to better link nanotechnology developments with socioeconomic impacts

Nanotechnology is a complex and rapidly changing field that is often difficult to assess in terms of opportunities, challenges and risks. An EU initiative developed a suite of tools to address these issues.

Digital Economy
Industrial Technologies
Society
Fundamental Research

The EU-funded OBSERVATORYNANO (European observatory for science-based and economic expert analysis of nanotechnologies, cognisant of barriers and risks, to engage with relevant stakeholders regarding benefits and opportunities) project assessed all aspects of the value chain, from basic research to market applications concerning scientific, technological and socioeconomic developments. Project partners analysed 10 broad technology sectors: aerospace, automotive and transport; agrifood; chemistry and materials; construction; energy; environment; health, medicine and nanobio; information and communication; security; and textiles. They produced detailed reports for each on the ethical and societal impact of nanotechnology developments. Following feedback from policymakers, the OBSERVATORYNANO team delivered factsheets and briefings. These annual factsheets summarise key developments and take into account wider aspects of science and technology and economic developments. The briefings review key developments in terms of nanotechnology added value, European impact, ethical, legal and societal aspects, and environment, health and safety (EHS), as well as regulatory aspects. Researchers interviewed opinion leaders on individual and collective responsibility, nanobiomedical ethics, ICT, and communication between scientists, technology and society. To support the responsible development of nanosciences and nanotechnologies, they developed a toolkit enabling scientists to consider the larger societal and ethical implications of their research, and tools for industry to support corporate social responsibility. Included is an online tool for businesses to assess their products and services in terms of EHS and societal aspects, and to offer suggestions for improvement. Additional reports provide a detailed review of the implications in each sector and the EHS research landscape in Europe. Furthermore, an annual report described changes in hard and soft regulation, and standards in Europe and beyond. Lastly, the groundwork was laid for a future European observatory on nanotechnologies. OBSERVATORYNANO outcomes will assist European decision-makers in government, industry and finance to objectively assess the implications of evolving nanoscience and nanotechnology developments on their plans and programmes.

Keywords

Nanotechnology, socioeconomic, OBSERVATORYNANO, European observatory, nanobio

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